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The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists has signed an agreement with Comedy Central that covers performers in all types of programming on the basic cable channel, AFTRA officials announced last week. The three-year contract is the first between the union and Central Productions since a previous agreement, negotiated in 2000, expired two years ago. The two sides had been operating under the terms of that pact in the interim.

The 2000 agreement covered programs that were 30 minutes long or longer. The new contract covers programs of all lengths, including news and magazine shows, standup and sketch comedy programs, variety shows, interstitials, and other scripted programming.

John Connolly, national president of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, argued against proposals to relax federal regulations on media ownership during the Federal Communications Commission's Town Hall Meeting at the University of Southern California on Aug. 31. Connolly told the commissioners in attendance, Jonathan S. Adelstein and Michael J. Copps, that "the reduction of outlets for diverse opinions…condemns Americans to a country where the public interest suffers, democracy suffers, and working people suffer." Though Connolly spoke largely on behalf of those who work in the news media, AFTRA has previously expressed concern that increased media consolidation could also mean a decrease in jobs for actors.

Latinos and Asians remain the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. population, according to data released Aug. 31 by Nielsen Media Research. Each group saw a 3.6% increase in television households since last year. Nielsen also estimates that the number of African-American TV households grew faster than the national average: 1.3% versus 1.1%.

> Due to a scheduling conflict, John C. Reilly has withdrawn from Heather Woodbury's production of Tale of 2Cities: An American Joyride on Multiple Tracks. A replacement will be announced soon, according to a news release from Performance Space 122, where the play runs Oct. 12–29. The work is described as "a timely and sweeping story of urban displacement—a meta-mix of music, memory, and overlapping histories that form a living elegy to both vanished and vanishing communities."

> Jersey Boys will open in Los Angeles at Center Theatre Group's Ahmanson Theatre in May 2007 and run through July, CTG has announced.

> A production of The Lion King will open in Johannesburg, South Africa, in July, Disney Theatrical Productions has announced. The staging will feature a local South African cast, many of whose members have performed the show around the world.

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