Friday, July 30, 2010


Regarding Unfair Employer and Do Not Work Notice for Once Upon a Time Films, Ltd. and Sordid Productions, LLC

AFTRA has advised members that Once Upon a Time Films, Ltd. and Sordid Productions, LLC have been declared an Unfair Employer and AFTRA members may not accept employment from these companies. Because there are several entities with similar sounding names that are not involved in this matter, members are also advised to use care and contact their Local AFTRA office if they have any questions regarding the identity of the companies subject to the Do Not Work order.

The only entities declared Unfair and subject to the Do Not Work order are: “Once Upon a Time Films, Ltd.” and “Sordid Productions, LLC.” Other entities with similar sounding names, such as Del Shore’s “Sordid Lives, LLC,” and “Somewhat Sordid Publishing," are NOT parties involved in the pay dispute with AFTRA-represented performers and have not been declared unfair.

Please be advised that the Administrative Committee of the National Board of Directors of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA, AFL-CIO) has declared Once Upon a Time Films, Ltd. and Sordid Productions, LLC unfair employers. AFTRA members may not accept employment from these Companies.

Sordid Productions, LLC (a/k/a Sordid Lives Productions, LLC) is the signatory company which produced "Sordid Lives," a series of 12 half-hour scripted dramatic episodes produced for exhibition on basic cable. In 2008, the exhibiting cable network began rerunning all episodes of “Sordid Lives,” and the AFTRA agreement with Sordid Productions, LLC requires a payment for each domestic rerun of an episode.

AFTRA presented a claim to Sordid Productions, LLC for the unpaid residuals, but despite representations and promises made by the Company throughout late 2008 and early 2009, no residual payments have yet been made to the AFTRA cast members.

AFTRA filed for arbitration and won an interim arbitration order finding that Once Upon a Time Films, Ltd. and Sordid Productions, LLC are alter egos and that both companies are jointly liable for residual payments. The AFTRA agreement specifically incorporates Paragraph 92 of the AFTRA Network Television Code, which empowers AFTRA to declare a signatory “unfair” by virtue of a material breach of the collective bargaining agreement and, further, to order its members not to work for such unfair producer.

AFTRA Franchised Talent Agents are also hereby advised that pursuant to the AFTRA Regulations Governing Talent Agents they may not engage their AFTRA member clients for services provided to Once Upon a Time Films, Ltd. or Sordid Productions, LLC.

If you have questions about this notice or about the signatory or “unfair” status of an employer, please contact your nearest AFTRA office.

Tribune Reorganization Opposed by IRS Over Buyout

By Steven Church

U.S. tax officials oppose Tribune Co.’s reorganization plan, arguing it would stop them from collecting potential taxes related to the bankrupt newspaper publisher’s 2007 buyout.

The U.S. Labor Department is investigating the tax implications of the $8.3 billion buyout, the Internal Revenue Service said in an objection filed today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware. Should that probe determine Tribune owes taxes related to the buyout, the IRS would be barred from collecting them because of the legal releases contained in the plan, U.S. government attorneys wrote.
Creditors are split over the reorganization plan, with some arguing it shouldn’t settle allegations about the legality of the buyout and others in favor.

Bankruptcy examiner Kenneth N. Klee found evidence of a fraudulent transfer involving the second part of the two-part deal that real-estate billionaire Sam Zell used to take over the newspaper and television company. Klee found that creditors are “somewhat likely” to win a lawsuit based on the smaller portion of the $8.3 billion transaction.

Tribune filed for bankruptcy in December 2008, a year after the Zell-led buyout. Creditors have said in court papers that Klee’s report may influence the way they vote on Tribune’s reorganization plan. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Kevin J. Carey in Wilmington, Delaware must take those votes into consideration when he decides whether to approve the reorganization plan and allow the company to exit bankruptcy.

The case is In re Tribune Co., 08-13141, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven Church in Wilmington, Delaware, at

Related Stories:

Early Doubts on Tribune Deal
Wall Street Journal - Mike Spector, Shira Ovide - ‎18 hours ago‎
An investment bank declined to give Tribune Co. a clean bill of financial health in 2007.

Early On, Bank Refused 'Solvency Opinion' on Zell's Tribune Co. Deal
Editor & Publisher - ‎4 hours ago‎
Back in March 2007, the Los Angeles-based bank Houlihan Lokey refused to provide a “solvency opinion” endorsing real estate mogul Sam Zell's plan.

Houlihan Lokey Wouldn't Endorse Tribune Buyout
New York Times (blog) - ‎8 hours ago‎
Investment bank Houlihan Lokey had declined to endorse Samuel Zell's $8.2 billion leveraged buyout of Tribune Co.

BANKRUPTCY WEEK AHEAD: Court Mulls Releasing Tribune Report
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WILMINGTON, Del. -(Dow Jones)- Bondholders said Thursday the findings of court-appointed investigator ...

Valuation Research doubted in Tribune case
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Valuation Research Corp., which is based in Milwaukee, has been criticized by a bankruptcy court examiner in the Tribune Co.'s Chapter

Tribune proposes severance package for top executives

By Michael Oneal, Chicago Tribune

Tribune Co. proposed paying its top 43 executives a severance package of cash and benefits if they are asked by a new board to leave the company after the media conglomerate emerges from bankruptcy.

The Chicago company, whose properties include the Los Angeles Times, did not put a price tag on the package but said it amounts to 2.5 times salary and bonus for Chief Executive Randy Michaels and 2.25 times salary and bonus for Chief Operating Officer Gerry Spector. Both would be entitled to 24 months of the company's group health benefits.

