Black Entertainment Television has come under fire from the
American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which has barred its members from
going on the network's stand-up comedy show, Comicview.
The labor issue is over the payment comedians receive for
appearing on the BET show: a one-time $150 flat fee with no residuals, even when their
appearances are reaired on the network.
Earlier this month, the AFTRA ran an ad in various
entertainment trade papers that included an open letter signed by more than 100 comics,
including Jay Leno and Tim Allen, complaining about BET's Comicview pay scale.
In fact, the AFTRA has issued a "no-contract,
no-work" order that prohibits its member comedians from appearing on Comicview.
AFTRA spokeswoman Pamm Fair said the "stop-work"
order prompted BET to move Comicview from Los Angeles to Atlanta in hopes of being
able to find talent willing to work in that venue.
Fair said the AFTRA took its action after getting
complaints from comedians -- "primarily African-American comics" -- about
BET's pay practices for Comicview.
In addition to the flat $150, comedians have to pay for
their own airfare and hotel rooms when they appear on the show, Fair said, while other
networks usually cover those costs for comedians.
"The days of performers paying to have an audience are
over," she added.
The final straw with BET was the fact that it has been
taking clips of comedians' sets on Comicview and re-editing them to make it
seem like the comics bombed, Fair charged. As a result, one comedian had a working
In a prepared response to the AFTRA's charges, BET
pointed out that Comicview has given breaks to now-well-known comedians such as
D.H. Hughley, Cedric "The Entertainer" and Sheryl Underwood.
The network added that it was in a more difficult financial
situation than other networks.
"BET has constantly had to fight to receive equal
advertising and subscription rates -- rates that are still not in line with comparably
rated networks," the BET response said.
The network added that it will review its relationship with
comedians for Comicview next season, and that it is in negotiations with the AFTRA
for its new show, BET Live from LA.
Fair said Cedric, who was supposed to host BET Live from
LA, has quit the show over the pay dispute.