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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 July, 2003, 10:00 GMT 11:00 UK
Strike threatens Australian TV
Daily soap Neighbours could be affected
Hit Australian TV shows including Neighbours and Home and Away could be disrupted after actors voted to go on strike.

Performers across the country have decided to walk out for at least one day and refuse weekend work after an eight-month dispute over pay.

Stars often earn less than the national average wage and are exploited by producers, an actors' union said.

But producers said some shows may be forced off air for good because they could not afford to meet the actors' demands.

The strike is likely to take place next week, according to Simon Whipp of the actors' union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA).

"There are main cast members on ongoing television dramas who earn less than [national] average weekly earnings and they are the best-paid performers in our industry," he said.

"They're earning the same or less than what they were earning 10 years ago."

Contract stability

Some cast members are told by a show to keep a whole week free but have all their scenes squeezed into one day, the union said.

They then only get paid for that day.

Other MEAA demands include greater certainty about contracts, new arrangements for repeat fees and commercial tie-ins and a greater share of foreign and video sales.

Producers said the strike would hit globally broadcast daily shows like Neighbours and Home and Away hardest.

'Out of business'

"The last thing my members ever want is to have a strike with actors and we've tried desperately to avoid that," said Geoff Brown, executive director of the Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA).

Giving in to actors' demands could be fatal for some shows, he said.

"When you're looking at the sorts of measures they're proposing, you'd probably go out of business if you agreed."

The SPAA added that producers' revenues from broadcast licence fees have remained stagnant for the last decade, while the cost of production has doubled and overseas finance is "drying up".

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