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SAG Set to Resume Talks AMPTP’s Nick Counter Dummies up in the press. He’s getting his message out but his lips ain’t moving

April 19, 2008 (19:06) | 2008 | By: Arlin Miller

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SAG set to resume talks

Guild will return to negotiations May 28 or earlier

By DAVE MCNARY
5/14/08

In a move that may slightly ease Hollywood’s strike fears, SAG’s decided it will be ready to resume bargaining with the majors in two weeks — or sooner, if possible.

The Screen Actors Guild has accepted the invitation of the congloms to head back to negotiations on May 28 or earlier.

Neither SAG nor the AMPTP had any comment Wednesday. The lack of resolution on the SAG feature-primetime deal, which expires June 30, has created a “de facto” strike in features in which major studios won’t greenlight any films until the guild makes a deal.

SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers last met May 6 with talks recessing amid SAG’s objections that a deal was within reach. The majors have asserted the two sides were still far apart at that point — after 18 days of talks — and that they were obligated to launch the twice-delayed negotiations with the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists the next day.

AFTRA and the majors have remained on track to make a deal on the union’s primetime contract within the next few days. Negotiators are set to sit down for a seventh day of talks today at AMPTP headquarters in Encino with both sides continuing to observe a news blackout until bargaining is complete — possibly working into this weekend.

In its most recent message to members on May 6, SAG stressed the importance of the issue of actors being able to give their consent for film clips to be distributed online. And in a sign of the hostility between the unions — which are negotiating this pact separately for the first time in three decades — SAG noted that AFTRA agreed to a clip use formula that doesn’t include a consent provision in its network code deal, which covers non-primetime and was ratified by 93% of those voting.

Studios and nets are seeking to establish a market for use of clips online but want to dispense with performer consent, asserting that doing so would prevent such an enterprise from being profitable.

SAG has scheduled a town hall meeting on the negotiations for members Monday night at the WGA Theater with SAG president Alan Rosenberg and national exec director Doug Allen speaking.

AFTRA’s contract also expires June 30 and covers a handful of shows including “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Reaper,” “Cashmere Mafia” and “‘Til Death.”

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Although, we haven’t heard much from the AMPTP’s Head Negotiator Nick Counter in the press that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of writers in the press to channel his words to the public.

Traditionally, papers like the LA Times, and local trade papers come down on the side of the industry in any dispute between them and, any of our guilds that have the audacity to take them on in a labor dispute. And all the reasons are understandable: after all SAG doesn’t pay for all those lucrative ads in the Calendar section!

Even so, as a member of one of those guilds, it ain’t always palatable.

Although, the Ol’ Dog, has tried to ignore several commentaries read in the past few months, the one below was, one more, than he could stand, without responding. Whoof! Whoof!

I have as usual added a couple of pertinent asides.

“To those who crave the spotlight, check your egos at the door”

By Ray Richmond
Hollywood Reporter
May 9, 2008, 09:07 PM

An open letter to SAG president Alan Rosenberg and executive director Doug Allen.


Dear Alan and Doug:

Sorry for the informality. I know we don’t actually know each other, although Alan, I once saw you die on “Chicago Hope.” Or maybe it was “ER.” I still can’t get those shows straight, although I’m guessing the residuals checks probably help you tell them apart.

WOOF !Right, and those residuals weren’t gained by kissing the asses of producers and studio heads, but, but, I’m sure several trade paper commentators have found it, ah, beneficial.

Anyway, I heard that both of you guys were pretty upset last week that the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists — I’m going to take the liberty of calling them AFTRA — refused to postpone its negotiations on a new primetime TV contract with the major studios and sent you to the bench just when you claimed to be making progress on your own deal with the AMPTP after 18 days at the bargaining table.

WOOF !Now that’s funny, as if AFTRA ever refused anything without checking with the AMPTP first. As to AFTRA ever being sent to the bench by the AMPTP, ah, not as long as they continue to play ball with Nick and the gang, at the expense of the very actors they purport to represent.

I know it’s lousy to have all of that momentum stopped in its tracks. But guys, come on, your talks had already been extended twice, and from what I can gather you’re not exactly ensconced in a love fest these days with your fellow union. So why all of the pouting? When your people and AFTRA can’t figure out a way to negotiate together for the first time in 27 years, no one needs to remind you that chivalry and decorum shouldn’t be high on your list of expectations.

WOOF !And of course, as it always is with AMPTP lackeys, the fact that progress isn’t made and negotiations stymied is always the fault of SAG. Hey, not many press reporters, or commentators end up with jobs with the Screen Actors Guild, but, but, a lot of them, or least those that are non-critical of studios or producers, and that includes all but a couple, somehow seem to end up with jobs with those entities. Hey, even union staff members that demonstrate that they are willing to screw actors, don’t do too bad either, i.e., Whipsaw Bob Pisano, now co-heads the MPAA.

But the last thing you need right now is a lecture, and that isn’t what you’ll get here.

WOOF !Ah, right! :D:D:D

Consider it instead to be a perspective alert, a timely reminder that even should AFTRA bang out a relatively quick deal as predicted, and you’re both carting a big heap of righteous indignation and defiance into talks, you can’t allow your egos to take center stage.

WOOF !Of course, Nick and the AMPTP boys and studio heads have no ego! Ah, that is if you want to end up selling that screenplay or ending up with that cushy PR job.

Too much is riding on this, Alan and Doug, for you to permit hostility to trump good judgment.

WOOF !Translation, reach over and grab your ankles guys.

This town can’t afford another strike. C-A-N-N-O-T. Period. That has to be on your mind at all times.