Nine other top executives, including Tony Hunter, the publisher of the Chicago Tribune, and Eddy Hartenstein, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, would get 1.75 times salary and bonus plus 24 months of benefits. A list of 32 others would get 1.5 times salary and 18 months of benefits.

Tribune Co. filed the plan late Thursday as part of a supplement to its plan of reorganization. The severance agreement would have to pass muster with the large banks and hedge funds that will end up controlling the company. As part of the reorganization plan, the severance arrangement will have to survive whatever opposition might emerge during the plan confirmation process scheduled for late August.

Tribune Report Sealed; Bankruptcy Plan Called Dead

By Tom Hals

* Confidentiality claims delay releasing examiner's report
* Creditors want full disclosure before voting on plan
* Junior creditors call reorganization plan 'dead'

WILMINGTON, Del., July 29 (Reuters) - An examiner's report that found dishonesty in Tribune Co's (TRBCQ.PK) leveraged buyout will remain under wraps until at least next week, a bankruptcy judge ruled on Thursday, as creditors declared the company's reorganization dead.
Judge Kevin Carey of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware also said he would consider extending the Aug. 6 deadline to vote on the company's reorganization. Such a ruling would come at a hearing he scheduled for Tuesday.

The examiner, UCLA Law School professor Kenneth Klee, released a 20-page summary on Monday and said the court needed to resolve claims of confidentiality before unsealing the full 1,100-page report.

The report concluded Tribune did not act forthrightly in getting an independent opinion about the company's solvency. The report also found a court was somewhat likely to find part of the $8.2 billion leveraged buyout that put developer Sam Zell in control of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times owner constituted intentional fraudulent transfers. [ID:N27259133]

Klee did not mention any names.

Creditors are being asked to approve a proposed reorganization that would give control to senior lenders. A sliver of the company would go to senior bondholders in return for their dropping legal claims stemming from the company's bankruptcy.

The report's summary was enough for a lawyer for junior bondholders, who will get nothing under the proposed reorganization, to call for full disclosure. Otherwise, there is a risk of a "litigation morass" in which junior creditors are tempted to battle to remove senior claims higher up the ladder.

"The ladder has been upended," said Robert Stark of Brown Rudnick, which represents junior bondholders. "The settlement is dead."

Lenders with senior claims also argued at Thursday's hearing for full disclosure of the report and for an extension of the deadline to vote on the Tribune reorganization.

"We can read the conclusions, but we don't know how Mr. Klee got there," said James Johnston of Hennigan, Bennett and Dorman LLP, which represents a group of investors who hold Tribune loans.

"It's like reading Playboy Magazine with big black bars over all the pictures," said Johnston.
A lawyer for Klee told the hearing that the examiner did not view any section of the report as confidential, although some exhibits might be.

The case is In re: Tribune Co et al, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 08-13141. (Reporting by Tom Hals; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tribune to employees: Stay focused, don't be distracted by fraud reports

From: Tribune CommunicationsSent: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 2:42 PMSubject: Message from Randy and Gerry/Developments in our Chapter 11 Process

As you know by now, the independent examiner appointed by the bankruptcy court to review our 2007 going-private transaction filed his report late yesterday. We have reviewed the summary conclusions contained in the report and from what we know now, we agree with some of his assessments and disagree with others.

Since much of the more than 700-page document remains redacted, including the analysis on which the examiner bases many of his conclusions, we think it is premature to comment further about the report.

We continue to believe that the company’s Plan of Restructuring, which was the result of many months of negotiation, remains the best solution for resolving issues among our various creditor groups. Voting on the plan is to conclude August 6, and we are continuing to move forward toward the confirmation hearing that is scheduled for August 30. Most important, while there are a lot of variables, we remain optimistic that the company can emerge from Chapter 11 before the end of the year.

The examiner's report has gotten some media attention, which we expected. Nonetheless, it is important that we all stay focused on the fundamentals and the things we need to do to continue improving the performance of our media businesses. Our financial results were very strong in the first-half of the year and we can’t let up now—there is still a lot of opportunity out there. As we enter what we hope are the last stages of the Chapter 11 process, try not to be distracted by the media attention it may receive.

Thanks for your effort and energy, your best thinking, and your dedication.

[CEO] Randy [Michaels] and [COO] Gerry [Spector]

Broadcast Union News Observation: That's right, don't worry, just relax and wait until it's your turn to be laid off. Between LNS, automated control rooms, the server farm, and now Anchor free news, soon this will all be moot because we'll all be gone. Can you say "Would you like fries with that?"

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Film and TV flight cost California 36,000 jobs, study says

By Richard Verrier - Los Angeles Times

A new study confirms what any grip, camera operator or location manager will tell you: California is bleeding film jobs.

The state has lost more than 36,000 jobs and $2.4 billion in wages over the last decade as production has migrated away, according to a report by The Milken Institute, a nonprofit economic think tank co-founded by former high-flying 1980s Wall Street player Michael Milken, who turned to philanthropy after serving time for securities fraud.

Aptly titled "Film Flight," the Milken report is the most comprehensive account to date of the economic toll of so-called runaway production that has hammered L.A.'s production economy and the thousands of below-the-line workers and support companies that depend on it.

The survey runs through 2008, the last year for which federal and state labor data were available, and thus understates the extent of the job losses because it doesn't cover the recession that prompted widespread layoffs in the industry. Since 1997, California has lost 10,600 jobs in film, TV and commercial production, and more than 25,000 related jobs, the study said.

