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AFTRA National Board Extends Network Television Code to January 31

LOS ANGELES and NEW YORK (April 30, 2007)—A short term extension to the expiration of the AFTRA Network Television Code—which covers all television programming except network dramatic primetime programming—from November 15, 2007, to January 31, 2008, was approved Saturday by the National Board of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists at its meeting by videoconference between New York and Los Angeles.

“The members of the Network Code Steering Committee recommended that the Board approve this brief extension in recognition that the Writers Guild of America TV/Theatrical agreement expires on October 31, which is only two weeks before the expiration of the AFTRA Network Code,” said Kim Roberts Hedgpeth, AFTRA National Executive Director. “Moving our negotiating schedule back minimizes the potential for scheduling conflicts should the WGA and the industry need additional time to conclude negotiations on the WGA contract beyond its expiration date.” 

Formally known as the AFTRA National Code of Fair Practice for Network Television Broadcasting, the Network Code covers a wide range of programming, including non-primetime and syndicated dramatic programs, certain cable programming, daytime serial dramas, game shows, talk shows, variety programs, sports programs, reality programs, and promotional announcements. 

Terms for network dramatic primetime programming covered under Exhibit A of AFTRA’s Network TV Code are scheduled to expire June 30, 2008.  AFTRA negotiates those terms separately with the industry, in joint negotiations with SAG as part of the “Phase One” agreement between the two unions. 

Here’s a roundup of other actions at the plenary meeting of the National Board on April 28: 

Board members received a report from the recently-created New Media Work Group comprised of AFTRA executives, which outlined agreements negotiated for new media platforms, including a dozen projects produced under the recently established Electronic Media Agreement approved by the National Board in 2006. The Board approved the staff's recommendation to create a New Media Committee made up of AFTRA members to coordinate with the staff work group. 

The National Board also received a report on outreach to both union and pre-union performers at VOICE 2007, the first-ever international convention for voiceover artists in Las Vegas, which was sponsored by AFTRA. Mathis L. Dunn Jr., AFTRA Assistant National Executive Director, said, “The experiences shared and learned during this process served to inform future AFTRA voiceover performers in a way that can assist them in making wise and critical decisions about their careers.” The AFTRA Los Angeles Local hosted an evening event at VOICE 2007 featuring pre-eminent voiceover artist and AFTRA member Don LaFontaine.  

The National Board approved a new National Public Radio (NPR Freelance) Agreement which contained increases in program rates and contributions to the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds, both retroactive to October 1, 2006.

To support AFTRA members and to educate the industry and the public on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues, the National Board formally approved the creation of the AFTRA National LGBT and Allies Committee. In formation over the past two months with highly-successful organizing meetings and panel discussions in Los Angeles and New York, the new committee with be chaired by comic Robin Tyler.

In addition to electing Roberta Reardon to serve as Interim President to fill the remainder of the term vacated by former AFTRA President John Connolly who resigned in March to become National Executive Director of Actors Equity Association, the National Board also filled two other positions that had been vacated by Connolly. Patrika Darbo of Los Angeles was elected to the Board of the AFTRA Foundation and Jon Joyce of Los Angeles was elected to serve as a Trustee of the AFTRA/AFM Intellectual Property Trust Fund. 

Former National President Shelby Scott, who also serves as Co-Chair of the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds, was extremely pleased to advise the Board that the Funds trustees voted to delay implementation of the four-tier health plan for one year. The current plan offering individual and family coverage, and the earnings thresholds currently in place to qualify for health coverage, will remain in effect until July 1, 2008. Scott also reported that, as of March 31, 2007, assets in the AFTRA Retirement Fund total almost $2 billion. 

Local and regional Commercials Codes were approved by the National Board. The agreements increase rates and contributions to health and retirement funds. Under the terms of the “Phase One” agreement between AFTRA and SAG, these commercial codes are normally approved in a meeting of the joint board of the two unions; however, timing and logistics required approval in separate votes of the respective national boards. The vote by AFTRA followed approval by SAG at its plenary on April 21.

As he called the meeting to order, Bob Edwards, who has served as AFTRA’s acting president until the Board could elect an interim president for the union, asked that the plenary meeting be conducted in memory of Sanford I. (Bud) Wolff, AFTRA’s National Executive Secretary from 1968-1985, who passed away on April 14.

The Board also recognized April 28 as Workers Memorial Day, when workers around the world commemorate those killed and injured on the job and highlight the need for improved job safety standards. In particular, Board members acknowledged journalist members of AFTRA who have been killed or injured in bringing the news to the American public.

The next meeting of the National Board is scheduled for July 17-18, 2007, in Philadelphia prior to the 70th Anniversary National Convention.