Actors union, studios reach new TV labor deal
By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The smaller of Hollywood's two performers unions reached a tentative deal with studios on Wednesday for a new prime-time TV contract, setting the stage for the more militant Screen Actors Guild to renew labor talks with producers.
The deal between the major studios and the 70,000-member American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or AFTRA, capped 17 days of negotiations stretching back to May 7, a day after separate talks with SAG, which represents 120,000 actors, hit a stalemate.
The contracts for both unions expire June 30, and Hollywood has been nervous that the actors might go on strike, paralyzing the entertainment industry much as a 100-day walkout by screenwriters did earlier this year.
The industry already is in de facto strike mode, with studios starting to stockpile TV episodes and unwilling to launch work on movies that could be affected by a walkout.
But the tentative accord announced between AFTRA and the studios' bargaining agent, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, raised hopes again that labor peace in the world's entertainment capital might yet be preserved.
SAG has not sought the authorization of its members to call for a work stoppage.
Highlights of the settlement outlined by AFTRA included provisions it said would preserve performers' consent for the use of their TV clips as online entertainment -- an issue that had emerged as a major stumbling block for both actors unions.
However, AFTRA said the exact "mechanism" by which actors would give or withhold consent for existing TV content remains to be ironed out by the two sides, presumably in future talks. Consent for Internet play of excerpts of future TV shows would be bargained "at the time of original employment." Continued...