Milken attributes the job losses to the flight of movies and TV shows to other states and countries. In addition to countries such as Canada and England, more than 40 states now compete for a piece of the $57-billion U.S. production industry.

California implemented its own film tax credit program in July 2009, allocating $500 million over five years."There's no doubt that incentives have been drawing jobs and wages away from California,'' said Kevin Klowden, director of the Milken Institute California Center and lead author of the report. California's share of North American employment in the industry has declined from 40% in 1997 to 37.4% in 2008, according to the study, which also notes that the number of movies filmed wholly or partially in California has fallen to 160 in 2008 from 272 in 2000.

To turn the tide, the report recommends that the state tax incentives be made permanent (they are set to expire in 2014) and expanded to include studio films with budgets greater than $75 million, which are not currently covered.

"While California's incentive package appears to be working, we have a lot of catch up to do just to get back the share of production we had in 1997," Klowden said.

Teamsters accept studios' offer, averting a strike threat

By Richard Verrier -Los Angeles Times

Hollywood drivers on Sunday accepted a proposed contract from the studios, averting a strike that could have caused widespread disruptions to production across the country.

The vote came after last-minute negotiations Saturday yielded a compromise that mollified leaders of Teamsters Local 399, who were prepared to seek a strike authorization vote from members.

The two sides had been locked in a standoff over pay rates for more than 3,000 drivers who deliver equipment and stars to film and TV sets.

The studios offered an increase in health-plan contributions and a proposed 2% annual pay increase for drivers. Teamsters wanted a 3% increase, the same rate the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargained on behalf of the studios, rejected the demand, citing the weak economy, which had buffeted DVD sales and forced cutbacks.

On Saturday, however, the studios offered some additional incentives to the Teamsters, including adding travel pay for certain types of drivers.

The dispute came at a delicate time for the studios, who are gearing up for contract negotiations this fall with the Hollywood's actors and later writers, whose contracts expire in 2011.

It was also unusual because the Teamsters, a blue-collar union whose members also represent location managers and casting directors, generally stay below the radar and rarely engage in public standoffs with the studios, with which they've generally enjoyed a stable relationship over the last two decades. Teamsters last struck for 24 days in 1988.

Although Teamsters openly supported writers during their strike in 2007-08, they've worked closely with studios on legislative issues, such as support for California's film tax incentives and the proposed Comcast-NBC Universal merger.
RBR-TVBR- A ship can float without an anchor, so why not a TV newscast? Tribune Broadcasting is about to try a no-anchor newscast on KIAH-TV (CW) Houston. If the experiment works, “NewsFix” might show up on other Tribune TV stations with news ratings problems.

“We’ve shot a pilot or prototype and we’ll be developing the concept further for the Houston market. It will be very, very different from a traditional newscast and we’re excited about it — but it is a work in progress,” Tribune Company spokesman Gary Weitman told RBR-TVBR.

The project is still a couple of months from implementation and some details are still being worked out – or at least not yet publicly disclosed. Houston blogger Mike McGuff noted that KIAH had posted a job opening seeking an “Executive Producer and Imaginator” with such requirements as: “Has well honed B.S. Radar;” “Who knows that most local TV News sucks and wants to do something about it;” and “Gets ‘it’.”Sound familiar? If so, you know Tribune Company Sr. VP/Chief Innovation Officer Lee Abrams and have guessed that he is behind this new approach to TV news.

The plan is (apparently) to have lots of fast-paced stories told primarily by the people involved in the news being made. So, the focus is on the content, without anchors or even reporters doing traditional standups.

KIAH General Manager Roger Bare told his staff it is designed as “a reimagining of our newscasts, one that I believe will offer local viewers a distinctive option that will set us apart in the market. Our newscasts will be re-titled ‘39 NewsFix’ in the fall. The core concept is to focus more on storytelling by allowing those in the story to tell the story, and to place video and audio at the center of all that we do. It will be a fast-paced news product and we will be breaking with local news conventions.”

Broadcast Union News observation: No anchors, automated control rooms, LNS providing news stories, mastercontrol moving to a server farm in Grand Rapids, Michigan, if this is what Tribune intends in all markets, soon there will not be anyone left for the big bonus executives to manage.

Tribune Cuts Management Bonuses Under Revised Plan

(AP) CHICAGO — Tribune Co. has cut nearly $20 million from a proposed bonus plan that would reward its management for the media company's performance while it has been reorganizing its finances in bankruptcy protection.

The concessions were spurred by complaints from Tribune creditors and labor leaders representing some of the workers at its newspapers and TV stations.

Tribune is still facing other thorny issues as it tries to end a nearly 20-month stint in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The owner of Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, other newspapers and 20 television stations is trying to fend off allegations that lenders engaged in fraudulent behavior when they financed a 2007 leveraged buyout of the company led by real estate mogul Sam Zell.

A court-appointed examiner's analysis of the buyout is scheduled to be filed by 11:59 p.m. ET Monday. Most of the report is expected to be redacted until a judge can sort out confidentiality claims made by the company and lenders involved in the deal.

Tribune's new management bonus plan sets higher financial goals and lowers the amounts that would be paid out if the company's operating cash flow for this year doesn't reach the top financial target. Tribune spelled out the new incentives in a July 23 filing in U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware.

At the $500 million threshold, the bonus pool would be $16.5 million. Management previously would have been paid $38.1 million in the lowest tier of the bonus plan.

If Tribune's cash flow reaches $550 million, the bonus pool will be $33 million. That's down from the $38.1 million that could have been paid out under the original middle tier.