WOOF !Right guys, what is it to this guy, if you go ahead and sell out SAG’s membership. Sell out their right to control their images! Give up their rights, in the current SAG/Producer contract, relating to Force Majeure. Oh, yeah, and by all means, follow Nicks demand that you sell out the SAG members currently in arbitration with producers because of their (The producers” failure to adhere to the SAG/Producer Agreement on Force Majeure payments during the writers strike. Oh, and why the hell have you guys been trying to get a few more DVD pennies for a movies entire cast. (According to the AMPTP that could cost them over a HALF-BILLION DOLLARS) Ah, which will give you an idea of how many Billions of dollars they have screwed actors out of, over the last couple of decades, with their 80% off the top VHS/DVD formula. Oh, hey, an by all means, be sure and give away those network show replays streamed on the Internet for which actors get between $23 and $98 dollars for a year. It’s this way, guys, the industry can’t afford a strike, but, but actors can afford to giveaway their rights and their livelihoods for decades to come, or perhaps forever.

Actors already are looking more and more like something of an endangered species, at least in television primetime, where producers have discovered a cost-cutting solution to the expense of scripted product called “reality,” which involves very little reality and close to zero guild involvement. You don’t want to give these people increased motivation to move even farther away from the thespian world.

WOOF !Yeah, right! Look, if we continue to cave in to producers, actors won’t be able to make a living, and therefore will find other means of doing so, and these, oh so bright, entertainment producers won’t have any choice but to do reality shows, because there won’t be any professional actors around to do dramatic shows. Look, again. If reality shows make the most money, and get the biggest ratings, it won’t matter how much we concede to producers they will do only reality shows. The idea that if we, only, just bend over and grab our ankles, employers will continue doing scripted dramatic shows, even though they aren’t getting ratings, or making money, is an idea that only Nick and the gang could put forth, and only one that shill writers and Roberta, Kim and gang would believe. Just because actors do the ankle maneuver, the AMPTP wont do more unprofitable dramatic shows, but then, again, they might turn such behavior into a reality show.

Getting a deal done by June 30, or at least before a strike authorization vote sends everything careening once again out of control, is far more imperative than crushing the enemy and satisfying your own innate alpha-male aggression. It’s easy to believe that but tough to put it into practice. It requires composure and acuity and restraint.

WOOF !Must not get that careening strike authorization vote. Better we should depend upon the generosity of the benevolent AMPTP Society. You, you, see it’s SAG that is trying to crush the enemy, while the AMPTP only wants to make a deal to keep the industry working. Gosh, why can’t you folks get it. Come on you selfish pr*cks! Is keeping your clip out a porno, or retaining things in your contract that you have sacrificed over the years to get, or wanting to be able to make a living–worth standing up for? Hey, folks, come on, we have Ol’ Ray’s career advancement to think of herelet’s check our egos at the door and go along with Nicks, ah, I mean his ideas.

All of the piddling bureaucratic details and daily affronts can be frustrating at best and infuriating at worst, I’m sure. But your job is to keep your eyes on the prize. That prize is not a slightly better contract procured following months of another devastating Hollywood shutdown that can’t be weathered. You guys need to be the brick wall erected in the path of a walkout, not the grease for its wheels.

WOOF !The only thing erected here is what Nick wants to use on actors.

It’s well understood that you’re negotiating with an adversary that doesn’t have the best interests of your 120,000 members at heart. Everyone gets that. Too, it’s a given that rolling over and taking a lousy deal — and having to spin it to avoid being pilloried and pummeled — isn’t much of an option, either.

But that need not happen. You’ll still have five weeks after resuming negotiations to make an equitable accord in advance of the deadline, and I have to believe that the majors are no more girding for another strike than they are hoping for a nuclear holocaust (one of which can wreak havoc on an entire weekend’s box office gross).

WOOF !You know what, is great about this article? Everything in it blames negotiation breakdowns on SAG’s NED and President, but there are no admonishments for Nick and the AMPTP. Look, if this guy, or all the other expert SAG skewering critics really wanted the two groups to reach a fair deal, they would be equally critical of both groups and put forth constructive solutions that would indeed keep the town working. But, instead, all of the so-called industry pundits have their noses so far Nick Counter ass, they should charge him for a prostate examine.

Nothing at this level is ever simple or orderly. Your struggles at the table already have clearly demonstrated that. Yet if, as you say, SAG was mere “hours” away from reaching a deal at the time talks broke off, then do what you have to do to get it done without giving up the farm.

WOOF !Let’s just make sure we get this clear, folks. SAG needs to do what needs to be done to reach a deal. But, but, butthe AMPTP is under no such obligation to do the same. And of course there is no bias on Ray’s part.

A crop or two is OK. Check those pesky egos at the door and compromise. Be tough, but also even-tempered and conciliatory.

WOOF !You, know, that farm metaphor is pretty appropo, in light of the fact that, mostly what we have been getting here is a lot of horse manure.

The industry you save may be your own. Peace and pay hikes.

WOOF !This whole article is a tad contradictory, ah, first we are advised to, more or less, go along with Nick and the AMPTP, and then we are wished “pay hikes.” *

*Ray Richmond can be reached at ray.Richmond@THR.com

Okay, maybe, I have been a little too tough on Ray. Why doggone, I bet that open letter from him critical of the AMPTP and Nick Counter will be forth coming, quicker than you can say Eric Mika!

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief
www.sagwatchdog.com

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Monday Media Stories: Complaint over Image suit filed with SAG. And AFTRA talks going smoothly.

April 19, 2008 (19:06) | 2008 | By: Arlin Miller

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With all talk lately about the AMPTP wanting SAG to give up the right of consent in regards to members image use in clips, this story raises some interesting questions. For instance, if a suit arises out of a single photograph, can you imagine the number of suits over actual clip use. Not a good idea, Nick.

Also, below a story about how smooth talks between AFTRA and the AMPTP are going. Boy, there is a shocker! *shock

Actor Washington files complaint over “Anatomy”

By Leslie Simmons
Sun May 11, 11:21 PM ET

Isaiah Washington has filed a complaint with the Screen Actors Guild over ABC’s use of his picture in an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

The mug of Washington’s Dr. Preston Burke was featured in a “newspaper article” about the character receiving a prestigious surgeon’s award in an episode that first aired May 9.

