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COMPANY TOWN

Pact Between Agents, SAG Hits Potentially Fatal Snag

March 08, 2000|JAMES BATES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An agreement between talent agents and the Screen Actors Guild loosening restrictions on what agencies can do and who can own them--which once appeared to be a fait accompli-- has hit another snag that could eventually sink the proposal.

A national executive committee for SAG voted on Tuesday to send the proposal to the union's national board of directors "for further consideration." That means it will be at least a month before it will be seriously considered again. Some agents saw that as a clear sign that SAG isn't ready to change its decades-old agency rules and that the proposal will simply be allowed to die.

The sides were close to an agreement last month that potentially could revolutionize the talent agency business. It would have expanded the powers of agencies by letting them participate in the financing and distribution of films and TV shows, and also allow companies such as ad agencies, Internet firms and production companies to own an interest in talent agencies.

Agents argue that they need the expanded powers, the freedom to fully expand into new media, and infusions of capital to better compete with managers, who are not bound by the same restrictions and have eaten away at the agency business by operating as de facto agents.

But late last month, SAG officials started getting cold feet amid criticism that the deal might not be in the best interest of members and that it raised conflict-of-interest questions. SAG President William Daniels has even proposed a referendum among SAG's 97,000 members, which agents feel would doom the proposal.

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