Monday, June 22, 2009

Swim at Your Own Risk

By Michael Malone
Broadcasting & Cable

Stations involved in content pools may save money. But they could also jeopardize ratings—and revenue.

Local television is increasingly looking like an episode of Survivor. In the six months since NBC and Fox officially launched the first content-sharing Local News Service (LNS) in Philadelphia, new station alliances have been popping up seemingly every week. He's in cahoots with her, and she's in talks about teaming up with that guy—all in the name of keeping the tiki torch aflame one more week. Phoenix alone has two separate alliances—the Meredith, Belo and Gannett stations have banded together on a helicopter, and the Fox, Scripps and Meredith outlets pool ground content.

Whether you call it “commodity coverage” or “press-conference coverage,” most broadcasters agree that the sitting targets they cover each day—the mayoral address, the ribbon-cutting—don't require five different camera crews. And as the strategy goes, those freed-up resources do way more good when redirected toward the stories that can have a lasting impact on the community.

Fox Senior VP of News Operations Sharri Berg says the LNS partnership in Philadelphia has already benefited viewers there. “It's allowed the stations to focus on the pieces that make them different,” she says. “With an increased story count, we're able to cover more community events and more local news.”

But as such partnerships become the norm, industry watchers are concerned about the long-term impact on local news. Research often reveals that viewers in a given market see the local newscasts as essentially the same. While it's easy to understand a station's desire to cut costs these days, some wonder if pooling only serves to lower local news' esteem in the eyes of viewers. A recent Frank N. Magid Associates study across multiple markets revealed that “noticeably unique local market content” is at an all-time low. “Content-gathering cooperatives, while offering tempting efficiencies, may ultimately be a slippery slope to a commodity position,” says Magid's Media Strategy Group President Steve Ridge. And in what sounds like a portent, Ridge adds, “Unique content that differentiates is the key to future success, if not survival.”


The concept of TV rivals sharing content is not new. Networks have, of course, been pooling video on stories like presidential speeches for decades, and stations have shared footage of court cases.

About three years ago, executives from Young's KRON San Francisco, feeling the kind of financial pressure that the rest of the broadcasting world would eventually experience, approached two stations with a framework for sharing content in the Bay Area. The venture died, but the model has lived on. “The necessity was so great to cut expenses and find a new way of doing things,” says then-KRON President/General Manager Mark Antonitis. “Even then, everyone saw the merit of it.”

Nexstar has for years plugged a similar philosophy with its “virtual duopoly” strategy. Its stations provide sales and news services to a competing station in 70% of the markets where Nexstar owns an outlet. “We've been doing it since before it was cool,” quips President/CEO Perry Sook.

Early indications are that the 19-person LNS venture in Philly has been successful on many levels. Costs are down “significantly,” says WTXF VP/General Manager Mike Renda, the amount of fresh content has increased, and the principals say the competitive culture continues to thrive. Regarding station layoffs, LNS executives say downsizing has occurred for some time due to “bigger and broader issues with the economy,” and not as a direct result of LNS at this point.

“The feedback we've gotten is that this has gone as well as we expected,” says NBC Local Media President John Wallace. “We couldn't be more satisfied with the results.”

Fox O&O WTXF has added 20% more fresh content per day thanks to LNS, according to a spokesperson, with a wider variety of stories to choose from. Harry Hairston, investigative reporter at NBC O&O WCAU, says the arrangement has freed him up to chase down signature interviews while LNS does the legwork on video. One example saw Hairston report a story on criminals selling homes they didn't actually own; while LNS shot footage of authorities at a press conference, Hairston tagged along with police as they arrested the perpetrators.

“They'd already gotten the video I needed,” he says. “All I had to do was go after a special angle—the exclusive part for my piece.”


Viewers probably don't notice anything different about local newscasts after a share has launched. After watching both the Fox and NBC news programs in Philadelphia, Francesca Viola, assistant professor of journalism at Temple University, says that “where they are sharing video is not immediately apparent to me.” In Chicago, where stations owned by Fox, NBC, CBS and Tribune kick in resources to LNS, Anne Johnsos, broadcasting lecturer at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, didn't see anything out of the ordinary in the local news after the alliance launched May 11.

But while sharing has become the norm everywhere from Los Angeles to Dallas to New York, some have opted out. Oftentimes it's the market leaders, who typically figure they'd be putting in more than they'd get out, and don't fancy the idea of propping up a “weak sister” in the market, as one broadcast veteran put it. In Atlanta, Cox's pacesetting WSB continues to go it alone as Fox, Meredith and Gannett stations share. “We really like our independence,” VP/General Manager Bill Hoffman says, “and are hopeful we can hold onto it.”

The same goes for Chicago and New York, where ABC-owned stations have declined invitations to pools involving stations owned by Fox, NBC, CBS and Tribune. “We remain convinced the way to stand out is to provide coverage in our own unique way,” says WLS Chicago President/General Manager Emily Barr. “I understand and respect the others' position, but we feel this is what we need to do to remain strong.”

Other broadcast executives express concern that stations trumpeting their pooling pact are reinforcing viewers' notions that the local newscasts are indistinguishable from one another. One executive at a sizable station group says the share concept is perfectly logical, but doesn't think chirping about it serves the stations. “Just do the damn things,” the exec says. “Don't send out a press release about it.”

Media watchdogs have also voiced concern about how pooling affects local news. The journalism think-tank Poynter Institute, for one, posted a half-dozen “hazards” of local news pooling on The concerns include layoffs, weaker reporter-source relationships in a market's “halls of power,” and too much “who, what and where” at the expense of “why and how” in news stories.

While broadcasters acknowledge that even meager cost-cutting goes a long way in this economy, some are starting to wonder how much the savings outweigh the logistical headaches of a content share. WOIO/WUAB Cleveland VP/General Manager Bill Applegate says he's seen “modest savings” since commencing a video share with Gannett's WKYC in February. “In order for it to have a real economic effect, you need to have more than two stations participate,” he believes. “If you have four or five stations involved, then you'll see real savings.”


