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FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Address the AFTRA Convention in Los Angeles

  • Delegates Continue the Sweeping Changes Underway to Increase Opportunities for Media Workers

  • AFTRA Bestows the AFTRA Media and Entertainment Excellence Awards (The AMEEs) and American Scene Awards

Los Angeles, CA, July 15, 2005 – Today FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps addressed the delegates to the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists’ (AFTRA) National Convention at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel as the Convention’s keynote speaker.

Addressing the subject of media consolidation, Commissioner Copps criticized the FCC’s reluctance to hold sufficient public hearings before "taking some terribly wrong turns over the over the past few years."

Noting that a federal court has ruled that the Commission’s relaxation of ownership regulations cannot be enforced, he praised AFTRA’s leadership in bringing the issue to public attention, noting that more than three million communications were received on the subject and that the U.S. Senate had also gone on record against the FCC’s decision. He said that the Commission would probably "be asked to resolve these issues quickly. We don’t have any time to waste… The months ahead are critical. If we work together in this new Commission – and I am more hopeful about this now – we can, I believe, craft rules that will withstand judicial scrutiny and the scrutiny of the Americans people. This is the most important proceeding the FCC will undertake for many years," Commissioner Copps said.

California State Senators Sheila Kuehl and Kevin Murray and California State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez also addressed the delegates today.

At yesterday’s opening session, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa welcomed the delegates, pledging to "do what we can to create incentives to make is easier to produce programs in Los Angeles." Referring to the rapidly growing field of Spanish-language programming, an area AFTRA has been working to organize, Mayor Villaraigosa expressed the view that "the best way to ensure parity and fair treatment is to have a union." The honorary Mayor of Hollywood, Johnny Grant, and Interim Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Martin Ludlow, were also guest speakers.

Convention Actions

Deliberations continued today on the second of two Constitutional amendments as part of AFTRA’s ongoing strategic planning, designed to position the union to effectively deal with the revolutionary changes engulfing the media industry and the workers in it.

The first amendment, taken up and passed yesterday, reduces the size of the National Board from 116, its present number, to approximately 70, plus elected officers. The Board will continue to include members who work in all fields of AFTRA’s jurisdiction and throughout the country.

The second amendment, debated and passed today, eliminates the requirement that the union’s National headquarters be located in the Borough of Manhattan in New York City. This is intended to give the National Board the utmost flexibility in deciding where to locate its principal office.

"Clearly this decision by the rank and file delegates to AFTRA’s highest governing body demonstrates the determination of our members not only to understand the rapidly evolving industry within which they work, but to equip their union to anticipate and plan for the future," said AFTRA National President John P. Connolly. The vote came after National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth presented a comprehensive overview of the union’s work to reposition the union over the last two years.

In his initial address to the Convention, President Connolly told the delegates "in a world of predators, you can’t stand still or you will just be lunch. Clearly, our members understand that to survive and prosper, we must be willing to change." He commended the union’s elected leaders for their ability to build consensus on issues vital to the membership, and warmly praised AFTRA’s new National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth.

Having passed the two Constitutional amendments, both of which came with affirmative recommendations from the union’s National Board, the delegates will go on to consider a number of resolutions, elect National Officers, and hear a report by Ms. Hedgpeth.

Awards

The third annual AFTRA Media and Entertainment Excellence Awards (The AMEEs), celebrating the artistry, integrity, diversity of AFTRA members in the areas of entertainment, sound recordings, broadcasting took place the opening night of the Convention, Thursday, July 14, at the Hollywood Museum.

Award recipients were: Susan Flannery, Golden Globe and Emmy Award winning star of the CBS daytime series, "The Bold and The Beautiful"; Patti Austin, world-famous vocalist, composer, recording artist, and Grammy Award nominee; Robert Hager, NBC News correspondent, who has reported from Vietnam, Berlin, the Middle East, and across the globe for more than four decades; Don Hastings, actor/writer, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, who celebrates 43 years on the daytime series, "As The World Turns"; rising star of television and film, Emmy and Golden Globe nominated, Amber Tamblyn, critically acclaimed for her starring role on the AFTRA TV series, "Joan of Arcadia."

Award winning news broadcaster and 2004 AMEE honoree, Bob Edwards, hosted the ceremony. Veteran actor Russ Tamblyn presented the award to his daughter, Amber, and other presenters included National Board members Patrika Darbo from "Days of Our Lives," and Jason George, currently starring on the hit UPN series, "Eve."

At the same event, daytime drama legend and Emmy-Award winning producer William J. Bell was posthumously honored with the 2005 American Scene "Crystal" Award for his groundbreaking work in reflecting the diversity of the American scene in daytime television. "In almost fifty years of writing and co-creating daytime dramas with his wife, Lee Philip Bell, Bill Bell stood at the summit of his art," observed President Connolly.

Recognizing television, radio, and the recording industry producers who portray the country’s diversity in a positive, balanced and realistic manner, the American Scene Awards were presented today during AFTRA’s 60th National Convention. ABC Entertainment and Touchstone Television received the Television Entertainment Programming Award for creating a new form of diverse and innovative primetime programming: the Micro-Mini Series. NBC Studios’ "Passions" won the Daytime Drama Award; Los Angeles’ KCBS/KCAL won the Television News Station Award. Pittsburgh’s WSPXI-TV won the Documentary News Feature Award for "Young, Gifted, and Black: Pittsburgh’s African American Achievers." The following honorees will receive their Awards in St. Louis, Missouri, in the fall: The Experiment agency will be honored for two radio public service announcements and KMOV-TV for its Diversity Awareness Partnership. Finally, prominent San Francisco broadcaster Belva Davis was honored for her professional and personal contributions to AFTRA and broadcast journalism. Ms. Davis was the first African American news broadcaster on the West Coast. Among her many awards are six Emmys and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Black Journalists. Henceforth, the Television News Station Award will be named for her.

The Convention will adjourn on Saturday night.

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists – affiliated with the AFL-CIO – is a diverse national union representing over 70,000 professional performers, broadcasters, and recording artists in 32 Locals throughout the country. AFTRA members work as actors, broadcast journalists, dancers, singers, announcers, hosts, comedians, and disc jockeys in aspects of the media industries including television and radio, sound recordings, commercials, non-broadcast/industrials, interactive games, and the Internet. For more information, visit AFTRA online at www.aftra.com.

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