Thursday, January 31, 2008

NYPD' Buttocks May Cost ABC $1.4 Million

Hi All,

The FCC fined ABC
$1.4 million for showing the posterior of NYPD Blue actress Charlotte Ross. They'd showed Dennis Franz from the rear naked numerous times in prior episodes without FCC interference or complaint. I'm confused.

Watch the clip, you decide: Charlotte Ross in Shower



The Federal Communications Commission has proposed a $1.4 million fine against 52 ABC Television Network stations over a 2003 broadcast of cop drama NYPD Blue.


Bob D'Amico, ABC

Paying the Price For Going too Far

In a 2003 episode of 'NYPD Blue,' Charlotte Ross was shown naked from behind as she prepared to take a shower. As punishment, the Federal Communication Commission has proposed fining 52 ABC affiliates $1.4 million because the scene "depicts sexual organs and excretory organs -- specifically an adult woman's buttocks."

The fine is for a scene where a boy surprises a woman as she prepares to take a shower. The scene depicted "multiple, close-up views" of the woman's "nude buttocks" according to an agency order issued late Friday.

ABC is owned by the Walt Disney Co. The fines were issued against 52 stations either owned by or affiliated with the network.

FCC's definition of indecent content requires that the broadcast "depicts or describes sexual or excretory activities" in a "patently offensive way" and is aired between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

The agency said the show was indecent because "it depicts sexual organs and excretory organs - specifically an adult woman's buttocks."

The agency rejected the network's argument that "the buttocks are not a sexual organ."

FCC fine for nudity guarantees more exposure

Doug Moe 1/30/2008 11:29 am

IF THE Parents Television Council really wanted people to watch a portion of a 2003 "NYPD Blue" episode that included a woman's naked buttocks, they've succeeded.

It is all over the Internet. The Parents Television Council even has it featured prominently on its own Web site, with a link and an invitation to "view the clip." They include a note: "WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT!" The warning guarantees everyone will click on it.

I watched it myself yesterday and I can say that, yes, it's buttocks. (To see the clip in question, scroll to the bottom of this article. Warning: Graphic Content!)

What strikes me as a bit odd is that the council insists its mission is to keep children from viewing something like an actress' rear end. Where are kids today? They're on the Internet.

It would be amusing, except that Kevin Harlan, general manager of WKOW-TV/Channel 27 in Madison, isn't laughing.

"I'm a bit speechless," Harlan was saying Tuesday.

The 5-year-old episode of "NYPD Blue" is news today -- and the clip ubiquitous -- because on Friday, the Federal Communications Commission announced a fine in excess of $1.4 million for 52 television stations either owned by or affiliated with ABC, which aired the "NYPD Blue" episode on Feb. 25, 2003. WKOW-TV is one of the stations that carried the episode.

Each individual station was fined $27,500. "We're still digesting it," Harlan said. "It's kind of mind-boggling."

In a press release, the television council cheered the fines. The group's president, Tim Winter, said: "We are thankful that the FCC has finally taken a stand for children and families with this unanimous order. The delay in getting here has been frustrating, but we are delighted by the decision. PTC members and concerned citizens across the country spoke out against the nudity in the 2003 episode of 'NYPD Blue' and today their pleas have been answered."

Others have weighed in on the opposite side, finding the issue much ado about little and the fines ridiculous.

"The description of the scene by the FCC is more lewd and lascivious than the scene itself," wrote TV critic Jeff Jarvis, on his blog. "It's written as if by a dirty old man."

Jarvis has been a persistent critic of the television council and was quoted in a March 28, 2005, Time magazine cover story on risque TV content titled "The Decency Police."

The article began: "The Parents Television Council believes that too much prime-time TV is indecent. So indecent that it never misses a show. In the group's Alexandria, Va., offices, five analysts sit at desks with a VCR, a TV and a computer. They tape every hour of prime-time network TV, and a lot of cable. 'CSI.' 'The Apprentice.' God help them, even Reba. And they watch. Every filthy second."

The article notes that when the FCC fined Fox $1.2 million for strippers in an episode of "Married by America," Jarvis filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the 159 letters of complaint the FCC said it had received about the episode.

"Because of multiple mailings," the Time story said, "the letters actually came from just 23 people, 21 of whom used a form. In other words, three people composing letters of complaint precipitated a seven-digit fine."

"NYPD Blue" was controversial during its decade-plus network run, but it also won many awards. When it went off the air in March 2005, the show business paper Variety ran a column that praised the show and selected the 10 best of its 261 episodes. The Feb. 25, 2003, episode was included among the 10 best.

It dealt with the suicide of the father of the NYPD detective played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar. When it originally aired, New York Daily News critic David Bianculli called it the best "NYPD Blue" episode in two years.

Early in the episode, a young boy, the son of Gosselaar's character, walks in on his dad's girlfriend, who is in the bathroom getting ready to shower. Addressing the issue with the FCC, ABC contended that the scene, which included shots of the woman's naked buttocks, was intended to "illustrate the complexity and awkwardness involved when a single parent brings a new romantic partner into his or her life." But the FCC wrote: "We find that the scene's depiction of adult female nudity, particularly the repeated shots of a woman's naked buttocks, is titillating and shocking."

The upshot of all this, of course, is that the brief scene with the nudity is widely available, out of context, to anyone with a computer. The episode itself, one of the best in series history, is much harder to find. Now that's indecent.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Focus On A Brighter Future For WPIX

Sam Zell and Randy Michaels will need to suspend their anti-union bias if they truly want to make Tribune a success. It is not possible for a business to reach it's full potential if you've alienated half your employees right from the the start.


By the same token, we need to show Sam and Randy our commitment to making WPIX the shining star in the constellation of Tribune TV stations.