The top bonus payout remains unchanged at a maximum of $42.9 million, but Tribune will have to reach $685 million in cash flow for executives and managers to get the awards. Under the original plan, some managers would have qualified for the top bonuses if Tribune generated a cash flow of $560 million this year.

Tribune will seek approval of the new plan during an Aug. 9 hearing. The company's filing indicates its committee of unsecured creditors and the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild will support the new plan.
Many concerned members of NABET-CWA, IBEW, and IATSE wrote letters to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge and Creditor's Committee in the Tribune case expressing outrage over the Company's $70 million dollar executive bonus plan.

This, along with letters to newspapers and massive blogging activity helped force Tribune to cut the bonus plan back and tie it to productivity.

Thanks to everyone that supported this effort. An injury to one is an injury to all. When our unions work together for the mutual benefit of our members and our communities, there is no end to what can be acheived.


Bob Daraio
Recording Secretary
New York Broadcast Trades Council
914-774-2646 cell

Examiner Finds Evidence Of "Dishonesty" In Tribune Sale

(Reuters) - The court-appointed examiner investigating Tribune Co's bankruptcy said he has found some evidence of dishonesty in the 2007 leveraged buyout of the company, court documents showed.

David Lieberman reported that Tribune's Chapt. 11 bankruptcy case is getting interesting. A court-appointed examiner says that the $8.2 billion leveraged buyout that put real estate investor Sam Zell in charge of the media giant in 2007 was doomed from the start, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune.

The examiner's 700-page report to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware slams the senior executives at the time of the deal for "dishonesty and lack of candor."

Wall Street Journal reporters, PEG BRICKLEY, SHIRA OVIDE and MIKE SPECTOR wrote that the investigator, Kenneth Klee, said in a report Monday that it's "highly likely" that Tribune was "rendered insolvent and without adequate capital" as a result of the second half of the debt-reliant deal, which was led by real-estate investor Sam Zell. The company wasn't able to handle the debt load as the economy turned south, and Tribune filed for bankruptcy in December 2008.

The report, which investigates whether real estate developer Sam Zell's 2007 leveraged buyout of Tribune left the media company insolvent, is of particular interest to junior bondholders, who say their best hope of a recovery from the bankruptcy would lie in billions of dollars of senior claims being disallowed.

Tribune's management, board and 2007 financial advisers are cast in a harsh light in Mr. Klee's report. He said that part of financial projections made by Tribune management in October 2007 were too rosy and, while not deceitful "bears the earmarks of a conscious effort to counterbalance the decline in Tribune's 2007 financial performance and other negative trends in Tribune's business, in order to furnish a source of additional value to support a solvency conclusion."

Bankruptcy examiner Kenneth Klee, however, said he did not find any credible evidence against the large stockholders, lead banks, the financial advisers, as well as the Zell Group.

Tribune's businesses include the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times newspapers, as well as television stations such as the superstation WGN and WPIX-TV in New York.

Klee said Tribune did not act forthrightly in procuring the solvency opinion issued by Valuation Research Corp (VRC).

Klee said he found evidence indicating that Tribune's senior financial management did not apprise the Tribune board and special committee of relevant information underlying management's October 2007 projections on which VRC relied in giving its solvency opinion.

However, Klee also said he "found that other aspects of management's projections, while aggressive, do not support the conclusion that the senior financial management at Tribune prepared them in bad faith."

The court-appointed examiner investigating Tribune Co's (TRBCQ.PK) descent into bankruptcy said he has completed his report but cannot make it fully public because various parties are bickering over its contents.

Mr. Klee described frustrations in compiling his report such as requests by buyout participants to classify even innocuous documents as highly confidential, and scores of pages at a time are left blank because they have been redacted.

The report, which investigates whether real estate developer Sam Zell's 2007 leveraged buyout of Tribune left the media company insolvent, is of particular interest to junior bondholders, who say their best hope of a recovery from the bankruptcy would lie in billions of dollars of senior claims being disallowed.

Kenneth Klee, the examiner, filed a redacted version of his report on Monday with the U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware, a Friday court filing showed. Only the judge and a limited number of closely involved parties will see the entire report initially.

Klee said many people believe some material used in the report should remain confidential. He said he hopes to resolve these issues at an Aug. 9 hearing, following which the report would be made public.

Tribune on Monday objected to the delay, saying that Tribune and other parties, including the official committee of unsecured creditors, need the report, the exhibits and the transcripts as soon as possible to prepare for a hearing on confirming its plan of reorganization.

Tribune asked the court for an order authorizing the report's immediate disclosure, saying that the confidentiality measures already put in place, such as a secure document website, are enough to protect sensitive information.

Klee said almost 4.3 million pages of documents have been produced as part of the his investigation.

In a separate court filing on Friday, Klee asked the bankruptcy court to formally release him from his duties, and shield him from possible lawsuits arising from his work as examiner.

The case is In re: Tribune Co et al, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 08-13141.
(Reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Trumka at Netroots Nation: New Industrial Policy for a Globalized World

After laying out a five part plan to rebuild our middle class by rebuilding America's manufacturing capacity, Trumka concluded with a passionate call for coordinated action between labor and the broader progressive activist community.

We knew this wasn't going to be easy. It's going to take a concerted effort by a lot of us over a long period of time to fix our broken economy. I'm up for it, and I look forward to fighting with you.

In solidarity,
Marc Laitin
AFL-CIO Online Mobilization Coordinator

P.S. Read more here.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka laid out a 21st century U.S. economic policy at today’s lunchtime keynote session at Netroots Nation before a diverse crowd of 2,000 progressive political activists. Restoring the nation’s middle class in part means returning to a “real economy”—one in which we make things, rather than move around complex financial products, Trumka said. Strengthening U.S. manufacturing must be part of the process to reverse five decades of stagnating wages.

