The provisional agreement on new three-year contracts governing television and radio commercials means the six-month strike by mostly anonymous actors could end as early as Oct. 30.
"It has been difficult," American Federation of Television & Radio Artists President Shelby Scott said Monday, the day after the tentative agreement was reached.
"Six months is a long time to stay out of work. I believe we can hold our heads high, as can the industry. Each side got something they wanted - not everything," he said. "I think the industry will be happy they can begin shooting good commercials again."
The advertising industry and commercial actors made key concessions on labor issues that ranged from the payment of residuals to jurisdiction over the potentially lucrative Internet market.
The industry agreed to continue to give actors residual payments when their ads run on network television. The unions gave up their demand to spread the residual system to cable TV.
The advertising industry also agreed to recognize the union's jurisdiction in Internet ads, which had been a contentious issue. Actors see Internet development paralleling that of cable 25 years ago - a fledgling, but potentially lucrative advertising medium.
If a joint union board endorses the contracts Oct. 28, actors could be back at work two days later while ratification by the rank-and-file takes place by mail. AFTRA and the Screen Actors Guild claim a combined membership of 135,000.
Striking actors lost untold millions in commercial payments in the strike that began May 1 and some found themselves hard-pressed to keep up with car and mortgage bills.
The job action also cost the Los Angeles-area economy an estimated $125 million in lost production and drove commercial work to Canada and Europe.
The strike's effect, however, seemed negligible for the public.
While big names like Paul Newman, Rosie O'Donnell and Tom Hanks lent their support, the mostly anonymous commercial actors weren't missed in the way a striking TV or movie star would be.
"I'm enormously relieved the strike is over," said Todd Susman, who has appeared as a tutu-clad "tooth fairy" in a TV ad. "It's done so much damage to our membership."
Viewers endured recycled ad reruns, but there were also new commercials that included spots made either with nonunion workers or outside the country.
Exact terms of the pact were not disclosed. Both sides confirmed, however, that the payment structure - the biggest source of friction during negotiations - will be largely unchanged after Hollywood's first major walkout in 12 years.
"It's a win-win," said attorney Ira Shepard, a negotiator for the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencis. "It's a fair compromise from both sides. We're pleased with it."
Hollywood stars, including Richard Dreyfuss, Paul Newman and Eddie Murphy, jumped into the commercial actors' strike with words of encouragement and financial support.
"This is a great bit of news," Dreyfuss said Monday at a news conference that turned into a boisterous rally for striking actors. "My head hurts from bumping on the ceiling."
By Lynn Elber
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