Our purpose is to create a department that sets a new standard of quality in news and entertainment broadcasting.

We will develop technicians that raise the bar in training and operating excellence. We will foster and maintain a safe, motivating, and empowering environment for our members to enjoy competitive wages and benefits with long term employment prospects.

Our operating values are Integrity: Doing the right things; Quality: Doing the right things right; and Focus: Work smart, not hard, to maximize success.

We must continue to develop our working relationships: "Raving Fan" clients, "Gung Ho" members, cooperative and supportive managers, and an attitude in this ever changing broadcasting environment that we can't wait to see what's next.

Our success is long term job security with competitive wages and benefits that can be defined as the applause we get from serving our clients well, supporting a more profitable WPIX and providing a motivating and empowering environment for our members.

So hear is our stated picture of the future:

We want IBEW to be the union of choice, WPIX the employer of choice, and Tribune the investment opportunity of choice. When broadcast and cable stations need to revitalize with innovative, committed engineers, they will think of us as the gold standard.

Let's begin the way we mean to continue by opening a dialog with Sam and Randy now, use , keep talking with them and each other, and start moving this team forward.

All the best,


Friday, January 25, 2008

Permalancers, Unite!

by Anya Kamenetz
The Nation is a gossip blog best known for mocking Lindsay Lohan and generally lowering the level of discourse in the New York media world. But starting on December 4 the website put snark aside and helped instigate one of the most unlikely and successful labor campaigns of recent years. The sight of young, educated workers in the seismically unstable media industry using spontaneous online organizing to cope with innovative forms of corporate exploitation and disrespect throws a challenge to the labor establishment. Some see a new social movement being born.

Viacom, a Fortune 500 media company, had $11.5 billion in revenue last year. It includes the hip, youth-oriented cable networks MTV, VH1, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon. But the cachet of these names on a young college graduate's résumé is not matched by the way the company treats its workers.

Like scores of companies in the media industry and elsewhere, Viacom has increasingly shifted to workers who are not regular, salaried employees--both true freelancers and "permalancers."

The term refers to those who may work full-time for several years--with duties, hours, and responsibilities very similar to regular employees--yet who are classified as temporary employees or independent contractors and do not receive the same recognition as regular employees.

Someone like Alex Blagg. The 27-year-old comedian was hired two years ago to run VH1's Best Week Ever blog, the online version of the popular show. "I work pretty much forty to fifty hours a week," he says. "Sometimes on weekends. I'm responsible for maintaining and producing the site as well as collaborating with the staff of the BWE show, and I oversee about ten people--the other writers on the website as well as the production and interns."

By some accounts, permalancers and freelancers make up half the creative and production staff at Viacom networks--writers, animators, producers, editors, web designers. And they enjoyed unusually generous benefits for workers in these categories. But on December 4, as first reported in a post categorized "rumors" on Gawker, Viacom handed them some bad news.

Caroline O'Hare, a "freelancer" who has worked full-time in online promotions at MTV for two and a half years, said, "When they first told us about this, they called us in to pick up our holiday-party invites and then told us to pick up the paperwork for Cast & Crew," a company to which Viacom plans to start outsourcing the payroll and benefits administration for its nonregular employees. "I was looking through the packet and I was like, 'I'm sorry, where's my 401(k)?' They said, 'Oh yeah, you don't have that anymore.'"

The reliance on freelancers and independent contractors, in fact or in name only, is a prevalent business strategy to retain flexibility and cut labor costs, especially on expensive healthcare benefits. Another such strategy is the use of payroll companies, also known as "professional employment organizations" like Cast & Crew--a k a internal outsourcing (another oxymoron). In the case of Viacom, both strategies were at work.

According to reports on Gawker and elsewhere, the rollback for freelance and contract employees initially included not only 401(k)s but paid vacation, holiday pay, tuition reimbursement, commuter pretax deductions, vision and dental benefits and, most important, a severely scaled-back healthcare plan.

A typical story of life in the new economy? Sure. "I'm actually one of those people who fall into the 'go have a beer and bitch about it' camp," says Blagg. "When I took a job with Viacom I knew I was falling into bed with the enemy, and things like this are not out of the realm of what I would expect from them." And yet something was different this time. Maybe it was the Christmas timing. Or perhaps it was all the blogging, YouTube videos, newspaper and TV coverage of the television writers' strike--positive images of a sympathetic, educated, creative, unionized workforce, which aren't exactly common in today's mainstream media. "I think there's a general unrest in the media industry, with the writers' strike and the Broadway stagehand strike,"

Blagg, who wrote a post in support of the permalancers on his official Viacom-sponsored blog, says. "People are getting sick of feeling irrelevant and undervalued by these giant multinational corporations that are trying to increase their stockholder profits at the expense of the workforce that they rely on."

And new media was helping to keep this story alive, too. In twenty-six posts, photos and videos over the week, Gawker chronicled the company's action and the workers' response in its trademark snarky style, with posts tagged "evil corporations in action" and "permapoors." Maggie Shnayerson, a 26-year-old writer who joined Gawker in September, provided most of the coverage, which was quickly taken over by readers. "We were reporting pieces of information as people sent them to us," Shnayerson says. "Gawker provided a place where Viacom employees could come and find out what was going on with their colleagues." Viacom workers were commenting on each post and getting increasingly pissed off.

What fed the comment threads even more was the tin-eared way that Viacom delivered the news, even initially asking the employees to sign the new paperwork before attending the meeting to explain it--what one protester called an "HR clusterfuck."

