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NEWS IN BRIEF

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The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists reached a tentative agreement with an advertising industry committee Aug. 4 to extend the unions' commercials contract for two years. The deal calls for pay raises, increased contributions to the performers' benefit plans, and a study to examine alternative models of compensation for commercials that appear on TV, radio, and in new media. Actors will receive a 6 percent pay raise; pension and health-care contributions will rise from 14.3 percent to 14.8 percent. The agreement also gives advertisers the flexibility to edit commercials to fit the Internet and other new media, such as cell phones and iPods.

Actors working in musical productions at American Girl Place in midtown Manhattan walked off the job Aug. 3 and 4 to protest management's refusal to recognize their efforts to join Actors' Equity. The performers returned to work Aug. 5 and were paid for the shows they missed, but the central issue of union recognition has yet to be resolved. Late last month Equity filed a charge of unfair labor practices against American Girl, the doll-making division of Mattel Inc. that has other stores in L.A. and Chicago. The union alleges management reneged on a proposed pay increase for the actors because they have tried to unionize. A spokesperson for American Girl previously told Back Stage that the company has followed federal labor laws and said the actors should hold elections if they would like to form a union.

A comedy series that was passed over by Fox for its fall schedule turned up on at least three video-posting sites on the Web last week, prompting the studio to issue cease-and-desist letters to the offending sites. The Adventures of Big Handsome Guy and His Little Friend appeared on Break.com, Vidking.com, and Slubber.com. Fox said it was investigating the matter. In June, Nobody's Watching, a sitcom that was bypassed by the former WB network and turned up on YouTube.com, attracted so much attention NBC Universal ordered several webisodes for the show and indicated it might put the show on the air.

On Aug. 4, the Screen Actors Guild released the official list of candidates for its national board elections later this month. The Hollywood division will elect 13 board members and 22 alternates. The New York division will elect four members and nine alternates. Each seat is for a three-year term; alternates serve for one year. Approximately one-third of the total 69 national board seats are open. Ballots for all eligible SAG members in Hollywood and New York will be mailed Aug. 22. The election results are expected to be announced Sept. 21. For the complete list of candidates, visit www.backstage.com.

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