We have to think big and we have to go big. We have to let go of this notion that we can’t compete in this world. We can compete. Other countries are already doing this and so can we. We can’t get left behind.

Speaking as part of a panel on Building a Progressive Economic Vision, Trumka outlined the need for the the nation to invest in infrastructure, implement fair trade policies, change our tax policies, enact comprehensive immigration reform and reform our broken labor laws. The full panel included consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren, progressive Florida Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, Center for Community Change Executive Director Deepak Bhargava, Green for All’s Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins and National People’s Action Executive Director George Goehl. (Watch it here.)

Trumka pointed out how the United States is falling behind other countries in creating green technology. While our nation is building 500 miles of high-speed rail, China has begun construction of 5,000 miles and is outspending the United States 2:1 on green technology, making it even far urgent for the United States to invest in green jobs and high-end manufacturing infrastructure now before we fall further behind.

For those who say we can’t afford to make these investments, Trumka explained how we can do it with a financial speculation tax that encourages capital to invest in concrete things and discourages unproductive speculation or paper pushing for a quick buck, all the while raising more than $100 billion. Trumka made it clear that lawmakers must not reduce the federal deficit at the expense of creating jobs.

Next up, Trumka described the need for anintegrated trade policy. The nation can’t focus solely on increasing exports, we need to focus on net exports. We can’t open our markets to other countries who won’t open theirs. We can’t support countries that murder trade unionists. All we want is to compete on a level playing field and to do that we must have fair trade policy.

Third, Trumka laid out what we must do to modify our tax policy:

We need a tax policy that encourages people to produce and manufacture things in this country, not reward those who outsource and produce things abroad. We have to close the loopholes that allow corporations who have record profits to use gimmicks to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

Fourth, Trumka loudly and proudly spoke out in favor of comprehensive immigration reform and made it clear that every AFL-CIO union has endorsed our five-point plan for immigration reform. Current U.S. immigration policy has allowed corporations to create a permanent underclass of workers who they can take advantage of.

And finally, just as corporations have taken advantage of immigrants, they have skirted, exploited and violated labor laws that empower workers to form a union and bargain for a better life. The good jobs of the past were good jobs because workers organized and fought for fair wages and benefits. Without labor law reform, corporations will continue to take advantage of workers and no matter how much we invest in our economy, how much we increase our productivity, our wages will remain stagnant and we will continue to fall behind.

After laying out this five-part plan, Trumka concluded with a passionate call for coordinated action.

We knew this wasn’t going to be easy. It’s going to take a concerted effort by a lot of us over a long period of time to fix our broken economy. I’m up for it, and I look forward to fighting with you.

Check out live tweets on Trumka’s discussion and the entire Building a Progressive Economic Vision presentation with the hashtag #nn10.

At Tribune Co., Leaving Behind Bankruptcy and Old Ways


'There's too much infrastructure,' says Tribune Co. CEO Randy Michaels, shown at the firm's Chicago offices.

Tribune Co. Chief Executive Randy Michaels wants to remake the 163-year-old media company. But first he has to steer it out of bankruptcy.

Mr. Michaels, a veteran radio executive, was hired by investor Sam Zell to run Tribune's Internet and broadcast divisions when Mr. Zell took the company private in 2007. But the $8.2 billion deal, funded nearly entirely with borrowed money, proved unmanageable, leading to a December 2008 filing for bankruptcy protection.
Now, Mr. Michaels—promoted seven months ago to CEO— is rethinking Tribune's business, which includes eight major newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, and 23 local TV stations. He's reducing duplication in news reporting, so that smaller papers use national and foreign articles from larger siblings rather than writing their own.

He's also looking for revenue boosts in unconventional places, such as renting out part of Tribune's headquarters for the filming of a "Transformers" movie for more than $200,000.

The company is expected to wrap up bankruptcy proceedings later this summer. On Monday, a bankruptcy examiner is slated to weigh in on certain debtholders' claims that the buyout was improper.

As a radio personality before becoming an executive at Clear Channel and elsewhere, Mr. Michaels was known for colorful on-air stunts, including faking a frog being pureed in a blender.
He shared his strategy at Tribune's Chicago headquarters.

WSJ:As a radio executive, you helped lead industry consolidation by merging local stations. Will Tribune consolidate the newspaper and local-TV industries?

Mr. Michaels: For there to be a printing plant in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Palm Beach is crazy. There's too much infrastructure. On the TV side, this is an industry ready to consolidate. I believe my experience in helping people look rationally at opportunities to grow their business by intelligently consolidating regionally will be very helpful.

WSJ: You've centralized the production of foreign and national news across your papers to save money and manpower. What have you done and why?

Mr. Michaels: Stories [are] laid out in modules — standard sizes with collections of headlines, content, images [reducing the need for layout and copy editors]. If you pick up the Allentown [Pa.] Morning Call, the foreign news was written in Los Angeles and the national news was written in either Chicago or Washington. It's probably higher quality journalism than a local paper that size is going to be able to afford.

WSJ: How are you keeping employees motivated?

Mr. Michaels: We recognize people who've had great ideas. A fellow in Florida figured out a way to save us a couple of million dollars [in] the way we buy newsprint. We gave him a $25,000 check, took his picture, sent it around. There were some people who groused about that, but there were a lot more people who sent us ideas.

WSJ: Are companies spending money on advertising again?

