Wednesday, May 26, 2010
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/25/2010
The FCC officially launched its congressionally-mandated review of its media ownership rules.
That came in a May 25 notice of inquiry teeing up questions, the answers to which will help the commission set new policy or adjust old ones.Specifically, the FCC is looking at five rules:
The local TV ownership rule,
The local radio ownership rule,
The newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule,
The radio/TV cross-ownership rule, and
The dual-network rule.
The notice makes it clear the FCC will take into account the role of the Internet. "The Internet clearly has not wholly supplanted traditional media, such as broadcast stations, newspapers, and cable systems, but it has increased the quantity of news and programming available to consumers."
It also asks what impact the National Broadband Plan should have, including how "access to audio and video content available over broadband" factors into its analysis of competition.
FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, for one, says the Internet has to be factored into the competition equation. "The Commission has known since at least the time of its 2002 ownership review that the Internet would have a profound effect on the media landscape, yet for various reasons the agency has been unable to fully adapt its regulations to the new realities," he said in a statement. "This time, I hope, we will get it right. Burdensome rules that have remained essentially intact for more than a decade should not be allowed to continue impeding, or potentially impeding, the ability of broadcasters and newspapers to survive and thrive in the digital era."
Congress charged the commission with reviewing its rules periodically to determine if any were "necessary in the public interest" -- five words that have been interpreted by some to mean the FCC charter was only to get rid of rules that were no longer necessary, and by others to mean it is supposed to tighten or add regulations if it determines they are in the public interest (the language also talks about modifying rules).
The commission said it will take a "close look" at the impact of consolidation on the marketplace, but also promised it was going in with "no preconceived notions" about what the close look would reveal.A separate, parallel inquiry into the state of journalism and public access to local news and information will proceed and is expected to help inform this review.
The NOI at least suggests that the competitive market for broadcast video content includes cable, online, satellite, podcasts and streaming audio content, though it also wants comment on how to define the competitive market.
"Consumers of broadcast video content also have choices for video programming among hundreds of cable channels carried by multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), and on many Internet sites such as hulu.com, fancast.com, abc.com, fox.com, and available for download at Netflix.com and at iTunes," said the FCC document.
"Some of the Internet sites provide free content viewable with online commercial interruptions; some provide fee-only content; and others offer content only to their subscribers or members. Consumers of broadcast radio can choose also among over 100 audio channels carried by satellite radio, downloadable podcasts, audio streaming, and other audio entertainment available in cars, on mobile devices, and on computers. What is the impact of such changes on the economic viability of broadcasters, including specifically the viability of their local news and public affairs programming, in terms of the cost of production and resulting station revenue from such programming?"
Broadcasters have argued that those competing voices must be taken into account, and that the FCC needs to modify its rules to allow broadcaster to team up with each other and with newspapers in smaller markets to compete and survive.
The FCC is providing 45 days for comment, after which it will propose rules changes--or not--and provide likely another 45 days for comment.
The goal is to get the review done by the end of the year. The FCC effort is going on at the same time the Third Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing challenges to the FCC's last quadrennial review-driven media ownership rule change.
That is when the FCC under then-Chairman Kevin Martin chose only to loosen the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule and leave the others in place.
That move panned both by broadcasters who said it did not go far enough, and consolidation critics, who said it went too far.
In the latter camp was Media Access Project, which weighed in on the FCC's announcement with reservations about its priorities."Even though the Commission must begin the next review this year," said MAP Senior VP Andrew Schwartzman. "I think it is placing too high a priority on taking action at this time."Schwartzman would prefer resolving the court case first. "Right now, it should be devoting much more attention on fixing the mess left by the Bush-era FCC which issued a poorly-supported opinion on cross-ownership in the prior quadrennial review. That decision is under attack in Court, and the Commission should fix that decision before starting work on a new one."
Who Is To Blame For The Broadcast News Decline?
By Alex Weprin - TVNEWSER
The fallout from the New York Observer article about departing ABC News producer Mimi Gurbst continues. This weekend, analyst Andrew Tyndall weighed in with what might be the most eloquent take on what happened, and what it really means.
For those not familiar with the case: after the New York Observer wrote a story about Gurbst leaving ABC to become a high school guidance counselor, we reported that commenters flooded the story with ad hominems leveled at her and other ABC News executives.
Tyndall looks beyond the comments, and sees frustration that is justified, but misguided.
The problem, he says, is not incompetence by "the suits" but rather an artifact of what happens when a once-stable business destabilizes under new competition.
