The WGA wants to renegotiate its franchise agreement with the Association of Talent Agents that governs how agencies represent writers. The contract, known as the Artists’ Manager Basic Agreement, “has not been renegotiated for 42 years and is completely out of date,” WGA West leaders told their members in an email.
One of the key issues the guild wants to address is the “conflict of interest inherent in production and packaging,” in which agencies produce and package shows in which their clients are employed as writers.
Similar allegations of conflicts of interest led to a falling out between SAG and the ATA in 2002 when they couldn’t come to terms on a new franchise agreement. The main sticking point was that the big talent agencies wanted the right to invest in or be invested in by ad agencies, advertisers and independent producers. SAG viewed such financial interests as an irreconcilable conflict of interest, putting the actor in the position of being represented by an agency that could also be his or her employer.
When SAG members rejected a proposed deal, the two sides went their separate ways, and have yet to reconcile, though SAG-AFTRA still allows its members to be represented by ATA-represented agencies.
That same year, the same dispute over financial interest also drove a wedge between SAG and AFTRA, with AFTRA siding with the ATA by allowing its franchised agents to have limited financial interests in production companies.
The WGA West has scheduled three membership meetings to discuss its agreement with the ATA: on March 10, March 14 and March 20. The guild’s board of directors discussed the issues at two recent board meetings, and the WGA East discussed the matter at its meeting last December.
“The guild is considering renegotiating the contract to update its terms and ensure that agencies represent the interests of writers,” WGA West leaders said in the email to their members Friday evening.
Besides addressing agency “conflict of interest inherent in production and packaging,” the guild said that “members could benefit from new or revised provisions of the AMBA,” including:
* Requiring WGA scale plus 10% to charge commission.
* Requiring agency cooperation to submit all contracts and invoices so the guild can carry out effective MBA enforcement.
* Incentivizing increased agent advocacy for writers on TV/digital staffs, including fighting for title and compensation.
* Requiring agents to protect writers from free writing, one-step deals and sweepstakes pitching.
* Prohibiting referrals to jobs where underlying rights have not been secured.
The letter was signed by WGA West president David A. Goodman, vice president Marjorie David, secretary-treasurer Aaron Mendelsohn and all 16 members of the board of directors.