But the responses weren't just online. Starting on December 10, about 200 Viacom permalancers walked out at 3 p.m. for an hour a day, picketing in Times Square. Many also showed up at the annual holiday party--an extravaganza at the Hammerstein Ballroom--wearing homemade T-shirts with the slogan "Permalancers Get Cancer Too." The protests seemed to be spontaneously self-organizing, as no one stood up to be identified as a troublemaker.

The combination of online assault by one of the city's most widely read blogs and direct action won concessions amazingly quickly. On December 6 Viacom announced that those whose 401(k)s had been frozen would get the chance to open new ones in 2008, though matching would still end and rollovers would not be allowed.

On December 12, just before the daily walkout, management sent out an e-mail outlining further concessions--the reinstatement of the previous healthcare plan (exact requirements and deductibles unknown) and delaying of the switch to the Cast and Crew payroll organization from this month to February. Also on offer: vague promises to "review" the option to change employees' status from freelancer to staff.

Temporary--in both senses of the word--victory was sweet, and the strikers exulted in their power to be heard. "I can't believe they caved so quickly. Good work, rabble-rousers!" wrote a Gawker commenter dubbed PimpMyCouch. Yet the quest for proper treatment by members of the self-dubbed "creative underclass" has only just begun.

After all, companies created these newfangled categories of workers to get around existing labor laws. As first reported by Shnayerson, one factor that may have instigated Viacom's benefit cuts is an attempt by Governor Eliot Spitzer to enforce New York State's existing labor laws. In September he issued Executive Order 17, creating a joint task force on employee misclassification, defined as improperly calling an employee an independent contractor. This practice, Spitzer said, is often "an attempt to avoid the employers' legal obligations under the federal and state labor, employment, and tax laws, including...minimum wage, overtime...unemployment insurance, workers compensation...and income tax."

Calling someone who works full-time, on-site, for several years and who collects benefits a contractor or temp can get a corporation in all kinds of trouble. Just ask Microsoft, which famously paid almost $100 million plus millions in payroll taxes to settle a lawsuit by its own permatemps.

Viacom may have rolled back benefits and outsourced the administration of its nonstandard employees in order to create a bright line for the governor's task force. Or it may just have been a move to preserve the company's stock price.

The "MTV strike" has a resonance far beyond one company. The Warhol Economy, a new book by Elizabeth Currid, a professor of urban planning at USC, demonstrates that creative industries like art, fashion, design and media are New York City's true economic engine.

Compared with white-collar workers from other industries, these workers are even more likely to cope with unpaid internships in order to break in and nonstandard employee status even as they get more established in their industries.

In January New York City's comptroller released a study showing that self-employment has accounted for nearly two-thirds of the increase in the city's job base since 1997. Yet self-employed or misclassified workers by definition still live without access to health insurance or other benefits.

The question is where to take this energy. Exactly which labor organization, if any, is best positioned to take up the cause of permalancers citywide remains to be seen. Striking Writer's Guild members stood in solidarity with the Viacom workers for a joint picket on December 13, but the WGA can't offer them representation.

Jesus Sanchez is an organizer for Local 1212, the New York Radio and Television Broadcast Engineers Union, representing technical workers at CBS and Univision. He showed up to support each day of the Viacom walkout. "I've been on the phone all day drumming up more support from the institutions I've worked with over the years," he said on Wednesday. "I spoke to the state AFL-CIO yesterday." He argues that given the right organizing, Local 1212 could potentially get Viacom permalancers a collective bargaining agreement--though they'd first have to establish that they were misclassified. "You can call them what you want--they're employees," he says.

Sara Horowitz of the Freelancers' Union has a different take. "I've never seen people in this part of the workforce walk off their jobs like this," she says. "I think they're ready to start articulating their needs in a real way, and our role is to help provide structure and coherence and infrastructure and ways we can be supportive and go where it goes."

Her organization has more than 50,000 members nationwide, 15,000 of whom are independent workers in New York City who get health insurance at group rates through the union. She first heard of the walkout on Gawker, and then through Viacom workers who began contacting the Freelancers Union about getting health coverage. They started a Meetup group on the Freelancers Union site, which has drawn about thirty members.

Horowitz sees the need for a much broader response than negotiation with one company to fight misclassification while preserving true flexibility by providing all workers with portable benefits. "This is the beginning of a social movement," she says, "and it's not always going to be linear and coherent."




Viacom owns CBS and 39 television stations, 184 radio stations, The Movie Channel, BET, Nickelodeon, TV Land, MTV, VH1, Simon & Schuster publishing, Scribner, and Paramount Pictures.

General Electric owns NBC, 13 television stations, CNBC, MSNBC, and Bravo.

Disney owns ABC and 9 television stations, 50 radio stations, ESPN, A&E, the History Channel, Discover magazine, Hyperion publishing, Touchstone Pictures, and Miramax Film Corp.

News Corporation owns Fox Broadcasting Company, 26 television stations, FX, Fox News Channel, TV Guide, the Weekly Standard, New York Post, DirecTV, the publisher HarperCollins, film production company Twentieth Century Fox, and the social networking website MySpace.

Since 1995, the number of companies owning commercial TV stations declined by 40 percent...

Currently, six major companies control most of the media in our country. The FCC could decide to relax media ownership rules, which would allow further consolidation and put decisions about what kinds of programming and news Americans receive in even fewer hands.


Since 1995, the number of companies owning commercial TV stations declined by 40 percent.

If the FCC votes to relax media ownership limits, it could further erode diversity of ownership at the local level and increase the influence of large media conglomerates. In 2003, the regulations restricting a broadcast company from owning stations that reach beyond 35% of American households were loosened to 39%.



Three media giants own all of the cable news networks. Comcast and AOL Time Warner serve 40 percent of cable households.

