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SAG Chief Seeks Early Ad Talks

Seeking "peace and stability," SAG national executive director and CEO Bob Pisano said he is eager to start a dialogue with the advertising industry.

Pisano said in an interview Tuesday that he is strongly interested in entering early negotiations with advertisers on a new commercials contract even though the current pact doesn't expire for 10 months.

Pisano referenced the recently concluded negotiations between the IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which wrapped nine months before the expiration of IATSE's current contract. SAG's commercials contract expires Oct. 30.

"That would not displease me in the least," Pisano said, referring to the nine-month lead time that IATSE gave its AMPTP negotiations. "It would give all the parties involved a big window of opportunity.

"We are looking for a productive round of negotiations," he added.

A spokeswoman for AFTRA, which jointly negotiates the commercial contract with SAG, said the idea of early negotiations is being "seriously considered."

The last round of commercial contract negotiations in 2000 resulted in a six-month strike that exacerbated tensions among factions in the 98,000-member guild. The initial phase of the 2000 talks began Feb. 14, 2000, which gave the sides only six weeks to negotiate before the contract expired March 31. That contract was ultimately extended until May 1, 2000, but when the sides still could not come to terms, the strike ensued.

Last year, WGA and SAG/AFTRA took their respective contract negotiations with AMPTP down to the wire. As a result, many of the major studios ramped up their production schedules to stockpile projects in anticipation of a potential strike. And while no strike ultimately occurred, the dramatic shift in production schedules resulted in a five-month lull in production levels that has only recently started to ebb.

By contrast, the DGA came to an agreement this year with AMPTP nearly seven months in advance of the expiration of their contract.

Pisano said SAG's goal is to maintain "peace and stability in the industry, which is what it needs right now."

SAG still has yet to fill out its Wages and Working committee, which develops proposals to bring to the committee that will negotiate the contract. The Hollywood board will meet tonight to offer up its recommendations to SAG's Commercial Performers Committee, chaired by former SAG president Bill Schallert. All recommendations to that committee require approval from SAG's national executive committee, which meets next week.

But the association that represents advertisers was noncommittal to the notion of early SAG/AFTRA negotiations. "Right now it is too early to develop a position on that," said Ira Shepard, counsel to the Joint Policy Committee of the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, which negotiates on behalf of the major advertising agencies.

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