California’s AB 437, Which Would Limit Exclusivity In TV Stars’ Deals, Faces Crucial Vote

Next week, a California assembly bill that could change one of the cornerstones of the TV business faces a crucial vote.

AB 437, dubbed the Let Actors Work (LAW) Act, would limit exclusivity in TV stars’ deals. That means if a principal on a show wants to do another project with Network X while under contract with Network Y, they would be able to do so as long as “there is no material conflict of interest with their original employer,” according to the bill’s author, Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose). That means stars on hiatus can book projects on competing networks, so long as it does not conflict with the original show’s schedule. Exclusivity prohibits that now. You can read the text of the bill here.

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On July 29, AB 437 passed the CA Senate Judiciary Committee in a 9-1 vote. The bill will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee next on August 8. If it passes there, it goes on to full State Senate. If it also passes there, it heads to the Assembly for final passage, which would need to happen before that body goes on its late-summer recess. It would then need Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature.

Motion Picture Association Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin has indicated that AB 437 would put productions in California — and the jobs they create — at risk.

“Last year, nearly 950 films entered production and 560 original scripted series were released in the U.S. Many were made in California, but a new bill rushing through the CA legislature would put productions like these — and the jobs they create — at risk,” Rivkin tweeted today about the bill.

The California Chamber of Commerce has warned that “curtailing the use of exclusive contracts for actors makes such contracts less valuable, which will lead to a reduction in wages paid to actors. Further, elimination of the ability to bargain for exclusivity rights where necessary jeopardizes the ability to timely and reliably produce content. The ripple effect will have a negative impact on the thousands who work on those productions or are otherwise linked to or dependent on them.”

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher, on the other hand, said the bill recognizes “that actors should be able to enjoy the same freedoms as all other Californians.”

A tweet from the union called the current practice “Forced unemployment.”

AB 437 is sponsored by California Labor Federation, Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), and Music Artists Coalition.

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