Many proponents of deregulation site the expanded numbers of cable stations to argue that media sources are more diverse than they once were. The reality is that -- while there may be more stations -- they are still controlled by a small number of media companies.


Cable TV rates have jumped 40 percent since the Telecom Act of 1996.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was, in part, meant to increase competition in the cable industry. The Act was heavily influenced by industry lobbyists and has had the opposite effect.



The Telecommunications Act of 1996 lifted ownership limits for radio stations, leading to incredible consolidation of radio station ownership.

One company alone, Clear Channel Inc., now owns nearly 1,200 radio stations across the country. Before the change, a company could not own more than 40 stations nationwide.

One company alone, Clear Channel Inc., now owns nearly 1,200 radio stations across the country...

Several large stations owned by Clear Channel briefly banned the music of the Dixie Chicks because of their critical comments about President George W. Bush. Stations owned by Infinity have also banned certain musicians based on their political views.



Major corporations, including AOL Time Warner, the New York Times, CNN, ABC News and USA Today dominate the top Internet news sites.



The public owns the airwaves and the FCC grants licenses to broadcasters with the understanding they will serve the public interest.

To their corporate owners, media outlets do not exist to promote the public interest; they exist to make profits. But media companies don't manufacture widgets; they provide information. And information from diverse, competitive, and independent sources is vitally important to the health of a democracy.


The nation’s largest broadcast companies that will benefit from looser ownership standards have given more than $13.3 million in political contributions to federal candidates and national parties since 1995. These same media giants have spent more than $68 million lobbying Washington since 1999.

With their political clout, media giants have the ability to make their case heard at the FCC, the White House and Capitol Hill. The concerns of average citizens do not get the same attention from key policymakers.


The FCC is in the process of making important decisions that will have a significant impact on our democracy. This appointed body is doing so without distributing the proposed regulations for public review and without allowing for adequate public review and comment.

"It is the purpose of the First Amendment to preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail, rather than to countenance monopolization of that market, whether it be by the Government itself or a private licensee. It is the right of the public to receive suitable access to social, political, aesthetic, moral, and other ideas and experiences which is crucial here. That right may not constitutionally be abridged either by Congress or by the FCC." --U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark 1969 case of Red Lion v. FCC
This information is from the IBEW Local 1212 website at:

Union Activists Blogging - A Basic How-To Approach

From Union Review

I had an interesting discussion with some friends about union activists blogging. In that chat I mentioned that workers who are getting their news online, especially at the online version of their local paper or television stations, should always be on the look out for a comment box at the end of the story. If there is one available, get a user name and password and offer up your 2-cents.

On many local papers’ websites I have found that getting a user name and a password is not only painfully simple, it is generally a very fast process. And as for a quick hint: I have found using one user name and password at every site I visit a safe and secure way to remember how to log on when I am especially heated about something that I read; which happens often.Innocent

It is almost cliché at this point to say that stories affecting working people, especially union workers, are not very well presented in mainstream media. This is where our work comes in as activists.

I find myself telling people not to worry about their typing skills or grammar, the most important thing is to get heard – and then tell people where you are posting so that we can support what you are doing. I am of the opinion that workers of every trade are rarely, if ever, asked what they think by mainstream media reporters. Instead, workers are often asked how they feel about this or that situation. Interestingly enough, a CEO or a company manager is never asked how he feels about much of anything. I have made this argument in the past, and it is worthwhile to bring up again: Working people can and do think and our thoughts should be heard and understood. We can save our feeling for own personal diaries and conversations with family and friends, but when it comes to discussing something as important as our working lives and our unions, it is critical we organize our thoughts and share those thoughts.

With the open access of comment boxes on mainstream media news stories, we have a unique opportunity to speak up and get heard -- and I urge everyone to do this in their free time.

Finally, the question of anonymity comes into play. Some workers might be less than giving with their personal information or use their real names. My reply to this is generally the same: then don’t! If you are really concerned about being tracked down, open a free Yahoo email account (or any other) and use that email strictly for your blogging activity.

For many people this blog on blogging will seem obvious and common sense, and that’s cool – but for those who are just getting cozy with their computers and getting online, maybe it will be of some help – that is my intention, anyway.

98% of WGAE-CBS News employees vote yes for a new contract

January 24, 2008

98% of WGAE-CBS News employees vote yes for a new contract.

CBS News employees, who are members of the WGAE and WGAW, have overwhelmingly ratified their new contract agreement. The vote was 98% yes.

The contract is effective immediately and covers approximately 500 newswriters, editors, news desk associates, production assistants, graphic artists, promotion writers, and researchers working in television and radio on the national and local levels in New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. The vote was conducted at special meetings held in New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles on January 22 and 23.

Under the terms of the new contract, WGA-CBS employees will receive a 3.5% raise immediately and again one year from now. In addition, most regularly scheduled employees who worked 200 days or more in 2007 and did not receive wage increases during the negotiations time frame will receive an additional $3,700 payment. Employees who worked shorter schedules will receive pro-rated payments. The contract runs through April 1, 2010.

"This very difficult to achieve contract is the product of a long mobilization effort by the Guilds' members working at CBS," says Mona Mangan, executive director of the Writers Guild of America, East. "This strong vote of approval signals their commitment to a contract that is free of the rollbacks that members so strongly opposed. Our members look forward to a renewed commitment to quality news during an exciting presidential election year."

"The resounding vote for this contract assures that our members at CBS News will continue to provide the quality journalism for which the network has been known," says Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East. "It's a tribute to all of our CBS members who worked so hard together to achieve this deal, as well as their negotiating committee and staff at the Guilds East and West."