While the pool arrangement is a product of the foul economy, it's unlikely that the alliances will expire once the television business gets back on its feet. Fox, for one, plans to have pooling setups in place by the end of June for the 16 O&Os that produce news. Berg believes such shares are vital to Fox's continuing local strategy. “It's grown from a video-sharing partnership to a real breaking-news service,” she says of LNS.

Time will reveal how much extra Murrow-worthy reporting comes out of the arrangements; Applegate, for one, says pooling with Gannett simply allows the Raycom duopoly to sustain its current level of signature reporting in a harsh business environment. The content-share champions insist it is ultimately good for local news, and industry watchers are holding them to their word.

“If stations use it to free up resources for enterprise reporting, then something meaningful comes out of it,” says Bob Papper, professor and chair of journalism at Hofstra University. “If it's just about allowing stations to get rid of people, it has the potential to make a bad situation worse.”


By Michael Malone
Broadcasting & Cable

The pool will open just in time for the sticky New York summer, as WNYW, WNBC, WPIX and WCBS commence a video-sharing local news service June 22. The stations say they'll pool "video newsgathering resources for certain events, allowing each station to increase their focus on specialized enterprise reporting.

The stations will continue to operate independently in all other aspects of their businesses, including newsgathering operations."An independent managing editor will determine the stories to be covered each day by the service and arrange the collection and delivery of footage for each participating station.

The four owners-Fox, NBC, CBS and Tribune-are also involved in a Chicago partnership that launched in May. As is the case in Chicago, the ABC O&O in New York did not opt in.
Fox and NBC officially initiated the local news service concept in Philadelphia at the beginning of the year. The two and Tribune start a similar share in Los Angeles a week from today.
WNYW and WNBC will continue their partnership on aerial news footage.

Three L.A. Stations To Begin Local News Video Share June 15

Fox, NBC, Trib debut local news service

By Michael Malone
Broadcasting & Cable

Fox, NBC and Tribune have announced a local news service video share for Los Angeles. KTTV, KNBC and KTLA are involved in the alliance, which launches June 15. The arrangement is set for the trio to share seven days a week, but does not cover the overnight shift. Each station contributes personnel to the pool in the form of photographers and assignment editors.

The assignment desk will be housed at KNBC and overseen by KNBC veteran Kris Knutsen. “The gist of the agreement is that it frees up our news resources to allow them to do more enterprise news stories,” says KTTV VP/General Manager Kevin Hale. “It’s an efficient way to help us put on a better newscast.”

Fox and NBC were the first to debut a formal news share for their stations, officially launching in Philadelphia in January after an extended trial period. The idea behind such shares is to cut costs by limiting the number of crews going to cover standard news events and free them up for more substantial stories.

An arrangement between Fox, Scripps and Gannett for Tampa launched Tuesday. Stations owned by Fox, NBC and Tribune are also working together in Chicago, along with CBS O&O WBBM. That launched May 11. KCBS opted out of the Los Angeles agreement, but Hale says stations remain invited to join in the share. “It’s a good example of looking at efficiencies that we all need to look at,” he says. KTTV and KNBC are also exploring a helicopter share that’s separate from Tuesday’s LNS announcement.

Friday, June 19, 2009

ABC unveils reorganized operations

By Joe Flint
Los Angeles Times

The network combines its programming and production units in a cost-cutting move.

Driven by a need to overhaul its program development process and cut costs, Walt Disney Co.'s ABC has finalized a complex consolidation of its ABC Entertainment and ABC Studios operations. The restructuring and creation of the ABC Entertainment Group, announced in January but completed only Thursday, will combine many of the business and creative functions of the two units.

The move follows a similar restructuring at NBC Universal, which late last year also combined its NBC network programming operations with its production studio and reduced staff. CBS and News Corp.'s Fox continue to operate their network and production studios as separate divisions.

As part of the merger, ABC is cutting 35 positions from the unit, which has between 300 and 400 employees. Those cuts follow 400 jobs that ABC eliminated across the network in January.

Stephen McPherson, who was president of ABC Entertainment and is now president of the new entity, said the reorganization would "make us a stronger, more efficient team."Hollywood, long immune to economic downturns, has not been so lucky in the current recession.

Disney's cable sports behemoth ESPN is eliminating 200 positions, and late last year Viacom Inc.'s MTV Networks, which includes cable channels MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, cut 800 jobs. MySpace, News Corp.'s social-networking website, shed more than 400 employees this week.

ABC and NBC hope that a streamlined programming process will help turn the networks around.

Under the new structure, McPherson's top lieutenant is Executive Vice President Jeff Bader, the network's scheduling guru, who will now also oversee distribution for the unit across all platforms. Barry Jossen, who had been a key executive at ABC Studios, will also serve as Executive Vice President with oversight over creative production, while Executive Vice President Suzanne Patmore-Gibbs will be responsible for scripted programming. Kim Rozenfeld, ABC's senior vice president of current programming, is leaving his post but is expected to sign a production deal with the network.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

IBEW Local 1212 Election Results

687 Votes were cast, 37% of the membership voted
443 by voting machine
244 by absentee ballot

Business Manager and Financial Secretary

Ralph Avigliano 519 70% of the votes cast !!!!
Keith Morris 158


Frank Viskup 353
Vadim Kuznetsov 276

Vice President

Michael Fosso 423
Richard Ross 157

Recording Secretary

Perry Russel 479


Gary Urhan 476

Nine (9) Executive Board Members

Cheryl Thomas 398
Benjamin Link 385
Vincent Butler 377
John Costa 345
Robert Taussig 326
Phillip LaPelusa 324
Elliot Greenblatt 322
Kenneth Romano 309
Scott Magliola 295

Philip Doyle 291
Michael Naeder 287
James Talluto 284
Linda Moats 207
Frank Aragundi 175
Gary Roth 167
Thomas Reifenheiser 152

Seven (7) International Convention Delegates

Ralph Avigliano 410
Michael Fosso 280
Benjamin Link 279
John Costa 260
Vincent Butler 246
Elliot Greenblatt 240
Cheryl Thomas 234

Frank Viskup 232
Phillip LaPelusa 215
Vadim Kuznetsov 212
Gary Moore 210
Michael Naeder 177
Keith Morris 172
Scott Magliola 153
Philip Doyle 144
Robert Taussig 143
Linda Moats 103
Perry Russell 83
Thomas Reifenheiser 80
Gary Urhan 78

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Greg Calvin Supprts Ralph Avigliano For Bussiness Manager of IBEW Local 1212

Greg J Calvin wrote to the members of IATSE Local 100 and the IBEW 1212 members who work at MSG:

We are still working to get IBEW 1212 to let us vote on the MSGcontract we work under but believe it or not we all can vote on the IBEW1212 Officer elections that are going on right now.

