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Excuse me for having an institutional memory, but today’s announcement raises more questions than it answers. Wasn’t AFTRA bitching and moaning about how SAG wanted to wait too late to start negotiating with the Big Media moguls’ AMPTP? And wasn’t the AMPTP bitching and moaning about this as well? So why would the AMPTP now ask AFTRA to delay the start of official talks? And why would AFTRA suddenly agree? Are these organizations hopelessly inept or corrupt or what? Funny, SAG was getting dissed left and right and yet it’s now doing what it always said it would do: negotiating with the AMPTP in a timely fashion.

UPDATE: I’m told that SAG and the AMPTP have agreed to extend their bargaining session through May 2nd after starting on April 15th. It was only supposed to last two weeks. So now AFTRA has pushed back a week. An AFTRA insider who read this post just emailed me: “So why wouldn’t AFTRA want to cooperate? Isn’t it in everyone’s interest for SAG and the AMPTP to have a reasonable shot at making a fair deal that will keep the industry working? If AFTRA had refused to give SAG any additional time, you’d have been all over them for being short-sighted and selfish. And you’d have been right.” Here’s the AFTRA statement:

AFTRA AGREES TO POSTPONE START OF PRIMETIME TELEVISION CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS

LOS ANGELES (April 23, 2008) — The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), the national labor union of 70,000 actors, singers, dancers, announcers, and other broadcast talent, has issued the following statement regarding the primetime television contract negotiations scheduled to begin April 28: “At the request of the AMPTP, AFTRA has agreed to postpone the commencement of its primetime television negotiations until May 5. The AFTRA Negotiating Committee would like to give the negotiations already underway between the AMPTP and the Screen Actors Guild a chance to succeed, and while AFTRA is ready to begin negotiations now, we believe we can best serve our members’ interests by briefly postponing our negotiations. AFTRA remains focused on achieving important gains for our members.” Terms for AFTRA primetime network TV dramas and situation comedies –- such as Rules of Engagement, Cashmere Mafia, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Flight of the Conchords, and Til Death –-are covered by Exhibit A of the Network Code. The current Exhibit A terms will be up for renegotiation in June 2008.