"After such a long and difficult period, we're pleased that CBS came back to the table with the will to make a deal that was acceptable to newswriters," said Patric M. Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America, West. "We're proud of our members resolve to reach a fair contract and inspired by the solidarity of Guild newswriters in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C."

Filed Under: X Filed Under: Negotiations, TV, Journalism

Entertainment Industry Flex Plan

Lot's of folks have asked about the Entertainment Industry Flex Plan, here is some information on the plan as available in New York. Coverage varies from State to State, so check their website for more info at We welcome comments from people who have participated in this program.


Blue Cross - National Blue Card Plan 80 (NY) (2008)

The Blue Card Program by Blue Cross provides access to the National Blue Cross/Blue Shield Network. The dual option feature of this plan allows you to go to your own doctor or hospital and be eligible to receive the full benefits of the comprehensive coverage.

If the network providers are used, no claim forms need to be completed and payment is made directly to the provider. This plan provides $5,000,000 lifetime maximum.

This extensive network of quality providers considerably reduces carrier transition issues, as most employees will find their physician is a participant of the network.

You may search for providers on the Flex Plan website (insurance options). National Blue Card Plan 80 is the default option.

Additional Benefit Information: Generally, co-payment amounts are not subject to plan deductibles. Percentages shown are paid by Blue Cross AFTER $750 deductible (max 2 per family) has been satisfied.

Emergency room visits are subject to a $100 fee, plus deductible, then co-insurance paid at the amounts shown below.

Network Participation:
US Hospitals 90%
US Physicians 85%
Out of Pocket Maximum (after deductible) In Network: $3,000
Out of Network: $6,000

Deductible (max 2 per family) $750

Hospital (after deductible) In Network: *80%
Out of Network: $500 fee plus *60% of U+C

Emergency Room + *80% after $100 fee (waived if admitted)

Doctor Visits, X-ray, & Labs In Network: $30 co-pay
Out of Network: *60% of U+C

Pregnancy & Maternity Paid as any other condition

Prescriptions In Network: $20 Generic $30 Name Brand $45 Non-Formulary Brand
Out of Network: In Network co-pay plus any amount over fee schedule.

Pre-existing Conditions: Excluded for 6 months for that specific condition.
Credit given for previous insurance.

* After deductible is satisfied
+ Refer to Evidence of Coverage for definition of emergency
U+C = Usual and Customary Charges

Monthly Rates through 12/2008 (Includes $2.50 administration fee)

Single: $414.68
2-Party: 866.97
Member + Child(ren): 784.74
Family: 1,237.0

  • Dental Insurance
  • Vision Insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Disability Insurance

401(k) Plan

And to compare the health care proposals of presidential candidates, click here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

To Make A Short Story Long - Working Union In N.Y.

Some time back I received this question from a young tech.

"Just wondering about WPIX jobs - my local,
IATSE Local 499,
is mixed, including editors, camera operators, stagehands, and
the like. Would my current card be acceptable?"

Another great question.

Your question as to would your current IATSE Local 499
card be acceptable for employment at WPIX is simple
on the surface, but consider the following:

WPIX is under an IBEW Local 1212 contract.

IBEW 1212 also has CBS, HBO, UNTV, WNET, MSG,
and an ever shrinking portion of the freelance sports work.

IBEW Local 1212 covers the electronic engineering areas:
Camera, Audio, Tape, TD, Video, Chyron, Editing, etc.

NABET Local 11 has NBC and NABET 16 has ABC for
the same categories as listed above, along with News
Producers and PAs at NBC.

IATSE Local 794 has the engineering categories for Fox5,
WWOR, and all TV production at Lincoln Center. Unlike NABET
and IBEW, IATSE 794 has the Stage Managers and Prompter
Operators are represented by IATSE Local 1 along with the

IATSE Local 100 has taken over the Bary Fialk contract from
IBEW and has a fast growing number of sports production contracts.

IATSE Local 1 has the Prop, Carpenter, Electrician jurisdiction
at all of the above mentioned facilities as well as all live theater
jurisdiction, where they also cover sound.

Much of the TV production and just about all film production in
New York is covered through the IATSE craft locals.

IATSE Local 600 has the camera department including film,
video, still photography, utility, and digital effects.

IATSE Local 700 has the TD and Editing functions.

These locals have nationwide jurisdiction.

IATSE Local 52 has Film Crew props, carpenters, audio,
electricians, and film/video assist.

IATSE Local 764 has Wardrobe contracts with all the union
broadcast TV stations, Film/TV production companies, and
at all Broadway theatres.

IATSE Local 798, the Make-up and Hair local has the same
jurisdiction as Wardrobe above.

IATSE Local 161 has Film script supervisiors.

DGA has the Directors, ADs, and Stage Managers for all of
unionized TV and Film production except for at Fox5, where
the SM is IATSE Local 794.

All of these Locals are very protective of their jurisdiction and
the dues that they collect from the Members they work so hard
to protect.

However, if you make a living as a freelance video engineer,
robotic camera operator, tape operator, A2, and utility, as I did
for 22 years, you pay dues to 5 different locals of 3 different unions
in order to have access to all available work.

So, to answer your question: No, you must have an IBEW card to
work at WPIX in engineering and an IATSE Local 1 card to work
here as a stagehand or lighting director.

The good news is that IBEW Local 1212 would be happy to have
you join, if WPIX would like to give you work. Once you've met with
John Seminario at WPIX and been hired, call Ralph Avigliano at the
IBEW Local 1212 office (212)354-6770 and make an appointment
to go down and fill out your paperwork.

How's that for making a short story long?

All the best,

Bob D

still a member?

A brother who worked at WWOR in the early 1980's asked:


Good question. The short answer is No. Sometime after you moved on to better things the engineers at WWOR decertified IATSE and went with NABET.

