Strike in the SAG?

Today's cuppa: English afternoon tea, in the morning (living on the edge, here)

I haven't mentioned this in a while because there's still no move toward a strike vote, and the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) members continue to work under the conditions of the previous pact, which expired June 30. One presumes -- or probably more accurately, hopes -- that talks are proceeding.

But that doesn't mean nothing is going on.

After much sniping between SAG and AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), which ratified its own contract with the AMPTP (Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers), the battle lines have been redrawn within SAG itself.

A group calling itself United for Strength is fielding a slate of candidates for the Sept. 18 election for the SAG Board of Directors, opposing an established group calling itself MembershipFirst, which United for Strength holds responsible for the contract negotiation difficulties (and the current rancorous atmosphere between SAG and AFTRA, which have many members in common).

I wouldn't presume to know the ins and outs of a union to which I don't belong, so it's hard to tell if this development represents healthy dissent or the beginnings of a fundamental breakdown. That will be for the actors to decide and time to tell.

One interesting thing I did learn is that either SAG or AFTRA -- depending on various conditions -- can have jurisdiction over scripted cable shows. For example, when I was on the set of ABC Family's "The Middleman," I was told that show is under AFTRA jurisdiction.

Considering the growth in scripted cable, this is probably one of the issues SAG and AFTRA continue to work out between themselves.

Of course, at the heart of all this is the ongoing chaos surrounding new media and the Internet -- in particular, in the case of TV shows, digital distribution and how that affects residual payments -- which is ripping asunder the fabric of the entire media industry right now, from music to movies to TV to newspapers.

The only thing that's for certain is that the evolution of distribution models will not stop, and if it can be slowed at all, it won't be by much or for very long. Nothing can be taken for granted anymore, most of all the audience.

One result of the digital revolution is to free viewers and users from the confines of the traditional information pipelines. Media used to be funneled to people through specific gateways, whether it was a TV-network schedule, the local news broadcast or the local paper.

The gatekeepers have now discovered that the barbarians are not only at the gates, but they went over them a while ago.

People are rapidly getting used to choosing when and through what means they consume their media. They want to watch what they want when they want, and the traditional ad-supported model -- which depended on a limited number of outlets controlling how media was distributed, thereby concentrating consumer eyeballs -- is falling apart.

As the Writers Guild of America, which went on a three-month strike in late 2007 and early 2008, SAG, AFTRA and the newspaper world fight over each one's piece of the media pie, it's probably a good idea to look up once in a while to make sure the pie's still there.

More than ever, the audience now rules. With mouse and TV remote in hand, an increasing number of them is in no mood to be dictated to anymore about when and how TV shows and movies can be watched.

On the upside, the audience's appetite for shows and movies hasn't diminished, so the trick is going to be figuring out how to build and maintain the new distribution pipelines and how to make sure everybody gets paid.

After all, it's show business, not show fun.

Speaking of "The Middleman," I'm heading there later today to catch a few minutes with creator Javier Grillo-Marxuach during filming on their last episode (don't know if it will air last, it's just filming last). Can't give many deets, but here's a clue.

Birdmrspock_011


No, this doesn't mean Leonard Nimoy is guesting on the show (not that that would be a bad thing). I'm talking more theme here.

And yes, this is my own action figure. And no, it isn't my only action figure. You got a problem with that?

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