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SAG Signals New Willingness to Reach a Deal With Advertisers

September 07, 2000|JAMES BATES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a statement suggesting a slight thaw by actors in their bitter 18-week-old strike against the advertising industry, union negotiators said "there has been enough negative publicity" in the walkout and called for a resolution soon.

In addition, a spokesman for the Screen Actors Guild confirmed reports that some of its contract demands are being modified, but he wouldn't specify. The two sides are scheduled to meet next Wednesday in New York at the behest of federal mediators trying to jump-start negotiations.

Issued by SAG chief negotiator John McGuire and Mathis Dunn of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the statement vows a continued fight if actors aren't offered a fair proposal.

Nonetheless, it is part of a pattern in which SAG is toning down its statements, which some observers suggest could be a subtle message to the ad industry that the union is more willing to deal.

"This is the message we will take to the industry . . . let's sit down and bargain a fair commercials contract that reflects and recognizes the value of performers," the statement says.

Citing the recent heart attack death of actor William Embry on a picket line, McGuire and Dunn said, "The loss of a life and other negative aspects to this strike cry out for a solution."

Actors have been seeking a payment system in which they are paid each time a commercial airs on network and cable TV, while advertisers insist actors be paid a flat fee. Internet ads are also an issue.

Unclear, however, is whether advertisers will be more flexible.

"We're always open to new ideas, and if they've got new ideas to propose, we'll listen," said ad industry negotiator Ira Shepard. But, he added, "they've got to come down out of the stratosphere."

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Times staff writer Greg Johnson contributed to this report.

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