CBS Par cast, crew on 'hiatus'

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CBS Paramount Network TV on Tuesday entered the fray over how to address the work stoppage for the regulars on TV series that have been shut down because of the writers strike.

In letters to the casts and production staffs of "NCIS" and "Swingtown" — which have gone dark after running out of scripts — the studio qualified the production shutdown because of the strike as "hiatus." It notified actors and on-set crew members that they will be advised when production on the shows will resume.

This is the first studio to use the term hiatus since Sony Pictures TV's use of the word in their Nov. 9 letters to actors came under fire from SAG and AFTRA, which called it a violation of their joint TV contract.

SAG has insisted that the studios' only two options in an event of a strike are to hold the regulars at full pay or to invoke the force majeure provisions in the SAG-AFTRA collective bargaining agreement, which could include up to a five-week suspension at half pay and termination of the actors' contracts.

So far, Universal Media Studios has been the only TV studio to say that it would comply with SAG's force majeure provisions in written notifications to its regulars on "The Office," "30 Rock" and "Bionic Woman" and Sci Fi Channel's "Battlestar Galactica" (HR 11/16).

However, there have been reports of verbal instructions to some talent reps that the regulars on the four shows are being suspended without pay after they meet their guaranteed minimums, they remain exclusive to the studio and have a 48-hour recall time to report for work after the strike ends (HR 11/19).

This is the language used by 20th Century Fox TV in their actors letters that avoid the usage of force majeure or hiatus (HR 11/20).

SAG has yet to weigh in on the letters by UMS, 20th TV and CBS Par TV.
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