The IBEW 1212 Officer elections are being held at:

The Edison Hotel
228 W 47th St.
New York, NY
Between Broadway and 8th Ave.

The elections are running continuously from 11 AM today Tuesday, June 16 to 2 PM tomorrow, June 17 (The polls are open for 27 hours).

You must be paid up on your dues to vote so if you are not please stop by the IBEW 1212 offices first to pay your dues from 9:30 AM - 4:30PM.

They are located at:

IBEW Local 1212
225 West 34th Street
New York, NY 10122

The fact that we are still trying to get to vote on a contract we work under is reason enough for everyone of us to get into the city and vote. The current Business Manager is the one responsible for notletting us vote on our contract.

It is time for a change.

We all need to show IBEW that we are not going to stand for this type of representation by electing a new Business Manager: Ralph Avigliano. He has campaigned for union democracyand communication which are two things we do not get under the current regime.

Please take the time and vote. The polls are open right now until 2 PM tomorrow.



A Message From Ralph Avigliano

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As our Local 1212 election process comes to a close, I would like to personally thank the members for their unprecedented participation and support.

With the many emails, website postings, letters, phone calls, and personal conversations during this election, our members have shown they truly care and wish to be directly involved in their future.

This level of enthusiasm continues to inspire me. Going forward, we must continue to nurture and support this level of engagement with our membership. I am grateful for your time and participation. I hope you feel satisfied that I have answered your questions so that you may make an informed decision.

Our trade is based on advancing technologies that never cease to develop and change. We must embrace this, for change is the inspiration for innovation, creativity and ultimately, the expansion of our jurisdiction in this vital industry.

Allow me to leave you with the words of another Ralph – a better writer than I – Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm". In recent weeks, your enthusiasm has been unmistakable.

I know that together, we will achieve great things.


Ralph Avigliano
IBEW Local 1212

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Media Monopoly

Tribune CEO Sam Zell, who runs the company that owns The Hartford Courant and Fox 61 television, recently pledged to state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal that the two media outlets would decide independently on coverage issues.

Zell was trying to calm Blumenthal’s concerns that Tribune was violating federal rules on cross ownership of media outlets in the same market. Tribune has received a temporary waiver of the rules from the Federal Communications Commission, but Blumenthal had questioned whether recent consolidation efforts had gone beyond what the FCC envisioned when the waiver was granted.

“I support exploration of innovative, alternative arrangements and business models that may allow newspapers to survive and continue to play their vital role holding government and business accountable,” Blumenthal wrote to Zell. “To advance this vision and goal, it must expand access to information and competition, not produce media monopolies that shut out voices, perspectives and important news stories.”

Not to worry, Zell responded. The two news outlets “will continue to decide independently what news to present and how to present it to their print, broadcast and Internet audiences,” Zell wrote to Blumenthal.

Before Zell sent his letter to Blumenthal, he should have checked in on what the people running the Courant and Fox 61 had been planning for the past few months.

Here are some examples:

• Channel 61’s studio is in the process of being moved to The Courant’s newsroom on Broad Street.

• A single person was installed to lead the combined newsrooms and, more recently, a longtime Courant editor was moved into a newly created position to oversee assignments for both the print and television operations.

• In internal memos, Tribune executives have boasted that the “News content alignment project” has been initiated and that “all platforms report to one department head.”
The new “assignment czar” is “immersing himself in the work flow of the TV news operation,” according to an internal Tribune memo.

The memo continues that “the role will be pivotal in helping our news organizations to coordinate content, improve quality through collaboration and avoid unnecessary duplication.”

It can’t be any clearer that the print, online and television journalists are going to get their marching orders from a single source. Zell either has no clue about what is happening in Hartford or thinks that Blumenthal is stunningly naive.

The attorney general has already responded once to Zell’s letter, sounding very much like a politician when he declared he was “encouraged by Mr. Zell’s pledge that Fox 61 and the Hartford Courant will continue making news decisions — what to cover and how to present it — separately and independently. Such editorial independence is important to assuring diversity of viewpoints, coverage and opinions in the Hartford news market.”

Blumenthal is correct. It is critically important to a free society that a single media source not monopolize the dissemination of information, especially when the motive is to cut costs with little consideration to whether its public-service obligations are being met.

There are, of course, plenty of supporters of the combine-and-cut theory of newsroom ownership — corrupt corporate executives and incompetent politicians, among them.

Now is the time for an attorney general, who over the years, has taken on much-less important and murkier issues to take a strong stand against Tribune Co.’s creation of a multi-media monster that flaunts federal communication rules.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Washington Post May Protect Favored Union Workers

By Greg Bensinger

-- Washington Post Co. union members approved a new two-year contract today that will protect 25 percent of newspaper employees from future job cuts without taking their seniority into account.

The Washington-based publisher may identify 25 percent of employees it wants to protect from job cuts without regard to length of tenure, a switch from contracts that stipulated the newest hires must be let go first, according to the union’s Web site.

“It seems that the Washington Post is trying to chip away at seniority rules,” said Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. “The newspaper could protect only the lower paid employees, for instance.”

The contract, covering about 960 union reporters and other workers, was approved today, said Joe Kahraman, a Washington- Baltimore Newspaper Guild representative, in an e-mail. An exact vote tally wasn’t immediately available, he said.

Washington Post has been combining sections and cutting jobs at its flagship newspaper amid an advertising sales plunge. The newspaper’s ad revenue declined 33 percent in the first quarter.