But Washington, who left the show in 2007 amid controversy over his allegedly referring to castmate T.R. Knight with a homophobic slur, claims the producers failed to get consent for the use of the picture.


Under our plan he could have received a whole 25 dollars.

His attorney, Peter Nelson, sent notices to ABC and SAG indicating the alleged inappropriate use of Washington’s image, the actor’s manager, Howard Bragman, said.

“They have the rights of the character to advance the story, but not the image,” he said, adding that what he expects for his client is a “financial settlement.”

Nelson declined to comment on the issue, except to say that he first became aware of the picture’s use while watching the NBA playoffs, when he saw a promo for the show that included the faux news stories.

ABC, which produces the show, had not comment.

Washington is currently filming the feature “Patriots” in New Orleans with Forest Whitaker for the Weinstein Co.

Claims made with SAG are not public record.
Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

Smooth talks for AFTRA

SAG still waiting on the sidelines

By DAVE MCNARY

AFTRA and the majors are launching their second week of primetime negotiations today with no fanfare and SAG still stewing on the sidelines.

The American Federation of Television & Radio Artists and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers held their first three days of talks last week with a news blackout in effect.

The negotiations, held at AMPTP headquarters in Encino, have gone smoothly so far. A deal is expected to emerge, but probably not until the end of this week at the earliest.

The Screen Actors Guild spent 18 days of feature-primetime bargaining with the AMPTP before talks ended Tuesday, with SAG objecting that it was near a deal and the majors contending that major gaps still existed over DVDs and new media. On Wednesday, AFTRA spurned a SAG bid to postpone its negotiations for a third time.

Both the SAG and AFTRA contracts expire June 30. The lack of resolution of the SAG deal’s preventing the greenlighting of most features, outside of 95 indie-financed pics that have been granted “guaranteed completion contracts,” allowing shooting to continue even if SAG strikes.

AFTRA split from joint bargaining with SAG in late March following a series of bitter jurisdictional disputes.

AFTRA’s contract covers “Rules of Engagement,” “Cashmere Mafia,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Flight of the Conchords,” “Dante’s Cove,” “Reaper” and “‘Til Death.”

WOOF !You know how AFTRA brags about keeping shows from going out of the USA.. Well, add to the growing list of AFTRA shows like “Kyle XY,” “Best Years,” “Till Death,” and “Monarch Cove” shot out of country, two new shows, “Revolution” and the above-mentioned “Reaper.”

With a new contract in hand prior to SAG, AFTRA’s expected to have an advantage in signing new TV shows.

WOOF !It’s time for SAG to enforce TOTAL RULE ONE to protect its members. SAG members will not work under other unions contracts, any show SAG has jurisdiction over. As regular readers know, SAG’s charter, engendered by a federal referendum, and solidified by the AFL-CIO’s jurisdictional arm, the 4A’s, gives SAG jurisdiction over all of these contested shows, except those done in the manner of a live broadcast.

The majors have offered SAG the chance to resume negotiations on May 28, but SAG hasn’t responded yet. It also hasn’t yet decided to ask its 120,000 members for a strike authorization, which requires a 75% approval.

WOOF !Here’s a thought, why don’t the majors negotiate with an “image” of our negotiatorsah, no wait, that wouldn’t work, if they negotiated with a photograph, they’d think they were still negotiating with AFTRA.

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A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF !

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AMPTP To SAG: “Our way Or The Highway!” Watchdog Commentary, and perhaps a few things you haven’t heard about Nick’s Demands

April 19, 2008 (19:06) | 2008 | By: Arlin Miller

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If there was one thing that AMPTP/SAG negotiations, suspended by Nick Counter and his gang, proved, it is that they are feeling pretty cocky.

And why not, didn’t stars like Clooney, Hanks, DeNiro, and Streep, announce to the world that SAG members did not have the resolve to face another strike. Along with our friends at AFTRA, who have indicated that they are more than willing to give the AMPTP anything they want, in order to get more AMPTP contracts, no matter how much it screws actors.

Nick Counter made it abundantly clear that he thought that he and his group were in the drivers seat! When referring to the SAG Proposals, at the beginning of the negotiations, he declared “These proposals are unreasonable. Well, I guess you’d better prepare to strike.”

But, even without that declaration, the AMPTP has proven by its actions, during the last few weeks, that unless something changes within the SAG membership, they are going to squeeze out of us, ever concession they can.

They have summarily rejected every one of our proposals, even as our negotiators have made concessions.

And, forget the idea that they just want us to basically take the same deal as the directors and writers. In fact they want a hell of lot more.

Currently, SAG members have the right to negotiate on whether their clips are used in another venue. They can protect their image, and say NO, if they don’t get their price, or if they don’t want their clip used in a manner they feel is inappropriate.

Of course, as they always do, when they want a concession, the AMPTP complains that the current method is, ah, outmoded. You know, like they recently complained that residuals are outmoded, In fact, anything that doesn’t put more money in their pockets is outmoded.

The funniest quote of the day, comes from AFTRA President Roberta Reardon, who stated in today’s LA Times article that,

“Like SAG, AFTRA wants better pay for working actors, whose incomes have been squeezed in recent years, Reardon said, and will push for actors’ consent for the use of Web clips, among other things.”

(LA Times 5/7/08)

One can only wonder, how hard Ms. Reardon was pushing when

“AFTRA agreed to REMOVE CONSENT for CLIP use in the Network Code Contract they recently negotiated.”

(SAG Contract 2008 Report #5)

Ah, oh, yeah, maybe she had a bad back that day.

Look, the Ol Dog ain’t saying the AMPTP/AFTRA negotiations have already been scripted, but at the beginning of the talks today, Nick handed out to Roberta and her actor negotiators their sides. B)

One can only wonder what it will take for high profile members like Sally Field to get their wakeup call. Maybe, if she goes on line, and there’s a couple of porno stars doing their thing, and the TV’s on in the backgroundwith a clip of “Norma Rae” on a table, cheering them on in their labor.

