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The unions representing actors who work in commercials and a committee of advertising industry officials have hired the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton to study alternative models of payment for commercials airing on all platforms, including new media, labor and management officials announced last week. The search for an independent auditor began in August 2006, when the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists agreed with advertisers to a two-year extension of the Commercials Contract, which now expires at the end of October 2008.

The unions believe payment for commercials airing on basic cable and the Internet is too low; they want day rates and residuals for those media to more closely resemble network rates. The ad industry's Joint Policy Committee has fiercely (and successfully) resisted that. For their part, advertising officials want a streamlined payment process to reduce administrative costs.

The study will look at those and other issues, though the most significant one is likely to be new media, as it has been in labor negotiations throughout the entertainment industry. It figured prominently in a strike waged by actors in Canada earlier this year, and it is central to upcoming talks between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

—Andrew Salomon

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