Today, SAG issued the below statement denying media reports (not mine) that it had rejected the AMPTP’s “last best final” offer. Also, I’ve just learned that the big actors guild has signed guaranteed completion contracts with over 500 independent productions unaffiliated with the AMPTP, while the Hollywood CEOs continue their de facto lockout by refusing to return to normal production even though SAG has said it has no plans for a strike authoritzation vote. Meanwhile, it came out today that the AMPTP threatened SAG at the end of yesterday’s session. I would have reported this, but the Big Media cartel’s negotiating group admitted saw fit to distribute transcripts of exec VP Carol Lombardini’s closing remarks to only what it considered friendly media outlets — the trades have it here and here — and not to me. The trades called it a “warning”: but it was a clear threat.
UPDATE: *After getting hammered over this news blackout attempt against me, the AMPTP tonight apologized “because your site is a central hub for negotiation news”. Once again, this shows what a rogue group the AMPTP has become and how the Hollywood CEOs need to tighten their leash on it and get back to being personally involved in the negotiations themselves.*
I have dutifully posted every AMPTP statement about the SAG negotiations which the Big Media clique has sent me. Tonight, I emailed all the moguls and their corporate flacks to complain about this gross manipulation of information about Hollywood labor negotiations. This AMPTP news blackout against me never happened even through the bitter WGA strike. But the coverage of the SAG-AMPTP bargaining has been even more slanted towards the AMPTP than during the WGA strike by these media dependent on studio and network advertising. Today’s trade headlines, for instance, accused SAG of rejecting the AMPTP’s offer when in fact SAG delivered a full counter-proposal. Another story today in Variety accused SAG of stalling the talks when in fact it is the AMPTP’s turn now to respond to SAG’s offer.
All I can think is that the cartel is really starting to sweat now. Lombardini is the same ultra-hardliner who issued that disgusting ultimatum to the WGA during the writers strike and is understandably loathed by a wide range of Hollywood guild negotiaters. Now she’s threatening SAG. “It is no secret that we are in a deteriorating economy,” Lombardini said. “Our companies are not immune from the effects of this economic slowdown. It is very possible that, as a result of changing economic conditions, we will have to reevaluate the offer we have on the table.” However, someone needs to remind Lombardini in particular, and the AMPTP generally, that the Hollywood studios are having yet another lucrative summer movie season with nearly every film outperforming financial expectations, while the TV networks all enjoyed rate and overall revenue increases when they wrapped up their upfront dealmaking on advance advertising commitments for the 2008-2009 season. And though they all cry poverty publicly, heads of some of the studios and networks have told me their divisions contributed $1B in profits to the balance sheets of Big Media in 2007 alone.
Here is SAG’s statement:
Los Angeles, July 11, 2008 — The Screen Actors Guild national negotiating committee met behind closed doors throughout the day today discussing bargaining strategies. The negotiations team remains committed to continuing to bargain for a fair contract. “Our national negotiating committee did not, as has been erroneously reported, reject the AMPTP’s offer. Instead, we made a comprehensive counter proposal that adopted some of their proposals and offered alternatives on others. We significantly narrowed the gap between us while remaining committed to the principles of our bargaining priorities,” said Screen Actors Guild national executive director and chief negotiator Doug Allen. We will provide an additional negotiations update on Monday.
Here is the AMPTP transcript of EVP Carol Lombardini’s address to SAG at the end of yesterday’s negotiation:
I have been directed by all of the companies that are present here and the remaining companies represented by the AMPTP in these negotiations to respond to your reply to our Final Offer.
We thoroughly reviewed what you presented to us today. We are not surprised by your response given all of SAG’s recent statements in the press over the past few days. But we are disappointed. We are disappointed because either we have failed to convince you that this is the best possible deal you can achieve or, alternatively, because you continue to adhere to the notion that the package we have offered just isn’t enough for you, especially when comparable deals have been approved by writers, directors and actors.
It is important to be clear: What we gave you on June 30th was our Final Offer. It doesn’t get any better than that. That is the best deal you are going to achieve from us. At the end of any negotiation, both parties reach a crossroads where a tough decision needs to be made. Do we make this deal or not? I can tell you that, for us, this isn’t the best deal. There are many areas of our business that need to be addressed that this contract does not fix. But we believe, putting our wishes and desires aside, that this is the best deal we can achieve with you.
Without going into all of the specific details, as to economics, we believe we presented you an extremely fair and lucrative package, particularly given the economic times we live in. For example, the increase in the Major Role performer rate in the first year of this contract is close to 6%. That would be an outsized increase in any contract cycle, but given today’s economy and the size of increases in general in other labor agreements, this is a large bump. Adding more money to this economic package would not only be unjustified, it would be irresponsible on our part. Therefore, the money is not going to change.
As for the New Media blueprint, we have told you that we have analyzed, considered, deliberated and discussed all of your proposals and counterproposals dealing with new media. Of course, we will confirm the items that we clarified on July 2nd as part of a Memorandum of Agreement when we reach agreement. But we have also informed you that we have made all the changes and modifications to that structure that we are prepared to make in an effort to address your concerns. In our assessment, doing any more will harm the overall structure of the New Media framework that we have worked out with every other talent guild.
So where does that leave us? We understand that you want more. I’ve never participated in a negotiation where one side or the other doesn’t. But now you have to decide. You can accept this deal, hold your heads up high, knowing that you have achieved the best deal attainable. Or you can continue to refuse to accept our Final Offer.
If that is your decision, it would be inappropriate for us to allow you to leave here today without understanding the potential consequences of that decision.
First – Under this Final Offer, once the deadline passes without ratification, retroactivity is gone. That results in a smaller package than the $250 million of gains contained in our Final Offer. And of course, it gets smaller each passing day.
Second – It is no secret that we are in a deteriorating economy. Our companies are not immune from the effects of this economic slowdown. It is very possible that, as a result of changing economic conditions, we will have to reevaluate the offer we have on the table.
Third – There is no question that given the uncertainty of not having a deal, some feature productions will go on, while others will not. Each one that doesn’t go forward results in fewer jobs and lost earnings for you. The risks are even greater in television. Continued uncertainty over contract status further jeopardizes scripted programming. Once again, it all amounts to less for you.
The decision is yours to make. We encourage you to let the entire membership decide.