Then, maybe, she’ll find out that they don’t really love her! *luv

Hey, and there’s more. In the current SAG contract there’s a Force Majeure clause that allows SAG Members to get half pay during a strike. Well, guess what, kiddies, Nick and the gang wants SAG to get rid of that clause.

But,but,but wait there’s more. SAG currently has over 80 arbitration cases against the AMPTP filed by series regulars that where not paid during the WGA strike. And Nick and the boys want SAG to make those cases go away. Yeah, he wants SAG to screw its own members so he and the boys won’t have to pay out that hefty bunch of change. In fairness to nick, his eyes teared when he had to do it. :(

No, NED Allen, President Rosenberg, and our negotiators didn’t cave in, but that don’t mean Nick won’t keep pressing.

Look, if you want to make all the concessions Nick Counter wants, and if, in addition, you want to have your clips sold wholesale to whoever comes up with the bucks, go on, and continue to whine about how President Rosenberg wants a strike. Yeah, you see the reason that he wants a strike is so that his wife will be out of work! *money*money*money*

If our membership really is so stressed out by the WGA strike, and they just want to keep working, then they should keep their Frikking mouths closed when that network show that they did, goes directly to the Internet, and they get that first residual check for between $23 and $98 bucks!

But, you know what, I guarantee, they’ll be the first ones to start bitching. *

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF !

*All Formatting is SW’s.

California Civil Code 3344.

a) Any person who knowingly uses another’s name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness, in any manner, on or in products,merchandise, or goods, or for purposes of advertising or selling, or soliciting purchases of, products, merchandise, goods or services,without such person’s prior consent, or, in the case of a minor, the prior consent of his parent or legal guardian, shall be liable for any damages sustained by the person or persons injured as a result thereof.

It’s post time! *toast

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Saturdays LA Times story. Just in, Talks Extended DVD increase Demand Dropped!

April 19, 2008 (19:06) | 2008 | By: Arlin Miller

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Latest Update at top of page.

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LABOR

SAG, studios extend contract talks again
Negotiations, which had reached a stalemate earlier in the week, will now continue through Tuesday. The extension follows the actors union’s shift on DVD residuals.

By Richard Verrier and Claudia Eller
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

May 3, 2008

The Screen Actors Guild and Hollywood studios for the second time extended their talks on a new three-year contract, in a sign the parties are finding some common ground.

For the last three weeks, SAG and the studios have been locked in negotiations on a contract that would earn actors a larger slice of revenue for their work in the digital age. Although the talks have been amicable, both sides complained that no substantial progress had been made and were expected to break off Friday.

But a last-minute agreement to stay at the table until Tuesday came after SAG dropped its demand to double residuals paid to actors from DVD sales, a stumbling block. SAG has modified its position and is now seeking a roughly 15% hike in DVD pay. The studios have so far refused to change the decades-old DVD formula.

SAG also scaled back other demands, including an 80% jump in pay for so-called stand-in actors and a 50% increase for guest stars.

Such concessions have created enough goodwill between negotiators to keep the talks alive, said people close to the situation. However, there is no guarantee they will reach an accord in short order because a number of significant issues still divide them.

Among other things, the sides are still arguing over how much actors should be paid when their shows are streamed over the Internet, and what kind of programs created for the Web should be covered under the union’s contract.

Talks reached a stalemate this week, prompting both sides to issue statements acknowledging the major gaps between them.

The studios had been poised to begin negotiations Monday with Hollywood’s smaller actors union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. That guild said it would postpone its discussions with the studios on a prime-time TV contract until Wednesday so that SAG’s talks could continue.

AFTRA, which shares 44,000 members with SAG, recently broke off its longtime joint bargaining agreement with the more powerful union after a year-long feud.

SAG, which represents 120,000 movie, TV and commercial actors, accounts for the majority of earnings among performers. Most AFTRA actors work in daytime television, cable TV and reality shows; the union also represents a handful of prime-time shows.

Still, SAG leaders, who requested the extension, worried that AFTRA could undercut their leverage by negotiating a weaker contract. SAG also faces pressure from within its own ranks — and the larger Hollywood community — to secure an early pact with studios.

Indeed, both sides have plenty of incentive to avert another strike after the 100-day walkout by writers that ended in February. Another work stoppage would not only displace thousands of actors and production workers squeezed during the writers strike, it would add to losses already suffered by the studios.

Whether or not a strike occurs, the studios have not taken any chances. They have stopped greenlighting productions for this year and shuffled schedules to ensure most films wrap by June 30, when SAG’s contract expires.

richard.verrier@latimes.com

claudia.eller@latimes.com

*Watchdog Update: The Ol’ Dog has just learned that SAG will be releasing a statement shortly that the negotiations between the AMPTP and SAG have been extend through the week and into next Tuesday!

Meanwhile, Roberta, Kim, and have been put on the backburner again. Hmmm, I wonder if they are simmering by now.

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF !

SAG, majors agree to extend talks

Negotations will continue into next week
By DAVE MCNARY

In a sign of serious progress at the SAG negotiations, the guild and the majors have agreed to extend bargaining on a new feature-primetime deal until next Tuesday.

The SAG talks had been scheduled to conclude Friday after three weeks of no major moves by either side but the guild’s willingness to scale back one of its key demands led to both sides deciding at mid-morning to continue talks for another three sessions — pushing back AFTRA’s negotiations for a second time after AFTRA OK’d the delay.

In a joint announcement on Friday — the 15th day of negotiations — SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers said they had agreed to extend the talks on a day-to-basis until 5 p.m. Tuesday. The two sides will meet Saturday but not on Sunday.

The two sides gave no reason for the extension but it’s understood that SAG’s dropped its proposal to double DVD rates, opting instead for hiking the current DVD rate via employer contributions to the guild’s pension and health plans.

