In a groundbreaking move, ITV is in advanced discussions with the British actors union, Equity, to incorporate provisions for artificial intelligence (AI) and cloning in popular soap operas such as Coronation Street and Emmerdale.
These AI provisions will be a focal point during upcoming negotiations between ITV and Equity, potentially setting a precedent for the UK television industry. The issue of synthesization, where actors’ faces can be cloned and used in other shows, has become a significant concern, considering its potential to reduce opportunities for performers. This issue was brought to the forefront in Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror episode ‘Joan is Awful.’
Deadline reports that Equity, in its AI toolkit, emphasized the need to protect actors in an age where performance cloning work is increasingly common. The toolkit includes a template AI contract and clauses to safeguard artists from having their performances cloned without consent.
While UK broadcasters have experimented with cloning using deepfake technology, the negotiations with ITV and Equity mark a significant step toward regulating AI use in the industry. Regulator Ofcom recently advised broadcasters to reevaluate their compliance procedures in light of the risks posed by deepfake content.
Negotiations between Equity and ITV for soap operas produced by ITV’s in-house studios are more advanced than those with the BBC and UK producer trade body Pact. These discussions are expected to conclude by the end of the year, potentially serving as a model for future talks in the UK television industry.
Equity General Secretary Paul Fleming stressed the importance of educating members about their rights regarding AI, echoing sentiments expressed by U.S. actors union SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland.
These negotiations with ITV encompass various aspects, including pay, working conditions, and compensation, mirroring the goals of U.S. unions like the Writers Guild of America and SAG. Equity is also seeking a 15% increase in basic pay and reporting provisions related to secondary payments, similar to U.S. unions’ demands for streaming residuals.
If negotiations with Pact, which represents numerous UK production companies, do not yield favorable results, Equity has hinted at a potential industrial dispute. These strikes have had a notable impact on the UK television industry, contributing to a slowdown and reduced opportunities for freelancers.
A petition urging the government to financially support TV and film crews affected by the strikes has garnered nearly 30,000 signatures.
An ITV spokesperson emphasized ongoing discussions with Equity but noted that nothing has been finalized or approved for inclusion in contractual agreements at this stage.