ACTORS AND STORYTELLERS PROTEST EXCLUSION FROM ADVERTISING DEBATE

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ACTORS AND STORYTELLERS PROTEST EXCLUSION FROM ADVERTISING DEBATE

LOS ANGELES (February 8, 2006) – Actors and storytellers staged a demonstration on Wednesday protesting their exclusion from an entertainment industry debate on product integration in TV and film. The protest follows an earlier call by the Writers Guild of America, west (WGAw), Writers Guild of America, East (WGAe), and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) for the industry to adopt a “Code of Conduct” to govern the use and disclosure of such advertising.

“The so-called debate occurring today is actually a one-sided how-to seminar featuring the conglomerates who control the media and the companies who place products. Where are the voices of the creative community in this debate?” asked Patric M. Verrone, president, Writers Guild of America, west. “For actors and writers who are being forced to shoehorn products into their work whether they fit or not, there are critical issues of creative rights, consultation, and fair compensation. For the public there is the serious matter of disclosure – consumers, parents, and all viewers have the right to be told when we are being sold.”

“From the beginning, artists have made a simple and reasonable request regarding product integration: consult and compensate us,” said SAG President Alan Rosenberg. “The fact that we must hold a demonstration to be heard on this key issue affecting artists is sad evidence that the industry continues to refuse to engage us. Rather than meeting alone behind the ivory walls of a five-star hotel, producers ought to embrace artists in a conversation on this issue of mutual concern. So today we renew our call for that dialogue and re-pledge our commitment to protecting the rights of the men and women who create the images.”

Also participating were SAG board member Elliott Gould, Secretary-Treasurer Connie Stevens, SAG First National Vice President Anne-Marie Johnson, and reality storyteller Scott Miller ( Carpocalypse, American Dream Derby), along with dozens of actors and writers.

Verrone continued, “The flyer announcing today’s debate asked this question: ‘Where is the line between a seamless integration and an over-the-head, over-the top ‘commercial within content?’ We think that’s the wrong question, and it ignores the primary ethical questions that must be answered before products are woven into storylines."

“Questions such as:

*What are the internal standards used by networks and producers to govern the type of programming where integration orders can be accepted?

*What ethical standards need to be in place to govern the placement of so-called stealth or subliminal advertising?

*Should there be different standards for programs and films that are geared toward children vs. those aimed at adult audiences?

*Should there be any product integration in children’s stories?

*Shouldn’t there be a "Code of Conduct" governing the use of products and the disclosure to the public of such placements?

*Shouldn’t storytellers and actors have the right to say no to objectionable product integration in stories?

*Who, in the end, is responsible?

*Does it take intervention by the FCC to address these issues?”

The Writers Guild of America, west, Writers Guild of America, East, and Screen Actors Guild announced the call for an industry "Code of Conduct" governing product integration at a news conference in Los Angeles on November 14, 2005. They were joined by an associate dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication.

The guilds representing writers, storytellers, and performers raised the issue as the wave of product integration in television and film hit the $1 billion mark in 2004, with an 84 percent increase in TV alone. The proposed "Code of Conduct" calls for visual and aural disclosure of product integration deals at the beginning of each program; strict limits on such placement in children’s programming; a voice for creative artists as to how a product or brand is integrated into content; and the extension of regulations into cable television programming.

For more information on the guilds’ product integration campaign, please visit www.wga.org.