SAG’s initial DVD proposal had been a non-starter for the AMPTP, which insists that those revenues are crucial to staying in the black amid soaring marketing and production costs. The WGA had also sought a doubled DVD rate but ditched the proposal in the last session before it went on strike last fall.

The AMPTP had been scheduled to start bargaining Monday with the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists on a new primetime deal. AFTRA issued a brief statement at mid-day Friday.

“At the joint request of the AMPTP and SAG, AFTRA has agreed to postpone the commencement of its primetime television negotiations until Wednesday, May 7, or sooner,” AFTRA said. “The AFTRA Negotiating Committee has granted this second extension in order to give the current negotiations between the AMPTP and SAG more opportunity to succeed.”

AFTRA’s negotations had originally set to start this week but SAG and the AMPTP announced on April 23 that they had extended the SAG talks for a week.

The move to give the SAG talks more time appears designed to give negotiators another chance to launch the process of give-and-take bargaining that would lead to a deal. It comes two days after the majors went public with their frustration over SAG not having budged from its initial positions — specifically its demands for doubling of DVD rates, hikes in basic pay rates and terms in new media that are better than what the DGA and WGA negotiated.

SAG, in its only public statement about the talks, countered by disputing the AMPTP’s assertions, accusing the majors of not negotiating in good faith and insisting it would not negotiate in the press.

People close to the negotiations have insisted that, despite Wednesday’s hostilities, the SAG talks have remained cordial and had covered a significant amount of ground. The lack of saber-rattling contrasts sharply with the venomous atmosphere that dominated most of the WGA negotiations.

With the SAG deal expiring on June 30, both sides are facing growing pressure to make a deal sooner rather than later. SAG’s been told by high-profile members to cool the rehetoric; additionally, if AFTRA makes a deal first, the smaller union could then use that pact to sign new series in areas of shared jurisdiction.

AFTRA split off from negotiating with SAG in March in the culmination of long-running series of disputes as actors on “The Bold and the Beautiful” attempted to decertify from AFTRA.

SAG hasn’t yet announced a strike authorization vote for its 120,000 members. The guild’s constitution requires that 75% of those voting approve the authorization for SAG to go on strike.

As for the companies, a SAG strike would immediately halt movie production and inject even more uncertainty into the entertainment business. Major studios are no longer greenlighting new features until a SAG agreement’s in place; Hollywood still has not fully recovered from the 100-day writers strike; and showbiz is facing both a recession and the migration of TV viewers to the Internet.

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The following are previous articles that have since been updated.

Unproductive SAG talks will end today
Uncertainty as talks end

WOOF ! I guess the Ol’ Dog was wrong, I figured since the board meeting was canceled for next week that the talks would be extended into at least into that time period.

By DAVE MCNARY
(5/1/08)

With Hollywood’s hopes for labor peace hitting the skids for now, the Screen Actors Guild and the majors will pull the plug today on three weeks of largely unproductive talks — with no sign of compromise by either side.

After today’s talks conclude, no new SAG negotiations are planned even though the guild’s contract expires June 30. And SAG leaders may even seek a strike authorization vote soon.

The 14th day of negotiations between SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers recessed Thursday evening with both sides refusing to comment other than saying they’d resume talks today. The AMPTP will start bargaining Monday with AFTRA on a new primetime deal that will likely have the effect of isolating SAG.

Expectations are high that AFTRA will make a deal as early as late next week, covering a handful of shows and opening the door for it to begin taking away coverage from SAG in areas of shared jurisdiction. AFTRA split off from SAG in March in the culmination of an ugly dispute over actors on “The Bold and the Beautiful” attempting to decertify from AFTRA.

Despite that scenario, SAG hasn’t budged significantly from its initial positions. With frustration mounting over the lack of progress, the AMPTP blasted the guild Wednesday over its demands for doubling of DVD rates, hikes in basic pay rates and terms in new media that are better than what the DGA and WGA negotiated.

SAG countered by disputing the AMPTP’s assertions, accusing the majors of not negotiating in good faith and insisting it would not negotiate in the press.

Despite the saber-rattling, people close to the negotiations have insisted the talks have remained cordial and covered a significant amount of ground. But it’s clear that SAG wants to pressure the majors with a strike threat, leading to the growing possibility that SAG’s leaders will ask for a strike authorization vote from its 120,000 members.

Such a step is risky in that the measure must receive at least 75% support to be valid. The WGA strike authorization received 90% backing last October, but that came after months of hostility between the WGA and the AMPTP.

SAG national exec director Doug Allen and president Alan Rosenberg have been laying the groundwork for such a step by telling members for the past year that SAG won’t follow the pattern set by the DGA and WGA. They’ve been adamant that the 22-year-old homevid formula needs to be sweetened, even though the WGA took that demand off the table, and that the DGA and WGA new-media terms aren’t good enough given the migration of the TV business to the Internet.

But it’s unclear whether actors would have the appetite for a second walkout after enduring the 100-day writers strike. Allen and Rosenberg have been under pressure from high-profile members since the WGA strike ended, with George Clooney, Robert De Niro, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep asking that SAG get to the table quickly; in addition, more than 1,500 members — including Amy Brenneman and Sally Field — petitioned unsuccessfully for SAG to limit voting on the contract to those meeting a work requirement.

AFTRA has already incorporated parts of the WGA and DGA new-media deals into its network code pact, which covers shows other than primetime dramas and sitcoms. That agreement, reached in March, received backing from 93% of members voting.

Both the AMPTP and DGA issued congratulations Thursday to AFTRA on the ratification of the three-year deal.

“It is great news that at such a challenging time in our industry, you were able to improve and protect so many important provisions regarding wage increases, health and retirement contributions and new-media residuals for AFTRA members,” DGA president Michael Apted said in a message to AFTRA president Roberta Reardon.

“The AFTRA Network Code contract is the third major agreement we have successfully concluded this year and the latest to incorporate the groundbreaking new-media framework that will benefit both union members and producers,” the AMPTP said.

