Most fans are blithely ignoring the possibility that the prospects for a normal Season 5 may be in jeopardy. In anticipation of the April 24 resumption of the post-WGA-strike episodes of Lost Season 4 in one week, and the recent news that ABC Chief Stephen McPherson has green-lighted the Lost team's request for an additional hour for this installment, most fans are eagerly gearing up to consume more of Lost. Why the worry?
On June 30, the major producer's film-primetime contract with the two actors unions expires. If a new contract isn't signed by that date, the actors are free to strike, and unlike the writers, an actor strike would end production immediately. If a strike does happen this summer, it could potentially impact Lost Season 5, which otherwise would begin filming in the mid August...
In short, that's the scary part, that we might be in for a strike all over again. We don't know if a strike will really happen, but after what happened with the WGA, the fans should know that the long dance to the culmination of this contract has recently begun. Today will mark the third day of official negotiations between Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and producers.
What are the chances for a strike? Well first of all Lost is a SAG production, not AFTRA. The two actors unions were going to negotiate together for added leverage but have a history of bad blood and distrust, and just about 2 weeks ago, AFTRA surprised SAG with a sudden divorce. (link) And just over a week ago, Disney's Bob Iger and News Corp's Peter Chernin ended informal talks with SAG. (link) In case you hadn't paid attention during the last strike, these are the two individuals who single-handedly revived the hopelessly-stalled talks with the writers (WGA) immediately after the directors union (DGA) had inked a deal, and thereby started the chain of events that ultimately brought Lost back to you.
Yeah those guys. And they just essentially gave up on the actors. Thus only two days ago, formal negotiations began between the producers and SAG. (link). The good news is that thus far, both parties are avoiding the public mudslinging that made the writers' talks so spiteful and unproductive. In fact they've made joint announcements that are essentially a news blackout: "Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers held a full day of meetings today and exchanged proposals. We will meet again tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. We have no further comment at this time."(link) Press releases don't get drier than that!
The bad news is that SAG has been publicly unsatisfied with the terms of the recent DGA and WGA deals, a dissatisfaction that Iger and Chernin were apparently unable to budge. SAG head Alan Rosenberg said as much in a letter to his membership (link), although he has been meticulous in denying that he "wants" a strike. The clock is ticking because in two weeks, AFTRA begins its negotiations separately-- and since they are known (for various reasons we won't get into here) to accept more lenient terms than SAG, they may reach an agreement relatively soon after that date. If that happens and SAG doesn't have a contract and later goes on strike, AFTRA could move in on some SAG territory, especially on the digital frontier. That possibility might discourage SAG from striking. But just yesterday, AFTRA also shuffled its leadership in a new vote with five new "dissident" board members who want a more SAG-like stance, so that AFTRA may negotiate harder than previously guessed (link). In that case a return to joint bargaining with SAG and even a joint strike is not absolutely out of the question. The repercussions of the AFTRA board shuffle are not yet clear.
So all in all, nobody wants a strike. But SAG has long been made it clear that it considers the current contract renewal to be a watershed moment, that it wants a revolution in the new media side, and has hinted strongly that using the recent WGA and DGA deals as templates for their own deal may not be adequate. And if the producers don't cave, that means a strike, and a delay to Lost Season 5. Let's hope it doesn't play out that way.
UPDATE 1 (Thurs Apr 24): Negotiations have been extended a week until Fri May 2. (link)
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
04/01/08 - ABC was hit Monday with a record $5M indecency fine by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for improper language in two recent episodes of the hit television drama Lost. The proposed fines, which include $7000 fines against each ABC local affiliate, underscore the FCC’s efforts to enforce the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005.
ABC press officer Jeff Fordis released a statement reading that ABC believes the decision to be “capricious, arbitrary and not numerically consistent with fines for past alleged infractions, as well as an irresponsible action in light of the recent and ongoing appeals process regarding the federal government’s decency campaign currently in the Supreme Court.” American Civil Liberties Union Policy Counsel James Tucker commented, "this is paternalistic suppression of free speech and the creative process at its worst."
ABC’s most recent indecency fine was a $1.2 million penalty for a 2003 episode of NYPD Blue which showed shots of a woman’s bare buttocks (link). ABC’s parent company Disney unsuccessfully challenged the penalty. The previous largest fine was a $3.5 million penalty levied against CBS for what the FCC described as essentially a “teen sex orgy” on a 2005 broadcast of the hit drama Without a Trace (link).
Broadcasts of Lost included numerous profanities as well as explicit sexual and bodily function language embedded in so-called “Whispers” in two of the episodes shown in March, “The Other Woman” and “Meet Kevin Johnson.” The audio track of these whispers, when played backward, allegedly reveal the indecent language.
"We believe in enforcing tougher standards in broadcast decency and that includes language, especially during primetime when children are watching,” said FCC spokeswoman Mary Diamond. “The language that was used was inexcusable. The fact that ABC retrospectively redacted this so-called “whisper audio” from their online streaming episodes reveals that they were aware of the content from square one.”
ABC Entertaiment division chief Stephen McPherson dismissed the fine as likely to be overturned, noting that “the dollar amount is on its face improper as it exceeds the $3 million cap specified in the Broadcast Decency Act.” When asked if the Lost executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof of Bad Robot Productions had briefed ABC on the matter before the broadcast, he replied, “We’re trying to locate them ourselves, and we’ll have no comment on this topic until that time and we have an internal discussion with them.” According to yesterday’s news at the website The Smoking Gun, Lindelof had been arrested in Pasadena, CA for indecent exposure when he allegedly threw his shorts at officers.
Although ABC Medianet and Lost's PR officer Erin Felentzer have apparently gone into media silence, a post at the official Lost discussion forums The Fuselage by frequent contributor and Lost script supervisor and writer Gregg Nations briefly appeared: “We didn't think anyone would play them backwards, it’s simply unbelievable what has happened. I mean who would do that? It boggles the mind.” This thread has since been removed. McPherson added, “Rest assured that the proposed fine will have no effect on our planned broadcast schedule or storyline content. ABC is committed to continuing with the remainder of Lost Season 4 beginning on April 24.”
UPDATE: This story is actually an April Fools joke and is actually just a parody. April Fools.
by Santa at 4:26:00 AM