Mr. Michaels: We're seeing a substantial rebound in certain sectors. Auto [advertising] is back to a large extent, particularly in broadcast, but I don't believe auto sales are matching ad spend. If that doesn't change it could be a different situation. BP is spending a lot of money [on ads]. There apparently is a bright side to polluting the planet.

WSJ: But the newspaper industry's revenue from selling print ads has been falling for more than four years. Is print media in a death spiral?

Mr. Michaels: We're going to do a couple billion dollars in newspaper advertising this year. It's still the number one place people advertise. It's just [that] costs went up at a time when margins were very high.

WSJ: Mr. Zell got a lot of attention recently when he said print newspaper delivery will be replaced by electronic versions. What do you think?

Mr. Michaels: We will stop printing if and when it's no longer economically viable. Today, at every one of our papers, it's not even close. Our smallest paper makes north of $10 million [a year]. Our largest paper makes north of $100 million.

WSJ: News organizations have been flirting with charging people to read their websites. Will you?

Mr. Michaels: I just don't believe the economics of a paywall are going to work, unless your content is unique, highly differentiated, difficult to duplicate. As good as I believe our content is, if there are reasonable substitutes available for free it's tough to get people to pay.

WSJ: You and your team have said Tribune is going to "blow up" the traditions of local-TV news. What do you mean?

Mr. Michaels: We are about to launch a TV newscast in Houston that has no anchors, that has great pictures and great writing, but doesn't involve a set or a desk or anyone standing in the way of the picture. Now is it going to work? We're going to find out.

WSJ: When are you expecting Tribune will be out of bankruptcy?

Mr. Michaels: I believe we're close to the end of the process. We're working towards the dates that you see [lenders must vote by Aug. 6 on the company's bankruptcy-exit plan] and believe that those will hold.

Write to Shira Ovide at

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Daniel Pink on Motivation

RSA Animate - Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us by Daniel Pink

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Members Ratify the AFTRA Network Television Code “Front of the Book”

AFTRA members have overwhelmingly voted to ratify a one-year extension to the 2007-2010 AFTRA National Code of Fair Practice for Network Television Broadcasting (AFTRA Network Code “Front of the Book”) by a margin of 98% in favor to 2% against.

The extension was unanimously approved by the AFTRA National Board of Directors on June 11, and sent out for ratification by membership meetings in AFTRA’s five largest Locals of New York, San Francisco, Washington/Baltimore, Los Angeles and Chicago pursuant to Article XI, “Members’ Contracts,” of the AFTRA National Constitution and Bylaws. Voting commenced in Los Angeles on June 22 and concluded today, July 13, when the final membership meeting was held in San Francisco.

Terms of the extension include:

Length of Extension – One year, from November 16, 2010, through November 15, 2011.

Program Fees – Increase program fees by two (2%) per cent effective November 16, 2010, including daytime dramas and background actor rates.

AFTRA H&R – Increase the contribution rate to the AFTRA H&R Funds by 0.5% effective January 1, 2011. This will bring the total H&R contribution (including AICF) from 15.1% to 15.6%. The additional percentage will be dedicated to the AFTRA Retirement Fund.

Cooperative Committees – There will be an industry-union committee to discuss technical issues relating to the administration of non-serial scripted dramatic production, and a second committee to discuss the administration of the promo announcement provisions of the code, including the administration of “value added promotional announcements.”

Sideletters – All sideletters to the Code, including terms covering Network Code programs made-for and reused in new media, will continue unchanged, except that the dates will be modified from November 15, 2010, to November 15, 2011.

The extension was unanimously recommended to the National Board by the AFTRA Network Code Steering Committee comprised of members who work the contract. The extension serves the purposes of providing increases in performers’ programs fees and H&R contributions during this one year extension, and clearing AFTRA's negotiating schedule to permit joint bargaining this Fall with Screen Actors Guild on the AFTRA Exhibit A (Primetime TV) Contract and SAG TV/Theatrical Contract.

Full wages and working conditions meetings to prepare for negotiations in late 2011 of the Network Code will begin in early 2011.

The AFTRA Network Television Code covers programming in all television day parts, except for primetime dramatic programs on the networks and the CW. It includes dramas in first-run syndication, morning news shows, talk shows, serials (soap operas), variety, reality, contest and sports.

Current programs covered by this contract include “Good Morning America,” “The View,” “The Price is Right,” “Days of Our Lives,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Dancing with the Stars,” “American Idol,” “Survivor,” “20/20,” “Deal or No Deal,” “Late Show with David Letterman,” “America’s Most Wanted,” “Legend of the Seeker,” among many others.

Terms for scripted network primetime programming are covered by Exhibit A of the AFTRA Network Code and will be negotiated separately with the industry in joint negotiations with Screen Actors Guild scheduled to begin on Sept. 27, 2010.

Nationwide joint wages & working conditions meetings are currently underway in preparation for the negotiation of the AFTRA Exhibit A and SAG TV/Theatrical contracts which expire on June 30, 2011.

Please click here to visit AFTRA online and check out the schedule of W&W meetings being conducted in your area.<

About AFTRA - The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO, are the people who entertain and inform America. In 32 Locals across the country, AFTRA members work as actors, journalists, singers, dancers, announcers, hosts, comedians, disc jockeys, and other performers across the media industries including television, radio, cable, sound recordings, music videos, commercials, audiobooks, non-broadcast industrials, interactive games, the Internet and other digital media. The 70,000 professional performers, broadcasters, and recording artists of AFTRA are working together to protect and improve their jobs, lives, and communities in the 21st century. From new art forms to new technology, AFTRA members embrace change in their work and craft to enhance American culture and society.

