The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) held a press conference on Oct. 23 detailing the unions' new commercial contract agreement with the advertising industry's Joint Policy Committee (JPC).
The deal is expected to be endorsed by the joint boards in plenary session on Oct. 28 before being sent to the unions' respective memberships for ratification.
The end of the commercial strike by actors, the longest strike in entertainment history, is expected to come in the form of a back-to-work order as early as Oct. 29 or Oct. 30. At the Millennium Hotel in midtown Manhattan, SAG's lead negotiator John McGuire alluded to the need for the talent unions to build bridges with the advertising industry.
As reported earlier, a basic agreement has been reached. In this deal, there are four main points established between the parties. First, the actors will retain their residual rates for commercials broadcast on traditional television networks (SAG's so-called "Class A"). Second, the actors will see "all the cable money" they had sought, which means that at the highest end of the television residual schedule, a 140 percent increase in cable residuals will be realized by the end of the new contract's third year. Third, the parties agreed to a six-month study of new monitoring methods and technology for the tracking of commercial broadcasts. Finally, and perhaps most significant for the talent unions is that they will now have jurisdiction over commercials broadcast on the Internet.
"We got three out of four," a union source told Playbill On-Line. Surprisingly, the Internet jurisdiction also comes with some indication of rates. For commercials that "move over" to the Internet from other media, a multiple of the original session fee will be charged for a set period of play. AFTRA national president Shelby Scott told Playbill On-Line that for commercials "made for the net," no specific fee has been set although the unions are to be provided with copies of all contracts for Internet spots, to help determine a reasonable rate in the future.
The agreement was expected this weekend, with many involved in the six month-old commercial strike figuring that behind-the-scenes progress had been made after the actors began a national boycott of Proctor and Gamble products.
At the outset of the strike on May 1, actor Richard Dreyfuss told Playbill On-Line that the single greatest strength the actors had was their "unity." Asked if he still believed that was true, Dreyfuss said, "Yes." The Academy Award-winning actor went on to say that the actor's unity had probably been under estimated and that had the strike not happened and had the acting community not fought for what it believed was right, there would have been "devastating, catastrophic" results.
"Another thing," Dreyfuss said, "and I'm on the record here, is that I originally opposed the Proctor and Gamble boycott, and I've come to believe that I was wrong." Dreyfuss characterized the boycott as a crucial effort that affirmed the union's dedication and sent a clear signal of strength during the last few weeks of the strike and the final talks.
-- By Murdoch McBride