Ad biz, actors make progress

Talks to extend into this week, sources say

Negotiators for striking actors and advertisers, continuing to fuel hopes for an end to the five-month work stoppage, worked through the weekend toward hammering out a settlement.

Reps for both sides have now met for seven consecutive days with full bargaining teams and held 10 sessions since Sept. 13. Negotiators again offered no official comment, adhering to a gag order imposed by federal mediators before this round of talks began.

But sources close to the negotiations indicated that enough progress was made for the talks to be extended into this week. They also discounted rumors that Sunday was a drop-dead date for concluding the current round of talks.

“Both sides appear to be working toward a deal,” one insider said. “The fact that they’re continuing to talk is good news.”

Reaching a deal may be particularly compIicated for both sides since they will have to explain why the strike needed to last as long as it did. The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists are entering their 148th day on strike, the longest work stoppage in the history of the two unions.

Key issues remaining to be settled are pay structures for ads airing on network, cable and the Internet, which would formalize the unions’ jurisdiction over that booming sector, and creation of a monitoring system.

Since proposals were first unveiled in January, advertisers had demanded that residuals for network spots be replaced by buyouts but continuation of these current talks indicates that the industry may have backed off on that position. Actors are seeking creation of a residuals system for cable.

As with every day of the current round, hundreds of activists picketed on Saturday and Sunday outside the negotiations at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in New York.

Richard Dreyfuss, one of the most active high-profile members backing the strike, attended strategy sessions with negotiators Friday.

SAG’s leadership has received a significant morale boost during the past two weeks from a $200,000 donation to its strike relief fund from Nicolas Cage and $100,000 each from Harrison Ford, Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey.

Strike leaders have promised they will launch a boycott of consumer products giant Procter & Gamble if the current talks collapse.

In Los Angeles, activists are planning to rally today in front of the Wilshire Boulevard offices of Grey Advertising over its use of non-union actors during the strike.

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