When Fox purchased WWOR the engineers there were moved into the Fox5 IATSE local, because the IATSE Local 794 contract was the better of the two.

The good news is IATSE would be happy to have you back if you go to work in one of their shops and it is possible that they would deduct the initiation fee you originally paid from the current fee.

All the best,


IBEW Local 1212, A Time For Change

I've been thinking a lot lately about our shop and our union and how we can best serve our members.

Here are some general thoughts.

In a business, the leaders create strategies that are implemented by managers to get the
workers to make a product to sell to the customers at a profit for the shareholders.

In a fraternal organization, such as a union, the workers are also the customers and the shareholders.

The members are the customers and shareholders. They elect Stewards to serve them by handling the day to day issues in the workplace.

The members elect Executive Board Members that serve to develop systems and policies to facilitate the membership's wishes.

Paid staff, such as Business Managers, Agents, etc, serve by implementing policies, negotiating, and providing the support required by the stewards to meet the needs of the membership.

Appointed Assistants help the paid staff by extending their reach and serve as a force multiplier because the Business Managers can't be everywhere at once.

Webster defines the word "Steward" as " a servant that manages property or activities for the benefit of others."

"Leadership is about going somewhere. Without a clear vision, leadership doesn't matter. A clear vision gives an organization heart. Without it work will have no meaning" Quotes from Ken
book, "Full Steam Ahead".

We need to create a vision, expressed in a mission statement, that will not only help us achieve the changes required to make our shop strong, but will serve to bring the vision to life in the
hearts of our members.

So, all that being said here are some questions.

1)What is our mission statement?

A) Mission: What do we do?

B) Purpose: Why are we doing this?

C) Values: How do we do it?

CNN's website uses their values on the "employment opportunities" page to define the kind of staff they are looking for:

"We want employees who, above all else, have a passion for delivering the news in fast, accurate, and compelling ways to the global public we serve. We are looking for CNN's future: people
with fresh ideas, innovative viewpoints, a willingness to work hard, with a commitment to the highest standards of journalism."

CNN's values jump off the page; fast, accurate, innovative, hard work, and the highest standards of journalism.

Here is a quote that expresses the IBEW's vision and values.

"I am not satisfied that we all understand just how vital organizing is or what position it holds on our union's list of priorities. So let me repeat it one more time: organizing is the number one priority of this Brotherhood. Nothing trumps it. Nothing surpasses it. Every activity of this Brotherhood will be measured by how well it supports our organizing efforts." IBEW International President Edward Hill continues; "The key question for the future of the union is: How will we put those no-nonsense ideals into action?"

"There's a lot we're going to do differently, but the keys are coordination, cooperation and communication," says Cecil "Buddy" Satterfield who will be in thick of things as the recently
appointed Special Assistant to the International President for Membership Development.

"As anybody who has tried to organize new members knows, we face a lot of obstacles--the law, unprecedented employer resistance, and apathy and fear on the part of the workers themselves," Satterfield says, the passion rising up in Satterfield when he talks about how
workers today have been fed lies for too many years about the labor movement and how the laws governing organizing in the United States have eroded so badly that most workers are ignorant of their rights.

"These external problems are bad enough. But, as Ed Hill and Jerry O'Connor have emphasized, they're only part of the picture. We have got to remove the internal obstacles that we ourselves have created that are preventing us from really making organizing the top priority in the IBEW--not just talk."

"Those internally generated obstacles include a lack of coordination or even rivalry among different branches of the Brotherhood, an adherence to inflexible ways of doing business that
have hindered newly organized workers and contractors--especially in the construction industry--from enjoying the full benefits of membership in the IBEW, and a lack of coordination that has caused organizers to duplicate efforts and reinvent campaigns from scratch when valuable information and precedents were available".

"In restructuring the IBEW's organizing operations, President Hill's goal is to strengthen and energize the existing structure of the union to support increased organizing."

"What does this mean for the locals? Each local should expect a visit from an International Representative or organizer to talk about potential targets in their jurisdiction or how the local can assist in other campaigns that may be ongoing in an area or among the different locations of the same employer."

"Our goal is to energize our rank and file members so that they support and participate in the organizing mission. Our members have tremendous pride in our Brotherhood, and they are the best ambassadors we have when it comes to convincing nonunion workers--who might be their friends or neighbors or even relatives--to become part of the IBEW. Some members have told me that they never helped in the past because they were never asked.

We're going to ask."

President Hill says that "restructuring for its own sake won't help the IBEW meet its goals. This isn't about rearranging the furniture," he says. "This is about a whole new way of doing business so that we make sure we stay in business and keep the IBEW a strong and growing force for good in all the industries we represent."

Can you discover the IBEW's purpose and values from reading the above?

Do the IBEW's values and purpose coincide and support those of our shop?

What do we value?

What do our members value?

What is our purpose?

What is our Mission?

I look forward to your response. Take your time. The choices we make now, will direct the future of our working lives.




Some time back, I received a question from one of my IBEW Local 1212 Brothers at WPIX regarding why we pay union dues, when the non-union guy editing in the edit room next to his did not.

Wow, where to begin?

First, while shared jurisdiction allows WPIX to hire both represented and non-represented editors, we, as IBEW members, are paid substantially more than the non-union freelancer. Recent meetings between management and the IBEW are generating serious positive movement in how WPIX manages shared jurisdiction.

The union raises the baseline wages and working conditions through collective bargaining.

That non-union freelancer is paid better because union rates bring up non-union rates to discourage organizing.

The union provides shop stewards help with workplace issues, the strength of collective bargaining (without which I wouldn't be getting a full paycheck while at home injured), and the grievance/arbitration process for larger problem resolution.