AFTRA’s leaders are far more moderate than SAG’s. The union has 70,000 members, including 44,000 who also belong to SAG.

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Studios slam SAG

Majors ‘set the record straight’ on Website

By DAVE MCNARY

The gloves have come off in the contract negotiations between the majors and Screen Actors Guild.

With the SAG talks going nowhere fast, the majors have gone on the offensive by criticizing the guild’s demands as unreasonable and unrealistic. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers made the assertion at midday Wednesday in a negotiations update to members titled “Setting the record straight” posted on the AMPTP website.

Though the language was more measured and respectful than the harsh tone often employed by the majors during the writers strike, the AMPTP’s message was clear: Unless SAG backs off its demands on DVD and new media soon, it can forget about a deal even if thesps go on strike.

And that raises the scenario of rival performers union AFTRA making a deal as early as next week and then capitalizing on that pact by expanding its coverage of primetime TV skeins — at SAG’s expense. The AMPTP’s decision to go public with the sticking points in the talks so far appears to be aimed at provoking SAG moderates to pressure guild leaders to make a deal as soon as possible rather than stringing out negotiations toward the June 30 expiration.

WOOF !Hmmm, I guess that means they want to “Let George Do it!”

In a posting on its website, SAG disputed the AMPTP assertion that it had over-reached.

“The AMPTP knows that we did not state that they had to agree to all of our non-new-media proposals,” it said. “We expect the AMPTP to negotiate in good faith, and we will do the same.”

The current round of talks, which launched April 15, are scheduled to conclude Friday. The majors were already set to begin negotiations with AFTRA on Monday. If SAG goes on strike with an AFTRA deal already in place, AFTRA could offer the incentive to AMPTP member companies of continuing with TV production if their new shows sign AFTRA agreements.

WOOF !And how many shows would AFTRA get if SAG mandated Rule One, asserting SAG’s Charter, through the AFL-CIO, which states that SAG has all acting on TV EXCEPT THAT DONE IN THE MANNER OF A LIVE BROADCAST?

Traditionally, the thesp unions have divided the landscape by granting SAG jurisdiction over all shows shot on film while AFTRA covered all electronic production, a la talkshows and gameshows; the prevalence of digital production on primetime skeins has, however, blurred those distinctions.

WOOF !The lines are not blurred, as I pointed out above. What has blurred is SAG’s resolve to assert its jurisdiction.

SAG hasn’t yet asked its 120,000 members for a strike authorization, and it’s uncertain when it would return to the bargaining table after this week. AFTRA’s viewed as much more likely than SAG to sign a deal as its leaders are less assertive than SAG’s, and it has already incorporated some of the WGA and DGA new-media terms into its network code deal, signed in early March.

WOOF !AFTRA has already demonstrated with its lowball contracts that it is willing to sacrifice actors residuals to get contracts. In the meantime, they are taking over cable with a dozen AFTRA Basic Cable contracts like the just picked up AFTRA’s “Sons Of Anarchy.” from the producer of the SAG show “The Shield.” Look, if you are a complaint union like AFTRA ready to roll over when producers snap their fingers, you will get all the shows. Especially, if SAG stands idly by and does nothing.

AFTRA announced late Wednesday that its members had “overwhemingly” ratified the net code deal. And the current SAG and AFTRA situation — with AFTRA set to make the new-media deal for actors — resembles the DGA-WGA dynamic of several months ago in which the less-militant DGA hammered out the terms, which were then largely mirrored in the subsequent WGA pact.

WOOF !Get ready for Internet residuals that can net actors between twenty-three and a ninety-eight bucks when that network show is rerun FOR A YEAR on the Internet, and that’s where it is all going, baby.

And though the studios have stressed that the talks with SAG have so far been cordial, the six-page update issued Wednesday made it clear that little progress has been achieved since last week’s announcement that the AMPTP was giving SAG an extra week to close the “significant gaps” between the two sides.

“Candidly, we must offer the same assessment of the negotiations today,” the AMPTP said. “Although both parties have spent considerable time in the negotiating room, we are not yet close to an agreement.”

The key complaint stems from SAG’s unwillingness to adhere to the pattern set in the DGA and WGA deals. SAG national exec director Doug Allen and president Alan Rosenberg had said repeatedly in the run-up to talks that the guild wasn’t interested in following the pattern — and it appears they have not backed off that position even with the talks in their third week and a June 30 contract expiration approaching.

WOOF !The choice is a simple one, do we let the go-along-to-get along DGA decide what actors get, or do we show a little backbone and make our own deal. Unless, we do. We might as well throw up our hands, and let them negotiate for us completely. And if they do, rank and file actors can say bye-bye to making a living as a professional actor, and all perfect just one line. “Ah, will that be all, or would you like dessert with your coffee?”

After 13 days at the bargaining table, the AMPTP blamed SAG for having thrown a monkey wrench into the process by rejecting what it called “the framework for new media” that was established in the DGA, WGA and AFTRA network code pacts.

“Last week, SAG indicated that it would be willing to live within the existing new-media framework — but only with more than 70 changes to the framework, some of which would go a long way toward making the framework unworkable,” the AMPTP said.

The companies also said SAG had insisted that it would agree to the new-media terms only if the AMPTP accepted all its other demands in traditional media — a point that SAG disputes.

“Unfortunately, these demands — including a doubling of the existing DVD formula and huge increases in compensation and benefits — would result in enormous cost increases that we are not willing to accept,” the companies said.

WOOF !A doubling of the DVD formual with 80% taken off the top by studios and producers, before actors percentage is figured in, would mean that a cast of actors, instead of spliting a whopping 12 cents on a 12 dollar DVD, would end up sharring a whopping 24cents. Enormous cost for those that are making Billions upon Billons of dollars off of actors talents.

