SAG's national board approves tentative primetime TV and film agreement

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The Screen Actors Guild's National Board approved a tentative contract agreement yesterday with film and TV producers. Now it's up to the Guild's rank and file to ratify or reject it. KPCC's Brian Watt says that vote could be the last scene in a long drama - or just another plot twist.

Brian Watt: SAG's national board was hardly unanimous in approving the agreement – 53 percent of the board members voted to recommend that SAG's 120,000 members ratify it. Ned Vaughn is spokesman for the coalition of moderates that grabbed control of the board last fall and retooled SAG's negotiating team.

Ned Vaughn: We are in an environment where millions of Americans have lost their jobs and we've just negotiated a tentative agreement which not only provides our members the possibility for increased pay but increased benefits, which our members take advantage of and very much need, and it's gonna increase their opportunities to work.

Watt: Under the new contract, SAG actors in film and primetime TV shows would earn 3 percent more a year. The contract also creates a payment structure for work distributed on the Internet.

It's similar to those ones other Hollywood unions – like the Writers Guild – achieved. That's where this contract's opponents believe it falls short. Those opponents include SAG President Alan Rosenberg. He told KPCC's "Patt Morrison" he plans to campaign against the contract.

Alan Rosenberg: I think we're giving away the future, and I think to think that we're all gonna get together in two years and fight this is idealistic at best. We all know that when our employers figure out ways to get money into their pockets, it's very difficult to get it out.

Watt: Hardliners like Rosenberg want to hold out for higher residual payments for work streamed on the Internet. They say TV networks are already making money streaming reruns on their Web sites, and the proposed contract won't give actors their fair share. The networks and producers argue they need more time to see how lucrative the online distribution will be. The moderate Ned Vaughn buys that argument for now.

Vaughn: Obviously, everyone expects the Internet and the new media space to grow. And over time as it grows, and as we have a better understanding of who's making money, how much money is being is made, and how it's being made, we'll adjust our compensation.

Watt: SAG plans to send ratification ballots to members early next month. The package will include the board's recommendation to vote in favor of the contract and reasons from President Rosenberg and the board's minority for voting against it.