The union is only as valuable and useful as the commitment of it's membership. IATSE meetings get hundreds of members attending, IBEW meetings get less than a dozen most of the time, then we wonder why the situation is where it is.

Most of the engineers in our shop never read our contract, never ask questions, never participate in the process, then complain about everything. We have to organize the organized to make our IBEW better.

The fellow who asked the question is one of our best and brightest. Engineers like him are the ones with the wherewithal to facilitate the changes we need to make our union strong and responsive to our members. He, and others like him, are key players in our efforts to make WPIX the best place to work in Broadcasting.

We finally have some good people at the International and the IBEW Local 1212 hall, give them some feedback and support, and we'll all get even more value for our union dues.

Woody Allen said "98% of success is showing up". Our people have to start showing up, not just to work, but to union meetings. The challenges we face require everyone's help, not just the usual suspects.

We have a lot of work to do. We need salary parity with Fox5 and WWOR for both staff and freelance IBEW Engineers. We need a real Pension Plan, 401K with employer match, ESOP, and employer contributions to the IBEW Annuity Fund for both staff and freelancers.

Our freelancers need employer contributions to the Entertainment Industry Flex Plan so they can finally get health benefits. We need a minimum staffing clause and better work rules to keep us safe on the job. Seniority needs to be protected and we need a better severance package and better recall rights in the event of a layoff.

We need to finish addressing shared jurisdiction and deal with the company's drug testing policy issue.

We need to organize the non-union departments at WPIX. EDP/Traffic, Promotions, the Librarians, Production Assistants, Clerical Support Staff, and any other WPIX employee eligible for Union representation should all be IBEW Local 1212 members.

The success of the recent 18 day IATSE Local 1 stagehand strike is a great example of how trust, integrity, and solidarity really works.

It is nice to win one now and then. The support from the actors, musicians, ushers, box office staff, and porters that work in the theaters was great, but not surprising. If IATSE Local 1 stagehands had accepted a pay cut in the middle of the most profitable period in the history of Broadway, the Producers would have expected the same from all the other crafts as well.

The real surprise was the support from the public and the other people working in the theater district. Cab drivers and truckers honked to show support and stopped between fares to offer kind words. Waiters and deli owners brought coffee and food to the stagehands on the picket line. Hotel and restaurant workers came and walked the line with us.

I have always been a trade unionist and believe that we are indeed our brother's keepers. This most recent experience, while difficult and uncomfortable, proves what can be accomplished by workers standing together against the short sightedness and greed of big corporations.

I like to think that the lights on Broadway burn a little bit brighter tonight, as if the theaters themselves are as proud of us as we are to work in them.

Let's remember this lesson when issues come up at WPIX. Let's remember to be in solidarity with our staff and freelance AFTRA, DGA, IATSE, and Newspaper Guild brothers and sisters.

Remember what Benjamin Franklin said to the members of the First Continental Congress:

"We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

All the best,


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

CBS pulls plug on 20 projects

By Nellie Andreeva

The Hollywood Reporter

In the latest fallout from the writers strike, CBS has trimmed its development slate, letting go of about 20 projects, most of them dramas.

On Friday, the network contacted the reps for the projects, most of which hail from CBS' primary supplier, sister studio CBS Paramount Network TV. Also affected are scripts from Sony Pictures TV, 20th Century Fox TV and ABC Studios.

The list of terminated projects is said to include CBS Par's drama "Brothers Grimm," from writer Stephen Carpenter and Sean Hayes' Hazy Mills Prods., and a 20th TV-produced comedy from writer Barbie Adler.

"Due to the ongoing writers strike, our development needs for the upcoming pilot season have changed, and we have released some comedy and drama scripts," CBS said. "This year's pilot season, at best, will be played out in a very compressed time frame. In this landscape, we are better served creatively, financially and strategically by focusing our development on a more targeted number of projects."

Other networks also might truncate their 2008-09 development slates because of the strike.

Fox declined comment on its plans citing competitive reasons. NBC also declined comment, while reps for ABC couldn't be reached for comment.

The timing of the writers strike dealt a serious blow to the traditional development season. When the strike began Nov. 5, less than a quarter of the scripts commissioned by the networks had been delivered.

Now the 11-week-old writers walkout has put the pilot season in limbo, forcing the nets to mull shortening, postponing or even scrapping it.

The vast majority of the scripts released by CBS had not been handed over to the network. While some writers normally receive some upfront money, their script fees are largely paid upon delivery of the script, something that won't happen now.

The script purge by CBS is the latest cost-cutting measure implemented by the TV networks and studios since the beginning of the writers strike.

It comes on the heels of the termination of about 70 overall deals by the five major TV studios under the pacts' force majeure provisions.

Letter from ICG Local 600 President Poster


Dear Members:

As so many of us were hoping for last week, the Directors Guild of America negotiated a groundbreaking agreement with the AMPTP that sets the stage for getting IATSE members and the industry back to work.

After spending two million dollars researching new media (which took over a year to complete) and a month of informal discussions with the studios, the DGA created a model for every Union and Guild to follow.

The DGA:

  • Won jurisdiction over programs produced by AMPTP producers for the internet.
  • Doubled residual payments for TV and feature downloads from what producers currently pay.
  • Established residual rates for ad-supported streaming and use of clips on the internet.

John Wells, former Writers Guild of America President, who has been involved in his Union's negotiations for 20 years said, "This is the best deal I've seen that anyone's been able to negotiate."

He also praised the DGA for getting the studios to open up their books for unprecedented reviews by the Guild.

I agree.

I am happy to report that the WGA has agreed to meet informally this week with the studio heads of Disney and Fox.