Post employees aren’t granted salary increases in the new contract and will receive as much as a $1,000 payment from the publisher this year, according to the site. The contract will also provide for some Washington Post Web site employees to join the Guild for the first time.

“The agreement strikes a fair and responsible balance in this difficult climate for both newspapers and the overall economy,” said Rima Calderon, a Washington Post spokeswoman, in an e-mail. She didn’t provide details on any savings for the company.

Washington Post’s newspaper division, which includes the Herald of Everett, Washington, lost $53.8 million in the first quarter after writing down $13.4 million of the Post’s value. The unit reported an operating profit of $1.2 million last year.

Washington Post fell 40 cents to $344.90 at 4:07 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have lost 12 percent this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Bensinger in New York at

MSG Contract and the Away Feed IBEW Engineers

Letter To:

Mr. Donald C. Siegel
International Vice-President
Third District, IBEW
(412) 269-4963

12 June 2009

Dear Vice President Siegel,

The membership of IBEW Local 1212 needs your assistance regarding the upcoming MSG contract ratification vote.

We need the International to step in and help ensure that the freelancers working under the MSG agreement are given the right participate in the contract ratification vote.

I have been a member of IBEW Local 1212 since 1980, working as a freelance video engineer, robotic camera operator, tape operator/editor, A2, and utility until 1999, when I became a staff engineer at WPIX.

Freelancers in IBEW Local 1212 have always been considered an after thought, particularly the Away Feed sports crews. This group of highly skilled, dues paying, professionals deserve fair participation and proactive representation.

The Local 1212 By-Laws under Article V Business Manager Section 3 (c) say the following:

(c) Nothing in these bylaws shall be construed as granting the Business Manager authority to sign agreements or contracts between the Local Union and Employers unless such agreements or contracts have first been approved and ratified by the employees of the particular Employer involved.

Since Sideletter #1, Visiting Broadcasters’ Feeds, was ratified in 2006, all Away Feed technicians who have worked 1 game are now employees of Madison Square Garden Network and to further prove the point all were required to attend a company orientation and drug test if they had not previously done so.

They were all given a Madison Square Garden Photo ID and were paid W2 wages under the collective bargaining agreement between IBEW Local 1212 and Madison Square Garden Network.

Since the Away Feed technicians are “employees of the particular Employer involved”, all should get to participate in the approval and ratification of this contract before the Business Manager has the authority to sign the agreement according to IBEW Local 1212 By-Laws.

The tentative agreement is scheduled to be voted on by June 18, 2009.

If 75-100 Away Feed employees are not allowed to vote on the ratification of this contract the Business Manager would be in violation of the IBEW Local 1212 By-Laws if he continues to block these members from voting and then signs the contract.

Please step in and direct IBEW Local 1212 to allow ALL the members working under the MSG agreement to participate in the ratification vote.


Bob Daraio

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


By Richard Verrier
LA Times

The Screen Actors Guild wins residuals for shows that stream on the Internet and a 3% pay raise. The contract passes in a landslide vote.

Hollywood's largest actors union strongly endorsed a new film and TV contract, closing the chapter on a yearlong dispute with the major studios.The vote, which was expected to be close, drew a stronger show of support than anticipated from the membership of the Screen Actors Guild, with 78% voting for the deal and 22% opposing it.

Turnout was unusually high by SAG standards, with 35% of 110,000 union members casting ballots. The approval comes nearly a year after the guild's last contract expired and is largely similar to a deal the studios offered the union last fall. SAG's bargaining clout was hurt by the weak economy and what critics called a series of strategic missteps by the union's former chief negotiator, Doug Allen, who was ousted in a boardroom revolt in January.

Though the contract was expected to be ratified, the vote puts to rest lingering fears in Hollywood that the entertainment industry would face another strike after last year's damaging walkout by writers.

It also could help spur some independent film production, which has been held up because of the dispute. The uncertainty had caused some insurance companies to stop issuing completion bonds, which guarantee that a film will be done on time and within budget, that independent filmmakers depend on. The two-year contract was patterned after similar agreements negotiated last year with three other talent unions. It includes an immediate pay increase of 3% and, for the first time, gives actors residual pay for shows that stream on websites such as Hulu that enable viewers to watch them free of charge.

SAG's members had been sharply at odds over the terms. Stars lined up on either side of dueling campaigns. A group of A-list actors led by Tom Hanks and George Clooney backed the contract, saying it was the best that could be had in a difficult economic climate.

A group that included former SAG President Ed Asner and Martin Sheen blasted the agreement, saying it shortchanged actors for work that is distributed on the Internet.

Underscoring the divisions, the contract was supported by a majority of the board and the union's executive director but opposed by the union's president, Alan Rosenberg, who vigorously campaigned against it.

Rosenberg was an ardent backer of Allen, the former executive director, who was ousted after a group of dissident actors won control of the board in elections last fall. They replaced Allen with veteran negotiator John McGuire and David White, the union's former general counsel."I think members were ready to get back to work," White said. "Members clearly felt that this is a deal that provides solid gains and lays a foundation for the future."

Adam Arkin, star of the "Chicago Hope" TV series and a SAG board member, said the contract secured important gains, including ensuring that SAG's next round of negotiations would line up with those of other talent unions. "This got our foot in the door in new media and put us on the right timetable," he said.

But Rosenberg, who had predicted that the contract would be voted down, said he was deeply disappointed. "This is a bad contract and I think it's going to have a really devastating impact on our members," he said.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

N.Y. Television Stations to Pool Video News Content

By Katy Bachman
Media Week

Four TV stations in the nation's largest TV market announced Monday (June 8) have formed a local news service to pool video newsgathering resources, a practice that is fast becoming standard operating procedure in major markets.

The local news service will launch June 22. In New York, the four stations that agreed to form the LNS are: WNYW-TV, Fox Television's owned-and-operated station; WNBC-TV, NBC Universal's owned-and-operated station; WPIX-TV, Tribune's The CW affiliate; and WCBS-TV, CBS Television's owned-and-operated stations.

