Fox To Dump High-Maintenance SAG For Cheaper, Sluttier AFTRA

A rumor that Twentieth Century Fox Television—producers of some of your most beloved stories, including 24, My Name is Earl, and Family Guy—would be switching over to an all-AFTRA format got this official response:

From Deadline Hollywood Daily (a Nikki Exclusive™!):

"With all the uncertainty surrounding the stalled negotiations with SAG, TCFTV is indeed considering shooting its spring pilots under the AFTRA agreement. As for shows already in production, we are exploring every option including transitioning shows from SAG to AFTRA."

This sounds to us like something dictated to a secretary by News Corp. COO/AMPTP bigwig Peter Chernin, followed by, "And cut out all the 'shitfaces' and parts where I say I'd like to slice off their stupid actor-heads and fuck their windpipes, will you?" Still, every threat in these critical times must be taken seriously. Squeezing SAG out of the picture altogether for 2009 pilots would be an easy enough option (and attractive—AFTRA pays less), but it would violate terms for existing series. There are loopholes to that scenario, however, as one DHD commenter explains:

If SAG shows cannot be converted they will be put on hiatus and replaced by AFTRA pilots turned series quickly. AFTRA intiations for a whole cast would be 20 to 40 grand which could be easily paid by the studios as a signing bonus. Sure some SAG actors could refuse to take the roles, but the lines to fill them will be long and new talent could thrive...I really don’t see this as being limited to Fox either as there is I hear rumblings from the WB lots as well.

Sure, it's a stretch to ask audiences to swallow some of their favorite shows as reconfigured pilots, but we think SAG should take heed: There's no reason to think the public won't be just as enthralled by NBC's new hit series Adventures of Earl, the Karmic-Retribution-Seeking Ne'er Do Well, cast entirely with American Idol rejectees who didn't realize their registration sheets automatically enrolled them in AFTRA.

UDPATE: AFTRA responds:

1) Fox has been a long term AFTRA signatory, historically producing both dramatic and non-dramatic programming under AFTRA’s TV Contract for decades. For example, “Married with Children”, the program which historians now describe as the show that built the Fox Network, was produced under the AFTRA TV Code. There are countless other scripted programs from "Arrested Development" to "The Bernie Mac Show" to "Roc" and others produced under AFTRA contracts during Fox’s history. As such, the fact that Fox is producing programs under AFTRA contracts is not unusual; indeed, it is consistent with the long history of this Company’s signatory relationship with AFTRA and consistent with the historic ebb and flow of coverage between the two unions as technology has shifted over time.

2) It is more expensive for Fox to produce scripted programming under the AFTRA TV Contract. Prior to July 1, 2008, the rates terms and conditions of the AFTRA TV Contract for Prime Time scripted programs were identical in every way to the SAG TV Contract. As of July 1, 2008, the AFTRA rates have been increased as a result of the membership’s ratification of the new Prime Time “Exhibit A” terms. The inference that Fox is somehow saving money by producing under AFTRA’s Prime Time Contract is incorrect.

And, finally, 3) AFTRA has been absolutely clear and explicit, long before the question of a potential strike by our sister union was contemplated, that a program already established under one union cannot be “converted” or “transferred” to another union. AFTRA is a chartered union of the AFL-CIO, and a member of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America (the Four A’s). As such, the rules and obligations of both the AFL-CIO and the Four A’s would prohibit such a “transfer.” In addition, even if there were no such restrictions under the rules of our parent organizations, it wouldn’t matter. Simply stated, AFTRA would never participate in such a practice. Fox Labor Relations is very well aware of this.

Guess that puts Adventures of Earl, the Karmic-Retribution-Seeking Ne'er Do Well on ice for the time being.

[Illustration: Comitragic Bollocks, c.2008 Defamer]