The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) complained to FCC commissioners attending media consolidation hearings in Los Angeles Tuesday that “salary compression” by the networks has harmed mid-level actors' abilities to make a living.
“We find the continued consolation of media companies has drastically limited our ability to individually bargain our personal services agreements,” said Anne-Marie Johnson, first national VP of SAG. “Every working actor has a quote, the amount of money you get for a guest staring role. It’s each actor’s market value. There is no such thing as getting your quote anymore. Like the oligarchy that they are, the networks decide what the top-of-show rates are, in a parallel practice. Some networks will even tell you they only pay 50% of the going rate. Take it or leave it.”
Johnson was one of a chorus of voices from union leaders, independent producers and community activists attending two open FCC hearings. They urged the FCC to tighten ownership regulations, or at least restrict the further loosening of them.
In her testimony, Johnson also questioned whether newscasts on stations owned by the media companies would cover the positions of both sides should the unions wage an entertainment industry strike.
She asked, “If Screen Actors Guild is involved in a labor dispute with the networks, and I certainly hope we aren’t, whose story will be told over the airwaves? Will the 6 o’clock news include our perspective, or that of those who have an economic stake in seeing us fail?”
Patric Verrone, president of the 7,500-member Writers Guild of America, west (WGAw),
cited figures showing that 20 years ago, there were 29 dominant entertainment firms with $100 billion in annual revenues. Today, he said, there are six “making nearly $400 billion.”
Over the past 15 years, according to Verrone, media firms have gone from controlling less than a third of employment for writers to more than 80% now. But he said there has been only a “modest” increase in employment for broadcast employees at these conglomerates, since most of their growth has come from expansion into other media such as cable, publishing, print and the Web.
Verrone blamed consolidation for reducing “the range of perspectives and life experiences reflected in the media,” and for tighter production budgets that have led to “smaller writing staffs, lower earnings and shorter careers.”