While the stations may share video, each station will operate independently, putting its own spin to commonly-covered stories.

In addition to the LNS, WNYW-TV and WNBC-TV will continue to share their aerial news footage partnership.

The LNS began as an experiment in Philadelphia between the Fox and NBCU O&Os but has quickly spread to other markets and other station groups. So far, stations have launched an LNS in a number of markets such as the markets the Chicago, Atlanta, Tampa, Washington, D.C., Detroit and Phoenix.

In Los Angeles, (Fox's KTTV, NBC's KNBC, and Tribune's KTLA) are ready to join the video sharing throng on June 15.Like the other local news services around the country, the New York LSN is run by an independent managing editor who will determine the stories to be covered each day by the news service.

The video produced by the LSN will be used for all local TV video, including on air, online and mobile.

Brian Donathan, a Graduate student in Temple University’s Master’s of Journalism program. has a blog detailing his internship with Fox29 in Philadelphia, PA.

In his Blog, Brian will be writing about his experiences working directly for the newly implemented Local News Service (LNS). LNS is a joint venture between The Fox Television Stations and NBC Local Media designed to pool news gathering efforts within a single market.

"The LNS desk, not unlike the regular Fox29 newsdesk, is a practice in multi-tasking –answering phones, ingesting video shot by both WCAU’s LNS crew and our own, updating information in the news queue as it becomes available, coordinating photog logistics, and trying to pick up breaking news on those ridiculously difficult to comprehend emergency scanners."

"As always, questions arose throughout the night about what LNS should and should not be covering. The Fox29 newsdesk, only one floor above, called a couple of times wondering if we were heading out to the scene of a fire or a shooting in North Philadelphia."

"Other concerns arise when it comes to the organization of everything coming into the LNS newsroom. LNS has essentially become a second news division, and as information comes in — particuarly video — it must all be organized not only for the LNS crew, but also for the Fox29 crew upstairs. LNS at Fox29 is using the exact same database used by the newsroom for Fox29’s editors and producers."

"If LNS does not continuously update the incoming information Fox29 will not know what’s going on in terms of what video or SOT is available. At the same time LNS is responsible for making sure incoming video, whether it is something the photog brought in by hand or is feeding from a live truck in the field, gets into the hands of the newsroom at NBC10. It’s a constant exchange with both stations, and organization is crucial."

Check out Figuring Out A Model For LNS .

Boston Globe's largest union rejects cuts

By Robert Gavin
Boston Globe Staff Reporter

The Boston Globe's largest union tonight narrowly rejected $ 10 million in wage and benefit cuts, and about an hour later the paper's ownerdeclared an impasse in negotiations and imposed a 23 percent pay cut on theunion's members, effective next week.

The move by The New York Times Co., which said the Globe's dire financial condition gave it no choice, could quickly shift the bitter contract dispute from the bargaining table to the National Labor Relations Board and federal courts.

The Boston Newspaper Guild, which represents nearly 700 editorial, advertising, and business office workers, has told members it would file unfair labor practice charges with the board, andseek a court order blocking the Times Co. from imposing the pay cut.

In a statement, Globe spokesman Robert Powers said management was disappointed by the vote, and that the company must now move ahead with the deep pay cut. He said the company sent a letter advising Guild officials of the move tonight.

"As we have stated, the $10 million in cost savings from this multifaceted proposal is essential to The Boston Globe's financial future," Powers said. "We regret having to take this action, but have nofinancially viable alternative."

Guild president Daniel Totten declined comment on the company's move to implement the 23 percent pay cut until he could review the letter. After the vote, Totten said in a statement, "With today's vote, members of the Boston Newspaper Guild have said that The New York Times Company must do better than the offer that was presented. Globe workers and the New England community understand that the quality of The Boston Globe — an institution so vital to the life and culture of the region — depends on the fair treatment of the men and women who work so hard to produce it."

Guild members, with about 80 percent participating, voted 277 to 265 to reject the company's contract offer, which included pay cuts totalling more than 10 percent; deep cuts to health and retirement benefits,including a pension freeze; and the elimination of lifetime job guarantees for about 170 veteran members.

The Guild is the only one of the Globe's four major unions to reject concessions the Times Co. said it needs to continue operating the Globe, projected to lose $85 million this year without significant cost savings.

In early April, the Times Co. said it would shutter the Globe, New England's largest newspaper, unless the paper's unions agreed to a combined $20 million, with half demanded from Guild.
Unions representing mailers, press operators, and delivery truck drivers approved concessions worth nearly a combined $10 million.

In declaring the impasse, the Times Co. said it tried its best to reach agreement with the Guild, but could not. The pay cut goes into effect next week and will appear in Guild employee checks on June 25, Globe management said.

"The urgency of the Globe's financial condition makes it imperative that we achieve those savings and savings negotiated with our other unions immediately," said Gregory Thornton, the Globe's chief negotiator, in a letter to Totten.

The Thornton letter also invited Totten to discuss the 23 percent paycut with management "any day this week," before it takes effect.

The Times Co.'s move represents another chapter in the contentious relations with the Guild. Unlike other unions, Guild leaders never reached a tentative agreement over concessions, promising only to bring the company's offer to members for a vote, without recommending for or against.

Still, union leaders signalled in several ways that they would not be unhappy if members voted down the proposal. Totten, for example, said he was going to vote "no" in the hopes of negotiating a better deal.

Both sides would embark on a risky path by moving from the bargaining table to the legal process, according to labor law specialists. Unfair labor practice cases hinge on whether negotiations were conducted in "goodfaith," a term with a definition that is murky at best, said Thomas Kohler, a Boston College law professor.

As a result, these cases can drag on for months, if not years. The Detroit newspaper strike of 1995 was launched after management declared an impasse in contract negotiations and imposed its own conditions on union workers. The case was litigated into the next decade.

"There is no litmus test that the bargaining is in good faith,"said Kohler. "It's a messy process and it can be lengthy."

Guild members would likely have to live with the onerous pay cut until the case is resolved because courts rarely grant orders to block such moves while the cases are being litigated, according to labor law specialists. On the other hand, the Times Co. could be liable for dollars in back salaries and interest should the Guild challengeeventually succeed.