“The SAG Basic and TV agreements are mature labor pacts for mature business. In such circumstances, employers in other industries typically negotiate reductions and efficiencies to reduce costs. We are not seeking to do this. But we cannot responsibly accept the unprecedented double-digit increases in DVD residuals and conditions sought by SAG or wage hikes that in some cases reach 200%.”

It’s understood that SAG’s backed off on its earlier demand for a shorter promotional window for streamed shows. The WGA and DGA deals provide that no residuals have to be paid on streaming for the first 17 days for TV series (24 days on new shows) — a deal point the WGA also fought but begrudgingly accepted for the sake of settling the strike.

It’s understood that SAG’s also perturbed over what it sees as more than 30 changes sought by the AMPTP in the new-media language.

The AMPTP also delivered a point-by-point refutation of the four SAG messages to members. SAG says earnings are declining, but the AMPTP says they’ve risen by 24% since 2003; SAG says it wants a “reasonable” rate on DVD residuals, but the AMPTP maintains that SAG’s demanding a $500 million per year hike; and SAG says it takes more work to qualify for its health plan, while the AMPTP says the benefits would be “the envy of middle-class Americans.”

WOOF !Hmmm, I wonder how middle class Americans would like to stand at the ready, to audition for their jobs, that is when they could get an auditions, with no guarentee that they will work for months.

SAG said in its website response that it stands by its research.

“We are not surprised that the employers dispute the economic hardships that actors are facing,” the guild said. “You know better. We will not negotiate this contract in the press. Instead, we are focused on reaching a fair contract that addresses your needs as professional actors.”

WOOF !Here’s a thought, perhaps, SAG should negotiate its contract in the press. As it is now, few Amercians know what its like to be a rank and file actor, but instead think that we all live the lifestyle of those AMPTP buddies, George, Hank, and Sally.

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A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF !

A Message to Screen Actors Guild Members
Regarding TV/Theatrical Contract Negotiations

Dear Screen Actors Guild Member,

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) posted a message to their member companies today on the AMPTP website. We felt it was important that we directly communicate our continued dedication to the negotiations process.

Screen Actors Guild remains committed to reaching a fair agreement with the AMPTP. To that end, we are prepared to bargain continuously, for as long as it takes.

The AMPTP knows we did not state that they had to agree to all of our non-new media proposals. We expect the AMPTP to negotiate in good faith and we will do the same.

We stand by our research and the information we provided you in our Contract 2008 Reports. We are not surprised that the employers dispute the economic hardships actors are facing. You know better.

We will not negotiate this contract in the press. Instead, we are focused on reaching a fair contract that addresses your needs as professional actors.

We will continue to update you regularly.

April 30, 2008

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Screen Actors Guild, Hollywood studios still far from a contract

April 19, 2008 (19:06) | 2008 | By: Arlin Miller

1209583297 69.230.202.220

Screen Actors Guild, Hollywood studios still far from a contract

Talks bog down over pay across new and old media, people close to the negotiations say.

By Richard Verrier and Claudia Eller

Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

April 30, 2008

After more than two weeks of negotiations, studios and the Screen Actors Guild appear to have made little headway toward a new contract.

Despite mounting pressure on both sides to avert another costly walkout after the 100-day writers strike, the talks have bogged down over how much actors should be paid across both new- and old-media platforms, said people close to the negotiations who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss them publicly.

Guild negotiators are pushing for significant improvements in the proposed three-year contract above what writers and directors negotiated in their recent deals. Among other things, actors are seeking to double what they earn from the sale of DVDs, on grounds that the formula has remained unchanged since 1986.

Studios, however, have refused to budge, saying DVD revenue is needed to offset rising production and marketing costs.

WOOF !Back when they came up with the VHS formula that allowed producers to take 80 perecnet of the top before paying residuals, there reason was also cost. Only then the excuse was the cost of producing VHS cassettees. Now that those costly cassettees have been replaced by DVDs which are enexpensive to produce, employers are still blaming cost but now it’s the cost of producing the movie and marketing costs. One thing never changes, our employers always have a ready answer for giving actors the short end of the stick. And speaking of stick: Whatever they stick us with, as history has proven, we will be stuck with for a long, long time.

The sluggish pace of the talks suggests the parties could fail to hammer out a contract by Friday, barring a last-minute breakthrough. That’s the end of the three-week period that studios and actors had set aside to reach a new agreement.

Although the actors contract doesn’t expire until June 30, negotiations are expected to go down to the wire, creating more uncertainty about a potential work stoppage that would shut down most film and TV production.

One mitigating factor could be Hollywood’s smaller actors union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which is set to begin negotiations Monday. Those talks are expected to move swiftly, given AFTRA’s favorable view of the writers and directors contracts.

A deal with AFTRA, whose members include actors in daytime television and reality shows, could increase the pressure on SAG to reach its own accord shortly thereafter.

The two unions, which share 44,000 members, had planned to bargain jointly with the studios, as they had done for 27 years. But a longtime turf war recently prompted AFTRA to break ranks with SAG to negotiate a separate contract for prime-time television.

Studios, however, will still have to come to terms with SAG, which represents film as well as television actors. They have been preparing for months for a possible walkout by SAG’s 120,000 members by ensuring that most movies finish shooting by late June.

Since negotiations began this month, the atmosphere has been cordial, in contrast to the rancorous negotiations between studios and writers.

But that hasn’t done much to narrow the gaps. Studios balked at SAG’s demands for significantly higher residuals for shows distributed online than what writers and directors had negotiated.

Although SAG has since scaled back some of its initial proposals, last week the union nonetheless insisted on more than 70 changes to the new- media framework established by the other unions. Among other things, the sides are at odds over the length of time shows can be streamed online before residuals are paid to actors. They’ve also clashed over which shows created specifically for the Internet should qualify for union contracts.

Guild leaders Doug Allen and Alan Rosenberg have stipulated that their concessions in new media were contingent on the studios’ agreeing to improve compensation in traditional media. Citing what the guild says is the shrinking income of rank-and-file actors, the leaders have asked for a 52% pay hike for guest stars, 80% for stand-in actors and as much as 200% for certain types of extras.

richard.verrier@latimes.com

And as studios and producers continue their perenial plea of poverty, the following article on the same page of the above LA Times story.

