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SAG Weighs Options

14 Jul, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Leadership of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) July 14 continued to consider its options and dispel notions that its counter last week of a “final” contract proffered by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) amounted to a rejection.

The AMPTP's offer to SAG included more than $250 million in additional compensation over the course of the three-year contract, as well as new media terms.

The current contract, which expired June 30, is still being recognized on an interim basis.

The SAG national negotiating committee, as it did last week, met behind closed doors throughout the day to discuss bargaining strategies.

“Our national negotiating committee did not, as has been erroneously reported, reject the AMPTP's offer,” said Doug Allen, SAG's national executive director and chief negotiator. “Instead, we made a comprehensive counter proposal that adopted some of their proposals and offered alternatives on others. We significantly narrowed the gap between us while remaining committed to the principles of our bargaining priorities.”

The AMPTP said the refusal of SAG's leadership to accept their offer had put “labor peace” at risk. Producers said they would make wage and salary increases outlined in their offer retroactive to July 1 if it is ratified by Aug. 15.

The new offer did not address revisions to the current DVD residual rate — reportedly a source of considerable consternation to SAG president Alan Rosenberg. The current DVD residual rate pays 3% for TV and 3.6% for movies of the distributor's gross receipts.

The actors' resolve to present a united front against AMPTP received a jolt last week when members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) ratified (with 62.4% of the vote) a three-year TV contract with the producers.

Producers said they hoped the vote demonstrated to SAG leadership that there was support for the recent economic relationships forged with writers, directors and AFTRA, and not much support for a strike, whether de facto or real.

“We remain hopeful that SAG will accept our final offer and that its members will ratify the new agreement so that these economic gains can go into effect at the earliest possible period,” the producers said in a statement.

Rosenberg, who is a staunch supporter of upping DVD residual rates, said he realized the AFTRA deal would appeal to its many AFTRA-only members (broadcast news people, sportscasters and DJs), largely due to their concerns over pension and health benefits.

“Clearly many SAG members responded to our education and outreach campaign and voted against the inadequate AFTRA agreement,” Rosenberg said.

He said more than 4,500 members had signed the “SAG Solidarity Statement” in support of their negotiators.

Actor Sean Penn, in a letter posted on the SAG Web site, said he voted against ratification of the AFTRA deal, but understood why some high-profile members did.

“They are good men and women, but their fear of ‘chaos' in our business diminishes the clarity of strength to do what is right,” Penn said.

SAG members currently receive for material repurposed online 3.6% of distributor's gross for download rentals (streaming), and 1.08% of distributor's gross for electronic sellthrough of the first 100,000 episodic TV downloads and 50,000 feature film units. Above those figures, TV downloads pay 1.4% of distributor's gross and 1.3% for movies.

Ad-supported streaming of theatrical movies produced after July 1, 1971 pays 3.6% of distributor's gross. Ad-supported library TV content produced after 1977 pay 6% of distributor's gross.

New ad-supported TV streams pay 3% of the “total applicable minimum” for each 26-week period in the first year of the initial broadcast.

All streamed content is subject to a 17-day window (24 days for first season TV programs, one-off TV shows and movies-of-the week) contiguous to the initial TV broadcast whereby writers receive no residuals.

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