Lyric Opera of Chicago May Return to Radio, Thanks to New Musicians' Contract

Classic Arts News   Lyric Opera of Chicago May Return to Radio, Thanks to New Musicians' Contract
The musicians and administration of Lyric Opera of Chicago have agreed to a new labor agreement which may allow the company to return to the radio airwaves.

The terms of the new contract, which were announced yesterday, include provisions regarding broadcast media rights that smooth the way for the company to broadcast once again via the WFMT radio network. Live broadcasts could begin as soon as November, while the entire season could potentially be rebroadcast in the spring of 2007.

Before resuming radio broadcasts — which ceased at the end of the 2001-02 season due to lack of funding for the additional fees required by musicians for broadcast rights &mdash the Lyric needs permission from AGMA (American Guild of Musical Artists) and IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees). The company hopes to conclude the media rights negotiations with those organizations by the end of the month.

The company's new contract runs through the 2008-09 season. It guarantees orchestra members 26 weeks of employment for each of the three seasons, with wage increases totaling 13.2 percent for the contract term. Payment for media rights is additional.

In addition to radio broadcasts, the media agreement allows for Internet streaming of recorded performances, sale of recorded performances, audio samples on Lyric Opera's website and broadcast of Lyric's annual Millennium Park concert.

The agreement also allows for sharing of revenues from commercial use of recordings.

William Mason, Lyric's general director, said, "We have had literally thousands of requests for our return to radio, by far our most important outreach activity. This is a hugely positive development for our company and our audience."

Gary Matts, president of the Chicago Federation of Musicians, said, "This is an excellent agreement because it gives improvements to both Lyric and its wonderful orchestra. It's a win-win contract. We are grateful to mediator Judge Abner Mikva for his skill in bringing the parties together."

Steve Robinson, senior vice president and general manager of WFMT and the WFMT Radio Network, added, "Broadcasts of Lyric Opera have been a cornerstone of our programming for many decades, so everyone at WFMT is thrilled that this glorious broadcast tradition will soon return to the airwaves. I know I speak for scores of radio stations throughout America that will welcome the return of these historic broadcasts to their schedules. This is a red-letter day for opera lovers in the Chicago area and throughout the country."

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