Visit AFTRA online at

Teamsters Union Discredits Tribune's Case To FCC

Union Demands Agency Protect Public Interest As Required By Law

WASHINGTON, July 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Yesterday the Teamsters Union responded at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to the Tribune Co., which had opposed the union's petition to deny Tribune's application for reorganization and for waivers of the broadcast cross-ownership rules.

In its filing, the Teamsters reiterated that as a matter of law the owners of the corporation—Tribune employees—are entitled to a say in the reorganization of the company and called for the protection of localism and diversity in broadcast programming.

"Tribune failed to make the case why the FCC should rubber-stamp the company's plan to emerge from bankruptcy by transferring ownership and control of Tribune to creditors with no experience in running a media conglomerate and who have made no commitments to protect localism and diversity in programming," said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa.

"These creditors are in the business of reclaiming the losses on their investments, and have no interest in or understanding of the broadcasting and print media business," Hoffa said. "Sam Zell's slash and burn strategy has already cost thousands of good jobs and stripped away news resources. Unless the FCC gets this right, localism and diversity in news programming could be the next Tribune casualty."

Tribune's bankruptcy plan would turn control of the company over to creditors without any commitments to maintain or improve upon the quantity of local news programming by the company's broadcasting enterprises, but Tribune employees who own 100 percent of the company have not had any say in developing or approving the plan. This is the logical consequence of the FCC's flawed 2007 decision to allow Zell to control the Tribune.

The FCC has long held that giving third parties control over the personnel, programming and finances of broadcasting outlets violates the Communications Act.

Yet, in 2007 the commission approved a change in control at Tribune that transferred full ownership of the company to employees through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), but gave control of the business to real estate mogul Sam Zell, who became chairman and CEO.

Doomed from the start, the overleveraged deal saddled the employee shareholders with an untenable $13 billion of debt and brought down the 161-year-old media giant within a year.

"The fact is that Sam Zell's control of Tribune was improper under existing FCC policies and flawed as a matter of sound business practice. Neither Tribune nor its creditors can argue that away," Hoffa said. "By finally allowing Tribune employee-owners their seat at the table, the FCC can help right the wrong that forced those employees to the sidelines and impaired the value of their shares while they were powerless to do anything about it. The commission can and should fix this problem in a way that also protects the interests of the communities served by Tribune."

The Teamsters' petition, filed on June 14, 2010, urges the FCC to deny Tribune's broadcast cross-ownership waiver requests and to deny Tribune's application for reorganization.

Alternatively, the petition asks the FCC to hold Tribune's requests in abeyance until Tribune's board has been reconstituted to give the employee owners a voice in the reorganization and the reconstituted board has had an opportunity to pass on the application.

Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents more than 1.4 million hardworking men and women in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, including approximately 750 who work for Tribune and tens of thousands of members and retirees residing in the affected markets, including the markets for which cross-ownership waivers are being sought.

SOURCE International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Monday, July 12, 2010

More Cuts Coming at CBS News?

By Kevin Allocca TVNEWSER

Forbes' Dirk Smillie reports today that additional layoffs could be coming to CBS News and sooner rather than later.

A CBS News spokesperson declined to comment on rumors to TVNewser.

"My understanding is that the cuts are coming this month. I've heard this from the highest level," says one producer.

If the cuts are made, it will be the third major round of layoffs at the network since 2008. In February, 75 staffers lost their jobs. This time, though, it could be the business side's turn under the axe.

"I can't imagine there's another 75 people to whack on the news side," the producer said.

Despite the cuts CBS News saw earlier this year, the scale-back was not nearly as large as the 350-400 reductions seen at ABC News in the months following.

Meanwhile, Smillie uses the layoff murmurings as a jumping off point to explore more on that CBS+CNN chatter we've been hearing.

"CBS knows that it can't survive without a cable platform. It needs to be part of a larger newsgathering entity," says a producer. "But there's a wrestling match going on between CBS and CNN over who will control it." A likely bet: CNN president Jon Klein, who spent 16 years at CBS News, overseeing "60 Minutes" and "48 Hours."

If CBS did turn over management of "60 Minutes" to Klein, it would come as something of a surprise. The flagship program had been thought to be "exempt" from any partnership between the two networks.

In any case, the oversight issue has long been seen as a potential sticking point for the news orgs. Former-CBSer Dan Rather noted in May, "One doesn't want to underestimate the internal problems of, in the end, who's going to have the final say."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Final Cut Pro Training a Huge Success in Chicago

NABET-CWA Local 41, in partnership with BURST and CWA/NETT Academy, brought the new mobile training lab to Chicago for two weeks of intensive hands-on training with Final Cut Pro7.

The Windy City was the second stop for the lab, which previously debuted this spring at NABET-CWA Local 411 in Minneapolis. The Final Cut Pro Lab is the second mobile lab utilized by NABET-CWA, and was funded by CWA's Strategic Industry Funds program. A similar mobile lab featuring Avid non-linear editing software has been used for training NABET-CWA members for the past few years, and is still in high demand.

In Chicago, BURST training specialist Jim Talluto converted the standard 3-day class into four separate 5-day modules customized to fit the various work schedules of Local 41 members. As a result, 32 members of Local 41 were exposed to this stimulating interactive instruction.

Member response was huge, with every seat in the classroom reserved for all sessions, and an overflow waiting list of several additional members. Feedback from the participants was exceptional and everyone walked away with enthusiasm and greatly improved editing skills.

