SAG, AFTRA ad-amant about deal

Contract expires Oct. 29; talks could begin next week

HOLLYWOOD — Reps of the ad industry are expected to begin meeting soon with SAG and AFTRA on a new commercials contract proposal, three years after performers staged the longest strike in Hollywood history over the pact.

SAG insiders say an announcement of the negotiation dates will almost certainly come by week’s end, and will have negotiations beginning by September.

Exchange of proposals has been tentatively scheduled for this week and negotiations could begin next Wednesday in Gotham — although AFTRA spokeswoman Jaycee Wallace cautioned both times were tentative.

The ad contract expires Oct. 29.

Both unions have been reluctant to disclose further details about the negotiations other than announcing the approvals by the SAG and AFTRA national boards in July.

“We stand ready to sit down with the advertising industry as soon as possible,” said SAG proxy Melissa Gilbert and AFTRA president John Connolly at that time. “We are committed to reaching an agreement.”

SAG and AFTRA jointly negotiate the ad pacts even though SAG members generate about 90% of the revenues, estimated at about $700 million annually. Union sources have said the proposal calls for an annual increase of over 4% in minimum rates for ads on major networks, a slightly lower annual increase in cable buyout rates and a hike in the current 13.3% contribution by producers to the unions’ pension and health plans.

The six-month strike grew out of two demands — advertisers wanted to replace network “Class A” residuals with flat-rate buyouts; actors wanted cable buyouts replaced by “pay per play” residuals.

A commercials monitoring system, the creation of which has become an acrimonious campaign issue after SAG released a 1999 study asserting that 18 of 30 commercials had shortchanged actors by $388,000, has not yet been developed. Commercials monitoring, however, is fast emerging as a political hot potato among SAG presidential candidates, with Kent McCord criticizing current prexy Melissa Gilbert for not making progress on the issue, one she campaigned strongly on before winning the presidency. Recently, in a campaign email to SAG members, Gilbert ticket member James Cromwell rejected that assertion, claiming their ticket was working on “realistic solutions” for monitoring.