The Real Reasons behind this Proposed Extension can be deciphered by following the chronologic trail of these three media stories:
Hollywood Reporter (8/15/03}”In fact, there has been speculation within the two guilds that they might purse an INDEFINITE EXTENSION of the TV/THEATRICAL CONTRACT to allow time for another crack at consolidating.”
Variety (12/23/03) “Writers and studios are on a collision course over the red-hot DVD market. The Writers Guild of America, responding to rising ire among members over their slim slice of the revenue pie, has elevated DVD to its top issue as it heads into bargaining. That move is going to hit a rock-solid wall of studio resistance, and that impasse undoubtedly will complicate already complex labor negotiations.”
Variety(2/8/04) In a surprise announcement Sunday, SAG and AFTRA said they were considering a proposal by studios to extend, by one year, their current three-year film-TV contract, set to expire June 30 Producers, of course, are seeking to deleverage the upcoming WGA contract negotiations, expected to center on strong demands for a revision of residuals in the booming DVD market. Currently, 80% of all DVD and video revenue goes to studios, with only 20% subject to residualsmaking the payout rate abnormally low compared with typical residual formulas.”
So CEO Bob Pisano and Melissa Gilbert get what they want! “Another crack” at Consolidation. The AMPTP gets what they want! With this extension they Not only “Deleverage” the WGAand protect their BILLONS OF DOLLARS DVD “Pie” by avoiding the One-Two Punch of SAG/WGA near co-terminus negotiations, But they also give themselves plenty of time to store up product in anticipation SAG’s Announced pursuit of their piece of that zealously guarded pie in a YEAR! (According to Bob Pisano who advised SAG NOT to pursue DVD in this negotiation, it takes Studios up to SIX MONTHS gear up for a strike! He has been instrumental in negotiating them An Extra YEAR!)
So what do SAG Members and the WGA get out this little Machiavellian scenario? Well, the “Deleveraged” WGA obviously got the Shaft! As for SAG members: if this ONE YEAR Extension passes they will get one of the WORST CONRACTS IN GUILD HISTORY while at the same time, at best, setting themselves up for an extreme DVD Disappointment—at the worst a strike against a well fortified adversary!
Not Only is It a contract that’s riddled with hyperbole, half-truths, double-talk, contradictions and confusion, but it will cost Members Millions of dollars that could be going into their pockets and help booster SAG’s cash strapped P&H! It’s a deal that disintegrates under close scrutiny!
For examplethose ballyhooing it proudly proclaim that “For the first time since the advent of television SAG/AFTRA have the right to negotiate jointly with producers on all terms & conditions for all primetime dramatic television programming!”
Apparently they’ve failed to read the AFTRA/SAG Phase One agreement which clearly states “The within Agreement will be applicable to the following collective bargaining agreements. (A.) Theatrical Motion Pictures and Prime Time Television(Television Prime Time Dramatic Programs for AFTRA only); Cable and Pay Television..”
And in this regard, the center plate of their Historical “First Time” agreement is DIGITAL Dramatic Programs on WB & UPN. In fact they are so proud of it they spend a whole page in the Summary & Ballot brochure extolling its virtues.
Unfortunately, they don’t spend even one sentence to properly explain to members that these rates will NOT APPLY TO, OR RAISE THE RATES ONE SINGLE “DIGITAL” SHOW currently airing on either WB or UPN.
How did SAG’s National Director of Contract Strategy Tom LaGrua put it in explaining the rates of A CURRENT DIGITAL SHOW? “Unfortunately, it would still be produced under the old rates!”
And speaking of Unfortunate. It’s unfortunate that this ‘historical’ Digital Deal will NOT be BINDING. You see, it is limited exclusively to this extension. These shows will NOT henceforth be Jointly negotiated with Primetime Networks Shows. So, contrary to Extension proponents’ Histrionics this contract extension is hardly Historic.
You want to know the MOTHER OF ALL UNFORTUNATES? Unless one of the current non-digital shows switches over to Digital, or a new show is shot in digital— Membership will NOT HAVE A SINGLE EXTRA DOLLAR put into their pockets due to this proposal. As our fellow WGA members might say, this aspect of the proposed extension is being done on SPEC.
This brings us to that lousy 2/5% minimum increase, the lowest minimum increase in recent SAG History! Check out the recently negotiated minimums in the Con Statement with your ballot and you’ll see that it’s a half of percent less than any minimum negotiated in the last 15 years.
Not only does it set a dangerous precedent but considering that the TV/Theatrical Contract generates revenues in excess of One Billion dollars this drop from the current 3.5% down to 2.5% will cost members $ Millions & Millions of dollars! Which begs the question.
Since producers came to us “hat in hand” requesting a one year extension why didn’t our negotiators get the HIGHEST minimum in the last fifteen years instead of the LOWEST.
Well, it’s getting late and for those of you that have made it down this farI can’t finish without pointing out one more teeny weenie HALF TRUTH.
. According to page four of the new Extension Proposal’s “Summary & Ballot” Booklet, the “5 lines or Less” category has been ELIMINATED.ah, but wait page Six, Section (6) subparagraph (2) (a) states “In the case of a performer who has been informed at the time of employment that the engagement is for five lines or less, the program fee for residual purposes shall be the applicable five lines or less program fee” Ah, come on now, you remember from that category! You know! The one that has been ELIMINATED! But then NOT to worry. If no new digital shows appear this season its a moot point anyway.
These, along with those illuminated in the excellent CON Statement, are just some of the reasons, I’m voting NO on this poorly negotiated and Timed Extension!
A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief
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