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SAG and studios agree to meet with mediator

November 14, 2008 |  5:46 pm

The Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have agreed to meet jointly with a federal mediator next Thursday in an effort to end the months-long stalement in contract negotiations, sources close to the negotiations said.

Federal mediator Juan Carlos Gonzalez called for the session after holding separate meetings with representatives on each side, said the sources, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak about the confidential discussions. Officials at SAG and the AMPTP declined to comment.

Actors have been without a contract since June 30, and the groups have not met since early July. They are divided over how actors should be paid for shows distributed across new media.

Last month, newly elected moderate members of the SAG board pushed for the idea of involving a federal mediator before taking the more drastic measure of a strike vote.

Gonzalez was involved last year in a mediation between studios and the Writers Guild of America. That effort, however, was unsuccessful and failed to prevent a 100-day strike that ended in February. The mediator's recommendations are not binding.

The prospects of a breakthrough in the SAG mediation appear dim, given how far apart the parties are. The biggest sticking point: SAG is seeking jurisdiction over all shows created for the Web, regardless of budget, to ensure actors are fairly compensated as the Internet becomes a major outlet for entertainment. Studios, however, have called the demand a nonstarter, contending it would limit their ability to experiment with online content and undermine agreements they've reached with three other unions.

-- Richard Verrier