Contract negotiations resume today between the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and the advertising industry's Joint Policy Committee (JPC). Sources in both camps allude to the possibility of real progress with these talks.
There have been rumors that a resolution is close at hand, with sources close to the JPC predicting a new contract by Mon. Oct. 23, assuming that "the talks even need to go through the weekend." On the actors' side, a national boycott of three Proctor and Gamble products—Crest, Tide and Ivory Soap—continues, but ever since the early October announcement that talks would resume on Oct. 19, there has been a positive, if cautious air among actors concerning any pending deal.
Even at the Oct. 10 rally in New York City announcing the P&G boycott, which was attended by such firebrands as A.F.L.C.I.O. president John Sweeny and state Sen. Tom Duane, it seemed as if the news of the rescheduled talks already held significant meaning, making the rhetoric from the boycott podium seem like a forceful prelude to the Oct. 19 talks.
Speculation notwithstanding, the restart of talks comes during boycott of Proctor and Gamble products, an action taken not only by the actors' unions, but by some 13.1 million union members affiliated with the A.F.L.C.I.O. as well. On Sept. 27, when the negotiations last broke off, IATSE president Thomas C. Short appeared before the JPC and the actors' unions to voice support for labor in the strike. Actors say this support, as well as subsequent A.F.L.C.I.O. backing with the P&G boycott is real pressure prompting advertising interests to return to the table.
As reported earlier, Playbill On-Line has obtained documentation linking Proctor and Gamble and the Joint Policy Committee, and further suggesting that P&G had a leadership role in the JPC because of its size and influence. Moreover, P&G's policy of never giving more than a single digit raise (under ten percent) in any single line item mirrored similar tactics evident in the commercial contract talks between the JPC and actors. Rumors about a possible deal are spoken with concern from entertainment sources about the delicate nature of any initial "understanding" between the two sides. In any case, the Internet jurisdiction sought by actors appears to be the key point of compromise. It is with the Internet that actors feel they can finally participate in the "new media," gaining the toehold they felt they were denied with cable, while allowing advertising interests the chance to trade this Internet jurisdiction for valuable rate compromises in established media like cable and traditional broadcast.
-- By Murdoch McBride