Nashville (December 11, 2006) -- FCC Chairman Martin and Commissioners Adelstein, Copps and Tate were in Nashville on December 11 holding the second in a series of public hearings designed to gauge public reaction to relaxing media consolidation rules, and Screen Actors Guild was there to weigh in. A wide range of panelists came together to testify before the commission including country music singers and AFTRA members George Jones, Porter Wagoner, Naomi Judd and Big & Rich, singer and SAG/AFTRA member Dobie Gray, singer/songwriter Jenny Toomey, Rick Carnes, President of the Songwriters Guild of America and Harold Bradley of the American Federation of Musicians among others.
Screen Actors Guild National Board member CeCe DuBois sat on the panel and read a letter from Guild member and Tennessee native Dixie Carter that urged the FCC to return to an era when FCC rules allowed diversity in programming to flourish:
December 11, 2006
Dear Commission Members:
I was complimented to be invited by Alan Rosenberg to attend today’s meeting as a panel member, and am prevented from doing so only by my job on Desperate Housewives. I would not have missed the opportunity to add my voice, and to have spent even that short time in my beloved home state of Tennessee.
I am one of the fortunate members of the Screen Actors Guild, in that I have been able to work with some consistency on SAG productions since the late 1970s. However, even members of our Guild like me, who are able to keep working, have become all too aware of the frightening trend in the industry toward suppressing all but star wages. We have seen the number of acting jobs diminish as reality programming and animation have risen in popularity with network programmers, and as if that fact weren’t discouraging enough, we have seen actors’ income plunge indecently. The behemoths are devouring all.
The ever-widening gulf between above-the-title remuneration and supporting actor remuneration is not just inequitable; it is wrong. It is unjust. It is greed allowed to run unchecked. We face the appalling fact that in the course of the last decade it has become evermore difficult to maintain a lifetime career, to earn a reasonable living as an actor, with the result that accomplished and valuable actors who have had much to offer the public and the industry for years are being driven to seek other means of maintaining themselves. This is a loss not only for the actors themselves, but for the public which has appreciated them.
I am writing this letter to urge you to return bargaining practices that allow actors to maintain “quotes” which they have been building for years, and to participate in the television and motion picture arena with some degree of dignity and strength.
I am writing to appeal to you, as individuals, to consider your own personal codes as you review unfair practices that are crippling the livelihood of actors in the Screen Actors Guild. Please be mindful of your responsibility to all parties, on both sides of the discussion. Our country is not about oppression; it is about opportunity and a fair deal. I entreat you to become advocates for equitable treatment of the 120,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild.
Carter, an accomplished actress, was an integral part of the popular network hit Designing Women, which ran from 1986 to 1993. Designing Women was an independent production created by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason during a time when broadcast rules were such that independent productions were able to survive. In fact, when the show went off the air in 1993, 76 percent of the primetime network line-up was independently produced, and only one third was created and owned by the networks. Since the relaxing of financial syndication rules in 1993, these numbers have reversed, creating fewer opportunities for diverse programming and roles for SAG members.
Screen Actors Guild is advocating for a 25 percent carve out for independent content during primetime network broadcast hours and filed comments with the FCC in November along with the Directors Guild of America, the Producers Guild of America, and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.