The WGA strike is now three-months old. It has shut down more than 100 television shows, crippled feature production and put thousands of our IATSE brothers and sisters out of work, scrambling to make their next house payment and pay their utility bills Now that the DGA has negotiated a template, the Writers Guild negotiators have no more excuses. Pilot season is hanging by a thread. The WGA should drop their proposals to raid the IATSE's jurisdiction in animation and post-production and make a deal that gets our members working again.

If you are having trouble making house or car payments, utility bills or are in need of a loan, please visit Local 600's website at


Steven Poster ASC

National President

IATSE Local 600

Current NBC/NABET contract

Here is a link to the current NABET Local 11 contracts:




Here are the NABET Local 11

Fight Over FCC’s Big-Media Ownership Rule

by James Parks, Dec 19, 2007

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps addresses the Stop Big Media Rally in front of the FCC headquarters in October.

Unions representing media workers roundly condemned yesterday’s decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow big-media moguls like Rupert Murdoch to swallow up more local media across the country and reduce the diversity of news and programming.

Ignoring strong public sentiment against the move, the FCC approved on a 3–2 party-line vote Chairman Kevin Martin’s proposal to allow a single corporation to own both a broadcast and newspaper operation in the 20 largest media markets as long as at least eight other independent news sources exist in that market.

The Republican majority on the FCC also voted to approve more than 40 waivers for pre-existing cross-owned combinations in markets large and small. These waivers will shield companies like the Tribune, News Corporation, Media General and Gannett from even the weak standards of Martin’s new media ownership rules, according to the media advocacy group Free Press. Click here to demand that Congress overturn the new FCC rules.

In a joint statement, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), the Communications Workers of America (CWA), The Newspaper Guild-CWA (TNG-CWA) and the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA (NABET-CWA) expressed strong concern that the FCC did not require that any merged newspaper-broadcast operation in the same market to maintain separate newsroom and editorial staffs, an addition that would have helped to ensure an independent editorial voice in communities.

They also stressed that ensuring a diverse media is more critical than ever in today’s environment and raised concerns about the impact of consolidation on competition, diversity of opinion and quality jobs.

The unions had called on the FCC to provide a full public review of the proposed rule, including a 90-day comment period as well as an open process to resolve issues of local control and women’s and minority ownership of broadcast media.

Tom Carpenter, AFTRA’s general counsel and legislative director, said:

As the ownership rules are relaxed, we will see even further consolidation and editorial control by just a few corporations. This rule change is contrary to the FCC’s mandate to safeguard diversity of local voices and the public interest.

TNG-CWA President Linda Foley said more, not fewer, safeguards are needed to promote media diversity. In the United States, local television and newspaper media markets already are highly concentrated, and most cities are one-newspaper towns, she said.

Today, most Americans get their news from local sources. The FCC’s action means that fewer distinct, local media voices will be available as news sources for citizens. Particularly in markets that already are highly concentrated, these changes fail to protect the public interest.

NABET-CWA President John Clark, adds:

Our members know what happens when one company owns more than one TV station or a major TV station and the monopoly newspaper in the same market. The owner merges operations, slashes jobs and reduces the quantity and quality of the news.

FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, the only two Democrats on the commission, opposed the new rule. The two conducted field hearings on the proposal and heard consumers complain that media was already too consolidated and that local news and diverse views were being sacrificed for the corporate bottom line.

In his dissent, Copps said the decision was:

unconnected to good policy and not even incidentally concerned with encouraging media to make our democracy stronger. We are not concerned with gathering valid data, conducting good research or following the facts where they lead us.

Our motivations are less Olympian and our methodology far simpler—we generously ask big media to sit on Santa’s knee, tell us what it wants for Christmas, and then push through whatever of these wishes are politically and practically feasible. No test to see if anyone’s been naughty or nice. Just another big, shiny present for the favored few who already hold an FCC license—and a lump of coal for the rest of us. Happy holidays!

Adelstein said:

Sadly, today, quality journalism is too often sacrificed to meet quarterly earnings numbers for Wall Street. Owners of multiple media outlets lose incentive to invest in independent and competitive news operations in the same market. The Commission’s own study…shows that locally owned TV stations provide more local news. And while the Commission has failed to complete a similar study of radio, we have heard across the country that homogenized playlists and payola are shutting out local musicians, and unmanned radio stations have replaced local DJs.

Click here to read Copps’ dissent and here for Adelstein’s.

However, the final word may come from Congress. Last week, 26 senators from both sides of the aisle sent a strongly worded letter to Martin warning:

If you proceed to take final action on this rule on December 18 without having given a reasonable opportunity for comment on the actual rules and study the related issues, we will immediately move legislation that will revoke and nullify the proposed rule.

On Dec. 4, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation unanimously passed the bipartisan Media Ownership Act of 2007 (S. 2332)—a bill that would direct the FCC to conduct a separate proceeding on local ownership and create an independent minority and female ownership task force before moving forward with any changes to media ownership limits.

The bill, introduced by Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.), also would ensure a 90-day period for the public to comment on any proposed rules.

In addition, more than 20 civil rights groups have called upon the FCC to first address the media diversity crisis before considering any new rules.

Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, says the fight is definitely not over.

It’s time to raise hell. More than two dozen senators have already vowed to throw out these new rules. And the courts won’t look too kindly on the broken and corrupt process that brought us to today’s vote. The fight is far from over. The growing public outcry is only going to get louder.

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Tags: Federal Communications Commission, FCC, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFTRA, Communications Workers of America, CWA, The Newspaper Guild, National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, NABET, Linda Foley, John Clark, Michael Copps, Jonathan Adelstein, union, unions