A Hollywood struggle for message points continues

LOS ANGELES: It is a battle of press releases and official statements as the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) try to come to an agreement over a new contract.

LOS ANGELES: It is a battle of press releases and official statements as the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) try to come to an agreement over a new contract. The communications battle kicked into high gear on November 22, after mediation talks between the two groups failed, and both sides are pushing to have their side of the story told.

"It's just sort of this war of words," said Leslie Simmons, the film, labor, and legal reporter for The Hollywood Reporter. "I'm not sure how well that plays to the membership and to the industry because a lot of it is just repeating their positions but in new ways."

The press releases and ads taken out in industry publications are the main way both sides are spreading their messages.

"That is kind of the way it works," said Howard Bragman, chairman, founder, and CEO of Fifteen Minutes. "The message and the messengers are more important than the medium."

While SAG has been vocal about its objections and trying to explain its reasons for wanting to strike, AMPTP has held firm, emphasizing that it was successful in reaching contract deals with other labor unions. Earlier this month, SAG announced that strike authorization ballots would be mailed to paid SAG members on January 2.

Meanwhile, several A-list actors, including George Clooney, Tom Hanks, and Eva Longoria parker, spoke out against a strike in a petition sent to SAG President Alan Rosenberg on December 15. Actors including Ed Asner, Holly Hunter, and Martin Sheen are in support of a strike. Both the pro- and anti-strike camps in SAG have launched Web sites where actors can sign petitions.

A recent SAG town hall meeting in New York discussed the possibility of a strike and it was widely reported as divisive. One source in entertainment PR said the Guild has lost congenial support.

"What is unfortunate is that it has gotten so contentious," said the source. "The leadership has lost the confidence of so many of the base."

"Everybody is just holding their breath to see what happens," Simmons added.

Both SAG and AMPTP declined to comment for this article.

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