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TV, radio union on verge of deal

An AFTRA agreement could pressure the larger Screen Actors Guild to finish up its own negotiations.

May 28, 2008|Richard Verrier and Claudia Eller | Times Staff Writers

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists late Tuesday night neared a new contract with Hollywood studios. The two sides were expected to reach a deal, increasing pressure on the larger Screen Actors Guild to secure its own agreement as negotiations resume today.

The tentative accord, coming after three weeks of negotiations, would be modeled on a pact that ended the 100-day writers strike in February. If the contract is ratified, AFTRA would become the third Hollywood union to accept a deal based on the contract negotiated by directors last year, making it tougher for SAG to argue that its members deserve significantly better terms.

AFTRA and the studios were working toward a compromise on the contentious issue of how nonpromotional clips of films and TV shows are used on the Web. The parties have tentatively agreed to jointly devise a system whereby the studios would not have to obtain permission for each clip, but rather, perhaps, consent for an entire TV series.

Whether such a compromise will satisfy SAG leaders is unclear. SAG members were outraged over a studio proposal that would allow the studios to use clips on the Web without actors' consent. Actors have had control over their clips since 1960, but the studios argue that the rule is cumbersome and impedes their ability to build an online business.

Parts of the proposed AFTRA contract could undercut some of SAG's initial bargaining demands. AFTRA, for example, did not win an increase in the decades-old home-video residuals formula.

The proposed agreement doubles the pay actors receive from movies and TV shows sold online, and establishes payments for programs streamed online. It also guarantees the union's jurisdiction over shows created for the Web that cost more than $15,000 a minute.

SAG leaders, however, have contended that the thresholds would exclude too many Web shows, opening the door to a pool of nonunion work. The guild has deals with hundreds of low-budget Web shows.

That was among the sticking points in talks between SAG and the studios, which broke off last month. SAG and AFTRA had planned to bargain jointly, as they had for 27 years, but a yearlong rift tore the unions apart.

Of SAG's 122,000 members, 44,000 also belong to AFTRA, which represents radio announcers, musicians and soap opera and cable TV actors. AFTRA does not represent feature film actors and covers on a few prime-time TV shows.

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richard.verrier@latimes.com

claudia.eller@latimes.com

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