Ultimately, the best outcome for both sides might be to negotiate adeal, said Gary Chaison, professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester.

"If the United Auto Workers can settle with General Motors on the brink of bankruptcy, why can't the Times Co. settle with its reporters?"Chaison said.

In many ways, today passed like any other day at the 137-year-old newspaper. But with Guild members voting in a large numbers — turnout exceeded 80 percent — it was decidedly no typical day.

Some voted no, others voted yes, and still others paced the hallways at the paper unsure of how to vote.

"Either way, we're going to lose," said David Filipov, a reporter for 14 years at the Globe.

As Dina Rudick saw it, voting yes was the best of two terrible options. "The industry is in peril and for us to expect things to remain the same is ludicrous," said Rudick, a Globe photographer for the last seven years. "We may not like it, but we have got to evolve, and evolution may look like shrinking for now."

To read previous coverage of the issues facing The Boston Globe, click here.

Monday, June 8, 2009

IBEW MSG Agreement

Letter From Greg Calvin to IBEW Local 1212 and IATSE Local 100 Members:

Today Monday June 8th at 4:30 PM IBEW will be having membership meeting at their Local office located at:

225 West 34th Street, Room 1120, New York, NY 10122.

As outlined in my last e-mail. IBEW's business Manager hasreached a tentative agreement with MSG Network for all Home and Away Feed Basketball and Hockey events at Madison Square Garden. This agreement if ratified will run until May 31, 2013.

I was able to see a copy of this tentative agreement and there was absolutely nothing negotiated for the Away Feed freelancers. The Away Feed freelancers will continue to earn what is determined by the NBA and NHL respectively under what is called their "rate card". This is a 10 hour rate with no benefit contributions. Every hour worked will accumulate for eligibility in the MSG health planbut you must accumulate 750 hours in the calender year to qualify.

Since there are only 41 Knicks, 41 Rangers and 18 Liberty games of which the networks cover around 7 of these games and the Liberty rarely have any Away Feed covering the games, you would need to work every game to qualify for the health coverage. It is impossible to qualify under the current crewing practices. In other words there are no benefit contributions for working the Away Feeds under this new agreement.

The same freelancer working the home show at MSG is going to be paid $44.97/hr for 8 hours and $67.45 for any overtime hours after 8. This would equate to $494.67 for a Home show 10 hour day compared to the$430 for an Away Feed show 10 hour day on the NBA rate card for 2008-2009 season.

Under the current IATSE agreement the Away Feeds will make $464 for a 10 hour day in the 2009-2010 season plus an added $75.27 in employer paid benefit contributions for a grand total compensation of $540.02 for 10 hours at a comparable position in the IBEW contract. If you allow for a modest raise in the 2009-2010 NBA rate card there is still a substantial difference in the rates. If you are a TD, A1, V1 or Lead EVS the gap is much larger.

Let me make something perfectly clear. Under the rate card it is the home show's networks responsibility to provide a truck and crew for a fixed rate to the Away feed. This means that MSG is paying these IATSE away feed rates for Devils and Islanders because they are the home show network.

How could IBEW not be able to negotiate anything for the Away Feeds at Madison Square Garden knowing that the same employer they are negotiating with is paying higher rates with benefits in the same market for the same Away Feed clients?

The answer is the same it has been 20 years. IBEW just doesn't care about Freelancers. They have never done anything for the freelancers in this market and this tentative agreement with MSG is more of the same.


If you are a member of IBEW Local 1212 and you have worked Away Feeds at MSG you need to show up to this meeting tomorrow and demand thatyou have a vote on the ratification of this agreement. Every freelancerin this market should vote this agreement down.

Now IBEW is going to try and scare you by saying that this means you must go on strike. That is far from the truth. If the agreement is not ratified they can open up negotiations with the employer again and since the staff and per diems at MSG were represented in these negotiations they would not even need to be present.

They could reopen the negotiations just for the Away Feeds since there was no representation for the Away Feeds in the original negotiations.

The next thing you are going to hear is that the Away Feeds had the opportunity to sit in these negotiations. That is also far from the truth. One Away Feed show freelancer expressed interest in these negotiations back in August of 2008. He was originally told he was not allowed to sit in. Then after being ignored for several months he was finally allowed to sit in on one negotiation. Then he was ignored for several more months and then contacted at 3:30 PM by the Local 1212 Business Manager and told that he forgot to tell him but the next negotiation would be the following day.

The freelancer could not make that negotiation on theshort notice and the tentative agreement was settled in that final meeting.

The freelancer told the Local 1212 Business Manager back in 2008 that the only two points the Away Feed crews were interested in negotiating were equal pay with the home show Per diem rate and benefit contributions to the Flex Plan in place of the 750 hour qualification policy.

Nothing was negotiated for the Away Feed crews. The employer was told what the Away Feed shows wanted in the one meeting that the freelancer attended but nothing was ever negotiated after that.

Please show up tomorrow and demand representation from the union you are paying dues to represent and negotiate for you. If you can't make it call the local office at (212) 354-6770 and request that you be able to vote on the ratification of this agreement.

It is now up to the freelancers to stand up for themselves under this agreement.

Greg Calvin

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lenders May Get Control Of Tribune Company.

By Michael Oneal
Chicago Tribune

Debt-for-equity plan under discussion in bankruptcy reorganization could give biggest stake to creditors, spur Sam Zell's exit

Chicago-based Tribune Co. and its creditors are in the early stages of negotiating a plan of reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court that sources said likely would transfer control of the troubled media conglomerate from Chicago billionaire Sam Zell to a group of large banks and investors that holds $8.6 billion in senior debt. The plan is still taking shape, the sources said, and much could change as negotiations continue.

But the general contours of a new capital structure are coming into focus, and the plan centers on a debt-for-equity swap that probably would give the senior lenders a large majority ownership stake in the reorganized company. A source with knowledge of the situation said the plan would wipe out a $90 million warrant Zell negotiated as part of his $8.2 billion deal to take the company private in 2007. The warrant gives the Tribune Co. chairman the right to buy about 40 percent of the company for $500 million and is the basis of his control over Tribune Co., which owns the Chicago Tribune.