He writes: What I find disappointing about this thread is its underlying wishful thinking. The rage against Gurbst herself and, by extension, against management as a whole, seems to blind commenters to the fact that it is not some executive failure that is at root responsible for the decline of the prestige of ABC News--the wish that, somehow, all this could have been prevented if only the suits had made better decisions. Well, that is not true. Broadcast television as a whole is in secular decline. This decline has exposed corrupt and counterproductive management practices that prosperity had masked. By fixating so passionately on abuses in the executive ranks, this thread has been unable to visualize a viable, post-broadcast future for ABC News. Such a future has to be mapped out at the corporate level, one tier above president [David] Westin.
Tyndall's analysis rings true. As we wrote yesterday, the cable news channels currently rule the news roost when it comes to revenues and profits. The decline of ABC News (or CBS News) has less to do with the people running it than it does with the fact that the broadcast business models can no longer support the news structure that had been built up over the decades. Large scale layoffs were inevitable, and a decline in quality would logically follow.
So what can ABC News do?
Tyndall has an idea: To be sure, ABC News' future depends on switching from broadcast to digital but it also depends on forming alliances so that its newsgathering can be rationalized and its product becomes available on as many platforms as possible. The executives at Disney clearly recognized this phenomenon when they decided that ABC Sports could no longer stand alone and folded its broadcast operation into the ESPN cable brand. The sooner ABC News makes an equivalent deal with Bloomberg News the better.
Newspaper publisher Tribune Co. filed an operating report yesterday for a month ended April 25 showing net income of $26.9 million on revenue of $232 million. Operating income for the month was $25.6 million. Reorganization items were $7.9 million.
Cash grew by $34 million in the period, ending with a $1.5 billion cash balance on April 25.
Tribune also filed another revision to the disclosure statement explaining the proposed Chapter 11 plan. The hearing for approval of the disclosure statement resumes May 28.
The new version of the disclosure statement tells creditors the company plans to implement a bonus program for more than 30 executives that could pay about $15 million total.
Last year, the bankruptcy judge in Delaware declined to approve bonuses while suggesting that Tribune include the program in the reorganization plan.
At a hearing last week, the bankruptcy judge told the company to modify the disclosure statement by adding details about the business and exit financing. The disclosure materials must also include statements by creditor groups supporting and opposing the plan and the settlement it includes.
With the report of the examiner due July 12, creditors will have an opportunity to take the examiner's opinion into consideration before voting for the plan is completed on July 30.
The examiner is analyzing the strength of creditors' claims that the $13.8 billion leveraged buyout led by Sam Zell in December 2007 included fraudulent transfers.
Tribune filed a proposed Chapter 11 plan in April to implement a settlement of the LBO claims negotiated with some creditors. Holders of $3.6 billion in pre-bankruptcy secured debt immediately came out opposing the plan and the settlement.
Tribune is the second-largest newspaper publisher in the U.S. It listed $13 billion in debt for borrowed money and assets of $7.6 billion in the Chapter 11 reorganization begun in December 2008. It owns the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, six other newspapers and 23 television stations.
The case is In re Tribune Co., 08-13141, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).
Tribune Chapter 11 Plan Includes $15M In Executive Bonuses
The Wall Street Journal: Tribune Co. has unveiled plans for a third round of top executive bonuses, nearly $15 million, bringing to more than $72 million the amount of pay enhancements the media company handed out while operating under bankruptcy protection.
Publisher of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and Baltimore Sun and operator of a chain of broadcast stations, Tribune wrapped the latest bonus programs into the Chapter 11 plan it will be sending out for creditor votes.
Creditors will be voting on the bonuses as they decide whether to support Tribune’s plan, which dishes out equity to cover part of its $12.7 billion debt load.
The new bonuses, which cover 42 top executives, include nine of Tribune’s 10 top-ranking corporate leaders, according to papers filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del.
They are in addition to $57.4 million worth of bonuses already approved by a bankruptcy judge over the protests of unions whose members lost jobs due to the company’s financial struggles. The earlier bonuses were paid out between May 2009 and February 2010.
Hundreds of managers were included in the court-approved bonus programs, along with top executives. Tribune has refused to identify top leaders who participated or say how much they received, other than to say Chairman Sam Zell didn’t participate.
The Chicago company also hasn’t revealed the identities of insiders who collected $268 million in pay, bonuses and severance pay the year before the company filed bankruptcy.
Tribune filed for Chapter 11 protection in December 2008 after a leveraged buyout piled $8 billion worth of debt on the media enterprise.
