November 5, 2015Ray Hair - AFM International President
Fresh on the heels of last month’s opening round of Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SRLA) negotiations, the Federation has just finished the opening round of talks with the Public Television Industry toward a successor National Public Television (NPTV) Agreement. First negotiated in the early 1970’s, the existing agreement was reached in December 2002, and expired of its own terms in December 2005. Both the public television industry and the Federation have continued to observe the terms of the existing expired agreement and will do so until a new agreement is reached.
Our NPTV Agreement covers the services of musicians, arrangers, orchestrators, and copyists employed in the production, broadcast, and streaming of live, recorded, and filmed programs by public television producers and broadcasters. It also covers the audio and audiovisual transmission and use of covered programs in the United States and abroad.
Popular TV programs such as Austin City Limits, Masterpiece Theater, Great Performances, and Sesame Street are covered by the Federation’s Public TV Agreement, prompting attendance and participation in the current contract discussions by representatives from the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS): WGBH-TV, Boston; WNET-TV, New York; and KLRU-TV, Austin, Texas.
In addition to setting wages and conditions covering original sessions and music preparation services required by public TV producers, the contract calls for additional payments for reuse of programs after an initial broadcast cycle, foreign use payments, and payments when content produced under the agreement is released as a DVD or other supplemental markets.
Our negotiating team is comprised of experienced veterans of other recent media negotiations, and includes International Officers Tino Gagliardi of Local 802 (New York) and Dave Pomeroy of Local 257 (Nashville, TN), Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) Vice President Rick Baptist, Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL) Electronic Media Director Dean Rolando, Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) President Pat Hollenbeck, Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) President Ed Malaga, Local 802 Vice President John O’Connor, Local 802 Electronic Media Director Steve Dannenberg, Local 802 Assistant Electronic Media Director John Painting, AFM Electronic Media Division Director Pat Varriale, AFM Symphonic Services Division Electronic Media Director Debbie Newmark, and AFM In-House Counsel Jennifer Garner.
Like our ongoing talks with the Sound Recording industry, which was the subject of my previous report in this column, the NPTV negotiations are also taking place against the rapid paradigm-shift in entertainment consumption, where flexibility rules the day. No longer are television programs available solely at a fixed hour of the day, or only from stations with static coverage areas. Content is now available 24/7 on PBS and related websites where no charge is assessed to consumers. This has accelerated the trend away from broadcast and cablecast consumption and DVD sales toward web-based digital distribution and on-demand streaming.
We are also bargaining against the backdrop of new media convergence, where the increase in available audiovisual content online from broadcasters, news organizations, social media sites, and user-generated content on YouTube have spawned an increasing array of connectivity on any device with a screen: computers, TVs, phones, tablets, and now even watches. The burgeoning flexibility in how, where, and when media is consumed—online and across all platforms—has disrupted traditional business and industrial models, organizational frameworks, and institutional status quo.
We expect that negotiations with our friends in public television will be time-consuming due to the challenges that naturally arise when bargaining amid a new techno-economic paradigm that has dramatically changed media consumption. But the industry also knows that the Federation has done its homework, that we will be negotiating this successor NPTV Agreement with our eyes open to the economic turbulence that has accompanied consumer assimilation of new media.
That said, we believe we will have a productive negotiation with public television producers, whose nonprofit tax status depends on fulfilling their stated mission—“enriching lives through programs that educate, inspire, fostering citizenship and culture, the joy of learning and the power of diverse perspectives.” That should set the stage for a fair bargain, one that can achieve progressive solutions for both sides that will serve the interests of our members now and for many years to come.