DGA and AMPTP to begin negotiations Saturday morning

After two weeks of informal talks to lay groundwork, the Directors Guild of America is set to begin formal negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on Saturday, the AMPTP and DGA said Friday in a joint statement.

DGA talks have taken on heightened significance in the context of the 11-week-old writers strike. Perception in the biz is that DGA has become the de facto negotiator for the WGA given the lack of communication between WGA and AMPTP since the latter broke off the last round of talks with writers on Dec. 7.

DGA leaders are known to have held extensive backchannel conversations with AMPTP reps during the past two weeks in an effort to hammer out many of details surrounding and ensure that the sides will be able to make significant progress when the formal sessions begin. AMPTP said that there will be a press blackout during the DGA bargaining sessions until negotiations have concluded. DGA talks will be held at AMPTP’s HQ in Encino. DGA’s existing contract is set to expire June 30.

The start of DGA’s formal negotiations is sure to be taken by many as a hopeful sign after weeks of turmoil caused by the labor strife, exemplified by the implosion of Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards, which has been downscaled from its usual lavish dinner gala and live telecast to a news conference from the Beverly Hilton.

Meanwhile, American Federation of Television & Radio Artists said it will postponing next week’s start of a portion of its contract negotiations until next month so that the majors can focus on other talks.
AFTRA said it agreed to a request by the majors on Thursday to hold off the start of its talks, on the condition that the AFTRA negotiations start no later than Feb. 19. It also said that it would extend the Jan. 31 expiration of the so-called network code portion of its contract — which covers a wide variety of TV programming — until March 7.

“AFTRA’s priority is to negotiate strong wages, residuals, benefits, and working conditions for talent in all TV day parts and formats,” the union said. “The AFTRA Negotiating Committee members are mindful of current events in the industry, and their impact on our members as well as workers above and below the line in television. While AFTRA is ready to begin negotiations now, given the unsettled state of other talks already in progress, we believe we can best serve AFTRA members’ interests by briefly postponing our negotiations.”

It’s the second time that AFTRA’s extended the expiration of the net code. It bumped that date from Nov. 15 to Jan. 31 last year to allow negotiators to focus on the WGA talks, which collapsed on Dec. 7.
AFTRA noted Friday that current terms of the net code code will remain in effect. “We will obviously monitor the situation closely with the aim of starting meaningful talks as soon as circumstances allow,” it added.

— Cynthia Littleton and Dave McNary