Zell also holds a $250 million note representing a loan he made to the company as part of the going-private transaction. That note, however, is near the bottom of the hierarchy of claims in Tribune Co.'s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case, and the source said it is unlikely it would retain any value as the capital reorganization proceeds.

Bankruptcy experts said the plan's outline raises questions about whether the senior lender group would want to retain Zell and his management team or seek new leadership for the company. It also poses the question of whether Zell would want to stay without a large ongoing stake in the company. Sources close to both the creditors and the company said it is too early to make such decisions and Tribune management continues to control the process because it currently has the exclusive right to propose whatever reorganization plan it wishes. But Zell's team has indicated that it wants to work toward a consensual plan with the company's creditors, which means issues such as who manages the company and whether those managers are given equity as part of an incentive package will be negotiated over time, experts said.

"It completely depends on whether the new owners see value in keeping Zell," said Douglas Baird, a corporate reorganization specialist at the University of Chicago Law School. "They have to decide: Is the person at the helm when the company went into the storm the most able person to steer it out?"

Zell was not available for comment, but in a statement Tribune Co. said he and his top managers "remain actively engaged and committed to this company. The restructuring is still in progress, and it is premature to speculate about the final ownership structure." Howard Seife, a partner with Chadbourne & Parke in New York, which represents the committee of unsecured creditors in the Tribune Co. case, said negotiations so far have been "fairly general and not particularly advanced."

The central logic behind the debt-for-equity swap is that Tribune Co. can no longer afford the nearly $13 billion in debt that grew out of Zell's $8.2 billion deal to take the company private in 2007. With advertising revenue in decline and the company's cash flow deflated, the company must shrink its obligations to a more sustainable level while giving creditors enough potential value in return that they agree to the cuts without a fight.

The senior creditors -- a group that includes large banks such as JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, as well as institutional investors and funds such as Oaktree Capital Management and Angelo, Gordon & Co. -- have claims worth $8.6 billion. But the senior debt is trading on the open market for about 30 cents on the dollar, suggesting the company may be worth somewhat less than $3 billion.

Consequently, sources said, it is generally assumed that the claims of these creditors overwhelm all others, and that it would take a large chunk of equity to satisfy them in a swap, arguably most of it. But since other groups are likely to press their claims anyway, the senior group may agree that creditors lower on the hierarchy should get some consideration in the restructuring plan so that the process doesn't bog down in court.

Although talks so far have been friendly and productive, sources said, management's plan of reorganization may still be months away. It helps that apart from plans to sell the Chicago Cubs, the company will likely stay intact, partly because values for newspapers and broadcast outlets are so depressed.

But there are other complications, including the question of what to do with Tribune Co.'s employee stock ownership plan.

Tribune Co. employees own 100 percent of the company's equity through an arcane, tax-advantaged corporate structure known as an S-Corp ESOP. But a tangle of S-Corp rules would make it difficult to give the senior lenders equity and maintain the S-Corp structure.

Among other things, an S-Corp can have only 100 shareholders, and they must be individuals, not corporations. A retirement plan like an ESOP, which can have thousands of members, is permissible. But a lender like JPMorgan would be prohibited, and Tribune Co.'s senior lender group has more than 100 members anyway.

Zell's team has argued to creditors that keeping the S-Corp structure adds value to the company. It shelters Tribune Co. from paying income taxes and facilitates the company's ability to spin off assets without paying capital gains taxes. Last year, for instance, the structure helped Zell's team construct a tax-advantaged deal to unload its Newsday metropolitan daily in New York for $650 million. It also is figuring prominently in plans to shelter Tribune Co. from a big tax bill stemming from its pending sale of the Cubs.

Jack Levin, a senior partner at Chicago's Kirkland & Ellis, said it would be possible to work out a plan that preserves the S-Corp ESOP and gives lenders an acceptable stake. But any solution would be highly complex.

One idea would be to put Tribune Co.'s assets into a partnership or limited liability corporation owned to a large degree by the lenders, with a small amount given to the S-Corp ESOP. The lenders would have to pay their share of income taxes, but the structure would retain a tax-advantaged vehicle to preserve the benefits of the Newsday and Cubs deals.

Another idea would be to give the lenders warrants convertible to equity at the end of the S-Corp's 10-year useful life span. That preserves the tax breaks but forces a large number of lenders and investors to hold onto securities that may not be marketable for seven to eight more years, something they may be reluctant to do.

Any revised structure also would be open to interpretation by the Internal Revenue Service, which increases risk for creditors, said tax consultant Robert Willens.Sources on both sides of the table said the calculation for lenders likely will come down to weighing the cost of this complexity versus the value of the tax advantages. The new owners will also have to consider how much it would cost to replace Tribune Co.'s ESOP with a retirement plan attractive enough to retain employees -- a 401(k) plan with a company match, for instance.

"It's too early to say, but the bias among folks is that simplicity has its virtues," one source said. "A lot of people would rather have something that's simple and easily monetizeable."

See Ralph's Wesite at:

To Members of IBEW Local 1212:

Since 2003, I have successfully represented the interests of the members of IBEW Local 1212, most recently as Senior Business Representative. I believe it is time to improve the leadership and quality of our business office, and I know what needs to be done. That’s why I am asking for your vote for Business Manager in the election on June 16th-17th.

Visit my website at:

Thank you for your support!

Dear Sisters & Brothers:

Here are my thoughts on the needs and priorities for Local 1212, and what I will strive for as your Business Manager.


The primary purpose of any union is to facilitate employment for the membership – Get Work!

Until you have work, wages, benefits, and working conditions are not an issue. To that end, you will never hear me say, “We are not a hiring hall.”

The subtext for everything we do is to create jobs for our members. When you call the hall, we will put you in touch with the people who hire engineers at every IBEW Local 1212 signatory.

I will do anything and everything in my power to get the word out to
producers that IBEW Local 1212 is the place to come for the finest broadcast engineers in the industry.


