LOS ANGELES (March 9, 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 reached a tentative agreement with the four major television networks and producers on the Network Code, which is subject to AFTRA National Board approval and ratification from members.“This agreement is a major milestone for AFTRA as substantial gains in wages and working conditions for performers were successfully achieved,” said Roberta Reardon, AFTRA President and Chair of the Negotiating Committee. “This contract is extraordinary for performers and made significant progress on many fronts, including importantly, new media jurisdiction and compensation.”

[The AMPTP issued a statement 40 minutes after AFTRA’s: “The AMPTP applauds the latest labor agreement between AFTRA and the television networks. This agreement shows what can be accomplished when both sides approach the negotiating table in a timely, serious and focused way.]

The new agreement contains solid increases in wage rates for all categories, increased contributions for the AFTRA Health and Retirement plan, and addresses discrete issues affecting every category of performer. In addition, the agreement preserves significant principles which are a hallmark of AFTRA contracts – such as universal coverage of background performers and contract security for daytime serial contract players.< Highlights of the new agreement include:

— Increases program fees each year of contract.
— Increases “extra rehearsal” and overtime rates by 25%.
— Beginning November 2008, establishes 1-day, 3-day and weekly rates (as provided in AFTRA’s primetime contract) for principal performers in non-prime time and syndicated dramatic programs (other than serials).
— Retains universal coverage for background actors in all formats, including dramatic programs and daytime serials.
— Raises minimum call provisions for Singers and Stand-Ins.
— Establishes new residuals structures for paid Internet downloads (electronic sell-through) that increases the rate currently paid by employers, and establishes residual rates for ad-supported streaming and use of clips on the Internet.
— Establishes union coverage and terms for entertainment programming and promotional announcements made directly for new media.
— Reduces the “reconciliation period” from 26 weeks to 2 weeks for freelance daytime performers in recurring roles.
— Raises exclusivity thresholds for performers under contract.
— Establishes a day rate for Dancers on Awards programs.
— Guarantees Health and Retirement coverage for Stunt Coordinators on serial dramas.
— Establishes new limitations on crediting overscale against overtime.
— Increases employer contribution rates to the AFTRA Health and Retirement plans.

Terms for original dramatic programs made directly for new media will be negotiated during AFTRA’s “Exhibit A” negotiations for primetime dramatic programming.

“Our fundamental goal in these negotiations was to protect performers’ interests and improve their wages and working conditions in the face of challenging times,” said AFTRA Network Code Negotiating Committee Co-Chair and Los Angeles Local President Ron Morgan. “Our priorities were to modernize certain aspects of our contract and establish a framework for union members to participate in new media as these businesses evolve.”

The AFTRA Network TV Code covers actors and all on-camera and off-camera talent on all forms of television programming: syndicated dramas, daytime serials, game shows, talk shows, variety and musical programs, news, sports, reality shows, and promotional announcements. Programs covered by the Code include diverse programs such as Good Morning America, 20/20, American Idol, The View, The Tonight Show, Late Show with David Letterman, Oprah, The Price is Right, Deal or No Deal, Days of Our Lives, The Bold and the Beautiful, All My Children, Cake, Saturday Night Live, Entertainment Tonight, and Survivor.

Formal negotiations between members of AFTRA’s 35-person Negotiating Committee and the networks and producers began February 19 in Los Angeles, and were concluded on the evening of Saturday, March 8 in New York.

Representatives of the following organizations attended one or more of the sessions: American Federation of Musicians, Actors’ Equity Association, Writers Guild of America, East, Directors Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild, and AFTRA’s strategic partner, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. Members of other important sectors of the industry: promo announcers, daytime drama contract players, stunt performers and coordinators, and rehearsal actors also attended negotiation sessions. These negotiations were preceded by months of informal discussions, preparation, and research by union staff and consultants.

Terms for AFTRA primetime network TV dramas and situation comedies – such as Rules of Engagement, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Til Death – are covered by Exhibit A of the Network Code and are negotiated separately. The current Exhibit A terms will be up for renegotiation in June 2008.

Details of the new agreement will be submitted to the AFTRA National Board for approval at the end of the month, and if approved, to membership ratification thereafter.