Local 41 President Charlie Braico was delighted with the overwhelming membership response and extends his sincere gratitude to FCP Instructor Jim Talluto, Kevin Celata and his team at CWA/NETT Academy as well as Joe Salvaggio, BURST Coordinator for NABET-CWA.

The next stop for the Final Cut Pro lab is NABET-CWA Local 43, in Detroit, Michigan.

Is your Local interested in conducting Final Cut Pro or Avid training?

Contact NABET-CWA BURST Coordinator Joe Salvaggio at 212-757-3065 or by e-mail:

NABET-CWA Members at ABC in N.Y. and L.A. Are Big Winners at 37th Annual Daytime Emmys

Ten NABET-CWA members working on the ABC daytime dramas "All My Children" and "General Hospital" were recently awarded Emmys by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) for outstanding achievement in their respective crafts.

At a ceremony held at the Westin Bonaventure in Downtown, Los Angeles on June 25, 2010, industry professionals were recognized by their peers for technical and artistic excellence in the performance of their jobs.

These professionals were nominated across approximately seventy categories in 2010, and included forty-five NABET-CWA members working at ABC and NBC on both coasts. NABET-CWA members are typically nominated in such impressive numbers annually for their work on daytime dramas, game shows, and talk shows.
The NABET-CWA members who won 2010 Daytime Emmys are:



Congratulations to all of this year's nominees.

The Signal will also bring updates on NABET-CWA members receiving Emmys for primetime, late night, and sports programming after those ceremonies are held in August and September.

If you have any news on local Emmy awards or other industry honors bestowed upon NABET-CWA members, please send it to


The Signal is published by e-mail approximately every two weeks, or as events warrant, to deliver the latest NABET-CWA updates electronically. NABET-CWA members and Local Officers are encouraged to send in your stories (and pictures) for future editions of The Signal. All you have to do is email us at:

If you received The Signal as part of a forwarded message, you can sign up to have this newsletter delivered directly to your inbox by clicking here:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Eshoo: If DISH Can Carry Porn, It Can Carry PBS

By Sara Jerome,

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) has criticized DISH Network’s move on Thursday to take the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to court over a requirement that it carry public broadcasting signals in high definition (HD) by next year.

“If DISH has room to carry pornography, they can find room for PBS,” Eshoo said in a statement on Friday.

DISH, the second-largest satellite television provider in the country, wages that the mandate infringes on its First Amendment rights by coercing it “into giving preferential treatment to programming that the government prefers, rather than leaving DISH to decide for itself how best to serve its subscribers with the programming choices that they want.”

The company filed the complaint with the district court in Las Vegas on Thursday, requesting a temporary restraining order and an order to show cause for a preliminary injunction.

Eshoo wrote the amendment creating the HD requirement, which became law in May as part of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act of 2010. The provision forces satellite providers to carry non-commercial stations in HD by 2011 in any market where they carry a station in HD.

In her statement, Eshoo said that DISH’s decision is “an affront to their customers” who “expect and deserve” the service.

“I and millions of other Americans depend on public television to deliver truth, entertainment, facts and beauty,” she said.

DISH said in its filing that carrying signals in HD requires more bandwidth. It argued that deciding which stations to carry that way should be an editorial choice by the company.
The requirement is a sign that “Congress believes that government-sponsored speech is more valuable to DISH’s subscribers than other programs that DISH might offer in HD or other uses to which DISH might put its scarce bandwidth,” the filing said.

The filing added that DISH “values PBS programming” but the question at hand is “who gets to make the editorial judgement whether to carry local PBS stations in HD — DISH or the government.”

DISH declined to comment on Eshoo’s remarks.

The Hill Archives: Senate House Administration Campaign Business & Lobbying Capital Living Opinion

NBCU Resubmits Info to FCC

By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable

A company spokesman confirms that NBCU Tuesday re-submitted information to the FCC in the commission's review of the proposed Comcast joint venture, which means the clock should be re-starting on the FCC's vetting of the deal.

The FCC on June 24 asked both NBCU and Comcast to resubmit their information after it concluded the first answers were incomplete. It also said it was stopping the informal 180-day shot clock on completing its review of the deal, backdated to June 11 (the due date of the original information) until it got the answers it was looking for.

Comcast complied last week. The FCC was seeking a raft of information on everything from a corporate organizational chart to the last four years' worth of contracts for online and on-air video distribution as well as descriptions of negotiations that did not result in deals.

Such a request is not unusual, and in fact a Comcast source said it was a hopeful sign that the data request came relatively early in the process (the FCC began reviewing the deal March 18).

Rev. Jesse Jackson to Testify at Comcast-NBCU Hearing in Chicago
By David Hatch
Rev. Jesse Jackson, president of the Chicago-based Rainbow PUSH Coalition, will be the star witness at Thursday's field hearing in the Windy City before the House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee on the proposed $30 billion union of Comcast and NBC Universal.

The hearing is expected to focus heavily on the transaction's potential impact on media diversity.
Read CongressDaily's recent coverage here of a controversial group that has not been invited: a minority media coalition backed by former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

Here's the latest witness list:

Samuel R. DeSimone, Jr., General Counsel, EarthLink, Inc.
Shirley Franklin, Executive Senior Adviser, Alliance for Digital Equality
Will Griffin, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hip Hop On Demand
Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., Founder and President, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Inc.
Paula Madison, Executive Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer, NBC Universal
Joseph W. Waz, Jr., Senior Vice President, External Affairs and Public Policy Counsel, Comcast Corporation

WHEN: 9:00 a.m. CDT on Thursday, July 8, 2010
WHERE: Everett Dirksen Federal Building - Room 2525
219 South Dearborn Street
Chicago, Illinois 60604