May 19, 2008
Dear AFTRA Member:
As you know, AFTRA has been in negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on our contract covering primetime network dramatic programs—also known as Exhibit A—since May 7. Because a press blackout is in effect for these talks, I felt it was important to contact you directly with you a brief update.
We are confronting a number of challenging issues, and a resolution may not be quick or easy. However, our discussions with the Industry have been professional and businesslike, and we remain focused on continuing negotiations in this vein.
As expected, there are several significant issues in the area of New Media—including, most notably, how AFTRA members will participate in original New Media productions, and under what circumstances employers can exploit excerpts from traditional TV programs in New Media. The AFTRA Negotiating Committee is engaged in thoughtful and pragmatic discussions about how to ensure that performers are best protected as we consider these thorny issues. We’ve already delivered a strong message that performers will not relinquish consent for excerpts in New Media, which would compromise the integrity of members’ work, their reputations, or their employability in scripted programming. The Negotiating Committee is also mindful of the hard realities affecting the television business today—including audience fragmentation, piracy, and the other complexities arising out of the fast-evolving New Media landscape—and the impact this has on the wages and job opportunities for working performers.
AFTRA members and the Industry should be able, given appropriate safeguards, to satisfy and profit from the consumers’ desire to access content through legitimate New Media sources, as opposed to the unlawful and uncompensated piracy that threatens the entire entertainment industry. There are no easy solutions, which means that our Negotiating Committee must be both innovative and pragmatic, and the Industry must also embrace a realistic approach.
Given the rapid changes happening around us, we cannot afford to waste any time chasing rainbows. Our obligations to AFTRA members requires us to be focused, firm, and solutions-minded in order to effectively ensure that working performers have a fair and realistic chance to participate in the future of the television industry.
I want to acknowledge the work of your Negotiating Committee Chair, Matt Kimbrough. Matt has demonstrated stellar leadership in keeping our committee energized and focused during these tough talks. The members of the AFTRA Negotiating Committee—all of whom are volunteers—have devoted a tremendous amount of time and energy to achieving meaningful contract improvements for all members working in primetime television. I appreciate the hard work and dedication of Polly Adams, Dave Andriole, Bobbie Bates, Alan Blumenfeld, Susan Boyd Joyce, Stephen Collins, Milo Edwards, Jason George, Jay Gerber, Holter Graham, Robert Pine, Sam Robards, and Ann Walker, as well as other members of the committee who have attended negotiations in person or by teleconference during the past ten days.
As you know, AFTRA members recently voted to ratify the new Network Code. While Exhibit A is very different from the Network Code, what we learned and gained from the Network Code negotiations is proving enormously useful in our current talks. AFTRA also twice delayed our own primetime negotiations so the Screen Actors Guild could continue theirs, and this respect and courtesy was reciprocated by our brothers and sisters in the Guild who shared their experiences during the primetime/theatrical talks they had with the AMPTP shortly before we began our own discussions.
Negotiations resume today, so please continue to support the efforts of your Negotiating Committee to find creative solutions that protect and enhance the lives of working performers. We want to hear from you, and encourage you to email [email protected] to share your questions, feedback, and support.
Thank you for your participation in your union and your solidarity within the community of professional performers.
AFTRA National President