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Actors duck blurb battle

SAG, AFTRA craft initial ad demands

Reps of SAG and AFTRA have hammered out an initial proposal for the upcoming commercials contract negotiations, three years after thesps staged the longest strike in Hollywood history.

Details of the proposal, crafted by the wages and working conditions committees of the unions, have not been released. Sources believe thesps plan to seek a relatively modest 4% annual increase in minimum rates, possibly reflecting the desire by panel members to avoid repeating the contentious negotiations that led to 2000’s six-month strike against the ad industry.

SAG’s national board — which has become significantly less confrontational in the past year and a half — is set to vote on the proposal in mid-July, and AFTRA’s board then would consider it at its August confab. Formal talks are slated to begin Sept. 3, with the current pact expiring Oct. 29.

SAG and AFTRA members will vote next month on a proposal to combine into an umbrella union dubbed the Alliance of Intl. Media Artists, with affiliates for actors, broadcasters and recording artists. If the measure is approved, the SAG and AFTRA boards would continue to operate during a transition period that would end by July 2004.

Although neither union has released figures, combined SAG and AFTRA member earnings on ads during 2002 topped $700 million, with SAG contracts accounting for about 90%. That number was significantly higher than figures from 2000 and 2001, years dented by the strike and a downturn in advertising.

Madison Avenue pledged at least $9.2 billion to the six webs next season during last month’s upfront sessions, up $1.1 billion from last year’s figure and better then expected amid the fragility of the nation’s economy.

Negotiations in 2000 collapsed over the demand by advertisers to replace “Class A” network residuals with flat-rate buyouts and by SAG/AFTRA to institute cable residuals in place of buyouts. Both sides relented from those positions in crafting the final deal.

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