CBS profit jumps 14%

Lower TV production costs and sale of reruns help buoy results.

By Meg James

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

April 30, 2008

Led by stronger-than-expected results in its TV division, CBS Corp. on Tuesday beat Wall Street expectations and posted a 14% jump in net income for the quarter ended March 31.

The broadcasting company’s profit increased to $244.3 million, or 36 cents a share. The gain occurred despite flat revenue of $3.65 billion, a drop in television advertising sales and a plunge in the network’s prime-time ratings because of the writers strike.

Although analysts had expected results to be hampered by the labor strife, CBS said the ratings decline was more than offset by lower TV production costs and the sale of reruns for the shows “Everybody Loves Raymond” in the U.S. and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” abroad.

CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves, in a call with analysts, described the results as “very solid” and said the television, radio, billboard and publishing company would boost its quarterly dividend to 27 cents a share from 25 cents despite “challenging economic times.”

Wall Street had been monitoring CBS’ earnings because it is the first of several media companies to report results over this week and the next and is heavily reliant upon advertising. CBS derives about two-thirds of its revenue from ad sales, and a drop typically signals a slowing economy.

Television revenue inched up 1% to $2.6 billion, and operating income rose 15% to $402.1 million. An important factor in the quarterly results was CBS’ 85% increase in TV license fees, largely from the syndication sales of “Raymond” and “CSI.”

“This was an unusual quarter,” said Michael Nathanson, media analyst with Bernstein Research. “There was some unquantified benefit from the strike because of lower production costs. . . . But the question really is about sustainability. It’s unclear to us whether these results can be sustained, particularly given the large number of one-time results during this quarter,” such as the syndication sales.

Its premium pay cable TV channel, Showtime, also made gains. During the last year, Showtime has added 1.3 million subscribers, Moonves said, for a total of 15.5 million homes.

Other divisions did not fare as well.

First-quarter revenue for CBS Outdoor increased 7% to $497 million, but operating income slipped 6% to $44.1 million. At CBS Radio, revenue decreased 9% to $363.5 million and operating income skidded 27% to $115 million for the quarter. Revenue also fell 12% to $201.6 million at publisher Simon & Schuster, where operating income sank 32% to $14.6 million.

CBS, however, was buoyed by political spending at its TV stations, countering a decline in local market ad sales.

“There was some softness in the market other than political, which obviously covered a lot of the sins,” Moonves said.

Analysts were curious about how CBS plans to spend its $2.3 billion in cash in light of reports that it is expected to join the bidding for the Weather Channel, owned by Virginia-based Landmark Communications Inc.

Moonves sidestepped the question, saying “at the moment there are no plans to announce anything major, but we do look at everything.”

meg.james@latimes.com

Oh, and one more story from today’s LA Times Business Section.

DreamWorks Animation profit soars 69% on DVD sales

Sales of ‘Bee Movie,’ ‘Shrek the Third’ and earlier releases help the studio beat Wall Street expectations.

WOOF !But,but, but…they can’t increase actors share above the 1986 rate, which take 80 percent off the top before giving actors a share. (On a 12 dollar DVD actors get 12 cents to share among the entire cast.)

By Josh Friedman

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

April 30, 2008

DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. said Tuesday that its first-quarter profit surged 69% on solid DVD sales for “Bee Movie,” “Shrek the Third” and its earlier films.

The Glendale company, best known for the “Shrek” franchise, reported net income of $26.1 million, or 28 cents a share, versus $15.4 million, or 15 cents, a year earlier. Analysts had predicted profit of 22 cents a share on average, according to Thomson Financial.

DreamWorks shares slid 49 cents to $25.74 before the earnings release, then rose nearly 5% to $27 in after-hours trading.

Revenue rose 67% to $156.6 million, thanks partly to television and DVD revenue from 2005’s “Madagascar” and “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” as well as 2006’s “Flushed Away.”

“They’ve been making [computer generated] animated movies to the point where they have a meaningful catalog, so when people go to Wal-Mart for ‘Bee Movie’ or ‘Shrek the Third’ they’ve got other choices as well,” said Evan Wilson, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities.

“It adds an element of predictability to an otherwise hit-driven business.”

“Bee Movie,” released on DVD on March 11, sold 4.8 million units through the end of the month. “Shrek the Third,” which came out on home video in November, has sold a total of 19.8 million copies. Both have performed in line with Wall Street expectations, Wilson said, despite a flat DVD market.

Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, in a conference call with analysts, sounded bullish about the company’s 2008 theatrical slate, starting with the June 6 release of “Kung Fu Panda.”

“Creatively we’re pleased with the film,” Katzenberg said of “Panda,” an action-comedy with a voice cast including Jack Black, Jackie Chan and Angelina Jolie. Still, he cautioned that this summer’s theatrical schedule was packed with competition.

DreamWorks believes the movie, well-received at an exhibitor screening last month at the ShoWest convention in Las Vegas, could yield at least one sequel. And the company’s subsequent release, Nov. 7’s “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,” is a follow-up to its most successful movie outside of the “Shrek” series.

But Katzenberg expressed frustration with the pace of 3-D theater conversions. DreamWorks plans to make all of its films in 3-D starting with March’s “Monsters vs. Aliens,” but he sounded concerned about the number of theaters that would be able to install the necessary digital equipment.

About 1,000 screens in the U.S. are equipped for 3-D, but negotiations between studios and theater chains over cost-sharing deals that could add several thousand more locations have gone slowly.

“I’m not very happy with how everybody has handled themselves in the last 30 days,” said Katzenberg, one of the industry’s cheerleaders for 3-D projection.

“The rate of how this is getting done has been — ‘bureaucratic’ would be a nice way to put it.”

josh.friedman@latimes.com

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