802 Collects $113,000 for Musicians in ABC-TV Shows

Volume CII, No. 10October, 2002

Local 802 recently recovered $113,000 in back payment and penalties for almost 35 musicians who performed theme music for ABC’s news magazine show, The View, and for the morning show, Good Morning America. The amount, which represents both wages and pension, is equal to roughly 10 percent of all of the money the Recording Department collected in 2001 for grievances, benefits and late penalties.

“This is a fantastic recovery for musicians,” said Jay Schaffner, Assistant Supervisor of the National Contracts Department.

ABC was behind payment by six cycles. Each cycle represents a six-month period.

Musicians who perform for network television, including news magazine shows and other programs produced by signatory employers, are covered by the AFM’s TV and Videotape Agreement. For theme music, the agreement – which expired on May 31 but is currently extended – calls for re-use payments every time the show uses the same theme that musicians originally recorded. It was this re-use payment that ABC had owed.

One reason the union caught the missing money was the Recording Department’s new computer program, which allows staff to track and monitor contracts in a much more efficient way than before. The program can link each contract, new use, re-use and penalty payment to the same contract number, and the union is also able to track by the name of the program and even the theme itself. In this case, Senior Business Rep Pedro Rodriguez discovered the error. The union is monitoring all themes by ABC, CBS and NBC for similar compliance.

Once ABC realized it owed money, the employer readily paid up. “Now the union has developed a better relationship with the staff of ABC’s music payments department,” Schaffner told Allegro.

Each TV program utilizes a music department or music editor who makes a payroll report to the network music payments department. The network then sends contract reports and checks for musicians to the respective AFM locals, including 802. Further complicating the situation, Disney Worldwide Systems recently assumed the payment responsibilities of ABC, which is now wholly owned by Disney. If any link along this chain breaks, payments such as re-use can fall behind.

For shows such as The View or Good Morning America, one payment covers 26 weeks of re-use. The amount of a re-use payment depends on when the original session took place. A re-use of music recorded prior to Oct. 31, 1989, pays 100 percent of original scale; a re-use of music recorded after that date pays 75 percent. If the employer pays two cycles of re-use in advance, there is a reduction of 15 percent of the re-use payment. However, the musician gets to keep the money even if the music is not subsequently used for the second cycle.

Pension on all re-use is equal to pension of the original service. In the case of news magazine shows, this is 10 percent.

The back payment was received by Local 802 at the end of July.

If you performed music for The View or Good Morning America and were eligible for this back payment, you should already have received the payment when you picked up your latest batch of recording checks on the second floor of the union. If you have any questions, call Jay Schaffner at ext. 161.