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AFTRA Extends Network TV Code

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Board members for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have approved a short extension of the network television code to give more time for negotiations between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the Writers Guild of America, AFTRA's national executive director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth said today.

The extension for the agreement, which covers all television production except for network prime-time dramatic content, pushes the expiration date from Nov. 15 to Jan. 31, 2008, the union said. The AMPTP's television and film contract with the writers is set to expire Oct. 31. Formal negotiations will not begin until July, but it is possible the two sides won't reach an agreement until well after the expiration date.

"Moving our negotiating schedule back minimizes the potential for scheduling conflicts should the WGA and the industry need additional time to conclude negotiations on the WGA contract beyond its expiration date," Roberts Hedgpeth said in a news release.

According to one industry insider, however, AFTRA's move was done more for politics than courtesy or expediency.

"I think AFTRA does not want to be cutting a deal when the writers aren't," said the source, who has extensive experience with labor negotiations in the entertainment industry and has requested anonymity. "They don't want to be put in a position of appearing to sell out the other unions. The issues in the network code are quite different from the [writers' issues] but, as often happens in these things, the subtlety will be lost."

The writers' guild, as well as the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild of America, is likely to take a tough stance with producers over several issues, among them compensation for work in new media. Actors in Canada went on strike at the beginning of this year over the issue; even after they reached a deal with Canadian producers, American producers refused to sign the agreement until the new-media provisions were more to their liking.

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