aftra network code report 





Network TV Code Achieves Gains for Performers

Here’s a special report from AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon:

  I am pleased to report that AFTRA has reached an agreement with the four major television networks and producers on terms for a renewal of the AFTRA Network Television Code.

Your AFTRA Negotiating Committee was comprised of working actors, singers, dancers, announcers and newspersons from throughout the country—all members who work this contract. The Negotiating Committee unanimously recommended the package to the AFTRA National Board, which unanimously approved the
agreement—and recommends that AFTRA members vote to ratify the terms.

The Code covers programming in all television day parts—excluding only primetime dramatic programs—from dramas in first-run syndication to the morning news shows to midday talk and dramatic serials to primetime variety, reality, contest, sports, to late night talk shows. AFTRA members who work under the Code provide the talent which fuels more than 70% of the hours programmed by the four major networks and The CW.
Our mission in this negotiation was focused on two goals:

1. Raising terms for members working in all program formats including growing areas, such as variety competition, and mature formats, such as daytime serials.
2. Securing union coverage in new media and establishing initial terms to cover performers as these businesses evolve.

“I am proud to have been part of the AFTRA Negotiating Committee. We won important changes to our contracts that we have been trying to achieve for years. We met the concerns of performers by negotiating one-day, three-day, and weekly rates that match the primetime rates and provide
notable salary increases.”

Gabrielle Carteris, Actor


These negotiations were preceded by months of informal discussions, preparation, and research by union members, staff and consultants, as we confronted a challenging environment for performers:

• As daytime dramas struggle with declining ratings and economics, performers on daytime serials have felt the impact of salary compression and more performers than before are employed in “running parts” rather than on full contract.
• Overall network ratings have declined as a result of the migration of the audience to cable and other platforms.
• The growth of new forms of entertainment—such as reality and variety contest shows—required a fresh look at the terms for performers employed on such programs.
• New media—which figured prominently in the Writers Guild strike and the Directors Guild negotiations—is an evolving field that mandates that we secure a foothold for union performers as this business matures.

AFTRA members displayed a sense of responsibility to our colleagues, as industry workers faced challenging times. Although the Code expired in November 2007, we postponed our negotiations twice out of respect to our colleagues in the WGA and the DGA so they could complete their own negotiations.

  “For dancers on award shows over 60 minutes, we made a significant change from the program fee structure to a day rate. Dancers will now be paid $220 for six-hour rehearsal days and $650 for shoot days. This new, less complicated structure will be easier for us to understand and calculate, and creates a more equitable payment basis.”
Bobbie Bates, Dancer

The new Code will provide solid increases in program fees, security for our Health and Retirement plans, and will address discrete issues affecting almost every category of performer. In addition, your Negotiating Committee held the line against proposals to roll back residuals in syndication, to impose “caps” on background performers, and to allow “crediting” of overtime, turnaround, and other penalties against the overscale pay of actors on daytime drama.

The members of the Negotiating Committee also tackled the same overarching issue which confronted our sisters and brothers in the WGA and the DGA: protecting members’ interests in the area of new media while at the same time laying the preliminary groundwork for the future. Our analysis of the current landscape led us to many of the same conclusions that our colleagues at the WGA and DGA reached about the state of new media, and helped identify the priorities we needed to address to protect union members at this time in the industry.

This was a very difficult negotiation. We are grateful for the time, sacrifice, and fortitude of the members of the Negotiating Committee who guided us through achieving this new agreement. We are especially proud of how they represented our union by demonstrating unity among all crafts and geographic areas with the utmost professionalism and dignity.

“Many singers expressed a desire to focus on rehearsal rates and working conditions on variety, late-night talk, and award shows. Through our resolve, we achieved substantial and landmark gains for AFTRA singers across the performing landscape.”
Frank Simms, Singer

We’re indebted to countless AFTRA members in Los Angeles, New York, and other Locals who participated in these negotiations by bringing their concerns forward. Members of important sectors of our community—promo announcers, daytime drama contract players, stunt performers and coordinators, and stand-ins—made invaluable contributions by attending negotiation sessions in support of our push for improvements in wages and protections for all members who work under the Code.

We would like to thank the representatives from ACTRA, AFM, AEA, WGAE, DGA, SAG, ATA, and AFTRA’s strategic partner, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), who attended one or more of the sessions.

AFTRA acknowledges the commitment and passion of our brothers and sisters in the Writers Guild who kept the important issues prominently before the entertainment community and the general public, and we are also indebted to our colleagues at the Directors Guild of America for their hard work and their research that illuminated the potential that new media holds for talent in the industry and suggested an appropriate roadmap for achieving a solid future for all union members.

All of their input and support throughout the entire process was critical to our productive and successful negotiations. You should be receiving more detailed information and your ratification ballot in the mail. Be sure to look for it and vote to approve the agreement as it provides tremendous gains for all performers. Thank you for your support and solidarity as we move forward to promote the interests of all members who work under the Network Code.

The new Network Code provides solid increases in program fees, security for our Health and Retirement plans, and addresses working conditions affecting almost every category of performer. Here’s a summary including New Media provisions>>