Communications technology is an ever-changing art. From two cans and a
string, to rabbit ears, to film, to tape, to DVD, to digital, HD, and the
World Wide Web, the bottom line is that as much as technology has changed,
the fundamentals have not.

Regardless of the acquisition and delivery formats, you must still capture
video and audio, edit the images and sound, add graphics and effects, then
transmit the finished product to the public.

The fact remains that no matter how this is accomplished, whatever devices
and methods are used, Local 1212 adds value, and we will pursue jurisdiction.


I will work closely with IBEW District 3 and the IBEW International as we
endeavor to organize the non-represented workers in every shop where an IBEW Local 1212 collective bargaining agreement is already in place.

In addition, we will promulgate a standard agreement with competitive wages,
benefits, and working conditions to make it easy for production companies to
work with IBEW Local 1212 crews when they shoot in the New York metropolitan area.


Going forward, any and all members with an interest in the issues on the
table may participate in the discussion. Key information regarding negotiations will be shared with the members as the process proceeds.

You get the union you deserve. We are only as strong as your willingness to

To that end, we must revisit our local policies and make any and all changes
necessary to increase operating transparency, member representation, open
communication, and support union democracy in the way we conduct union
business on behalf of this membership.


There will be frequent shop visits by the business representatives to all
shifts, shop steward training and meetings, and monthly e-mail reports
to the membership.

We will seek out and publicize employment and training opportunities.

We will seek to address the concerns of all categories of contractual employment.

Of course, grievances and arbitrations will be filed and followed up on, in a timely

You have the right to expect expect prompt, efficient, proactive representation.


Representing the membership of IBEW Local 1212 is a privilege
that comes with the responsibility to aid, support, and protect every staff,
temp, and per diem member of this Local.

We must also reach out to our brothers and sisters in the other unions and
guilds in our industry in a spirit of cooperation to help protect and expand
jurisdiction, training opportunities, and promote employers and vendors
bringing more production to the N.Y. metropolitan area.

I will to continue to make myself available 24 hours a day, seven days a
week to address the concerns of the membership.

Thank you again for your support!


Ralph Avigliano
Member IBEW Local 1212

Friday, June 5, 2009

ABC News Launches Digital Research Center; Eight Jobs Cut

WebNewser has learned ABC News is shuttering its current news research library and converting it to a digital research center.

The move will mean the loss of eight jobs. In email to staff, obtained by WebNewser, news president David Westin writes, "Today, many of the research tools we use are available online. Our extensive, hard copy library filled with periodicals and other materials is no longer necessary in the digital age."

ABC has hired the consulting firm Library Associates to develop, in Westin's words, "a state of the art research system tailored to our particular needs."

Some of the current staff will remain. And the new DRC will move locations within ABC "to be closer to some of us who use the research facility most often," writes Westin.

From: Westin, David L.Sent: Thursday, June 04, 2009 1:25 PMTo: ABCTV News ALLCc: Sweeney, AnneSubject: News Research Library

Today, we begin the process of converting our existing research library to a digital research facility. Our library has served us well for many years, and all of us have benefited from the hard work of its staff. But the world has changed around us. Today, many of the research tools we use are available online. Our extensive, hard copy library filled with periodicals and other materials is no longer necessary in the digital age. The time has come to re-shape that library to reflect today's world.

From now on, what has been the News Research Library will be the Digital Research Center. You will continue to receive the same exceptional service as you have in the past. But we're developing, with an outside research consultant, a state of the art research system tailored to our particular needs. When this new system is completed, you will be able to get the information you need and conduct your own searches from your desktop.

In addition, we will have a core research staff to work with you on more in-depth reporting needs. And, we will have the capability of expanding the DRC as needed to support our coverage of special events and breaking news.

As before, all work done by the DRC will be kept entirely confidential.

The DRC will move next week from the 2nd floor of 47 West to the 4th floor of 147 to be closer to some of us who use the research facility most often. These changes will lead to a reduced staff, but we will ensure an orderly transition with some of the current library staff staying with us through the transition and perhaps beyond.

Over the next few weeks, we will be sending a training team to work with each broadcast and platform to teach all of us how to get what we need from the new system. Once we get our research capabilities up to date, we anticipate keeping them that way through regular updates to the DRC and your desktop research system, with appropriate training, as new resources and technologies become available.

Once we're through the transition, we will be donating our current hard copy periodicals to a library in need. These materials have served us well, and we hope they will do the same for a deserving community.

If you have any questions about the DRC, please reach out to Bob Murphy, Renu Thomas, or Sandy Sidey.

Atty General Fine With Tribune Plan to Merge 'Hartford Courant,' TV Newsroom

By Mark Fitzgerald

CHICAGO Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal now says he is satisfied that Tribune Co.'s plan to merge the news operations of The Hartford Courant and its Hartford television stations WTIC-TV and WTXX complies with its federal waiver from cross-media ownership.

Blumenthal had raised objection that putting the TV and newspaper new operations into the same physical newsroom and under the same management would limit "public access to diverse and competing sources of information."

He suggested it might violate the Federal Communications Commission's prohibition on same-market common ownership of newspaper and broadcast stations. Tribune obtained a waiver from those restrictions when it bought the Courant as part of its 2000 acquisition of Times Mirror Co.But in a letter to Blumenthal, Tribune Chairman and CEO Sam Zell said the Courant and WTIC, a Fox affiliate, "will continue to decide independently what news to present and how to present it to their print, broadcast and Internet audiences."

Zell also noted the three business units have long shared resources. "More direct access to the video journalism of the TV stations enables the Courant to be more relevant to its readers, and improve the 24/7 news coverage the newspaper offers on its Web site," Zell wrote.In a statement, Blumenthal said he was pleased with the response.

"I am encouraged by Mr. Zell's pledge that Fox 61 and the Hartford Courant will continue making news decisions -- what to cover and how to present it -- separately and independently," he said. "Such editorial independence is important to assuring diversity of viewpoints, coverage and opinions in the Hartford news market."

Mark Fitzgerald ( is E&P's editor-at-large.