It hopes to be out of bankruptcy by September as the property largely of banks that financed the deal. If Tribune’s Chapter 11 plan is approved, the company will have shaken off billions in debt and silenced questions about the wisdom of the LBO transaction.
Yet to be revealed is the percentage of equity in the reorganized company that will be set aside for management under Tribune’s Chapter 11 plan. Like most companies departing bankruptcy, Tribune has said it plans to reward management with stakes in the reorganized media company.
How much equity executives will get, Tribune hasn’t said. The company’s financial advisers estimate the post-Chapter 11 company will have an equity value of $4.1 billion.
A spokesman and an attorney for Tribune didn’t respond Tuesday to requests for information about the equity incentive plan. The company has promised to supplement information on its Chapter 11 plan before a July 30 voting deadline on the plan.
(This report is from Dow Jones Daily Bankruptcy Review, which covers news about distressed companies and those under bankruptcy protection.)
Tribune Co. plans to pay 35 of its top executives $14.9 million in additional 2009 bonuses, a court filing revealed late Monday, despite pointed opposition to the proposal from several key constituents in its 17-month-old Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.
The company describes the bonuses, devised as two plans, as rewards for steering the company through bankruptcy court while generating total operating cash flow of $494 million in 2009.
The payments would supplement $42.1 million in management incentive bonuses the court allowed Tribune Co. to pay in February to approximately 670 managers, including most of the executives included in the most senior group.
The two new plans also anticipate paying $1.3 million in discretionary bonuses to a group of 50 managers who management deems to have made valuable contributions to the restructuring. None of those awards can exceed $65,000, the document said.
The total of $58.3 million in bonuses represents $5 million less than the maximum the company could pay under the proposed plans, which are tied to management's exceeding previously set performance targets.
The company said several operating executives failed to meet their targets or exceed them by enough in 2009 to merit the highest rewards.
Tribune Co.'s push to pay the bonuses, despite the fact the company is in bankruptcy and still facing declining revenue, has been controversial from the start.
The initial motion in July 2009 generated a storm of protest from the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee and the company's unions, who argued that the company's performance targets were set too low initially, allowing Tribune Co. to beat them easily.
But several key constituencies in the case, including the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, supported the motion and at a hearing in January, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey approved the broader bonus program, while suggesting the company include the other two programs in the "disclosure statement" that must accompany its plan of reorganization.
The first version of the disclosure document, filed in April, did not include details on the senior bonus plans yet several creditor groups warned that they were concerned about the potential payments, as well as a future plan under which the company had said it might set aside as much as 7.5 percent of the company's equity for ongoing management incentive rewards.
Even two key creditor allies who otherwise support the company's restructuring -- JPMorgan Chase and Angelo, Gordon & Co. -- have taken issue with the amount the bonus plans grant to a few top executives.
At Carey's insistence, the proposed bonus payments were included in a new version of the plan that Tribune Co. filed Monday night, despite the creditor protest.
Tribune Co. said in a statement Tuesday that "We are working to address any issues creditors may have and are confident that these performance-based compensation plans will get approved as part of our Plan of Restructuring."
Sources said Tribune has already reworked language surrounding the future equity incentive plan to make its creditors more comfortable. The initial proposal of a 7.5 percent set-aside as a pool for equity incentive programs has been trimmed to 5 percent.
Creditors also demanded that the company's future board of directors, not the current one, decide how the plan works and how much stock management will be granted after Tribune Co.'s emergence from bankruptcy.
Nevertheless, one source close to the situation said Tribune Co. will likely face continued opposition over the compensation issues, adding to a mix of problems that several participants, including Carey, have said will likely make the scheduled confirmation hearings in August contentious and difficult.Tribune Co., which owns the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other media assets, still faces stiff opposition from a group of senior creditors led by hedge fund Oaktree Capital Management, as well as several subordinated creditor groups.
The new disclosure statement does address some concerns -- most notably a call for more information about potential legal claims against the company's 2007 leveraged buyout and a key change in voting procedures that had incited protest.
But Tribune Co. lawyers are still wrangling over the wording in a position statement issued by a group of bridge lenders destined to get a tiny payout under the proposed settlement. And Oaktree, among others, shows no sign of backing off its opposition.
Objections to the newest version of the disclosure statement are due Wednesday and a hearing is scheduled to take up the document on Friday.
Assuming it passes, Tribune Co. will have 60 days to solicit votes of support for the plan with the hope of having it confirmed duringhearings scheduled for the week of Aug. 16.
www.chicagobreakingbusiness.com Reader Comments:
Darius May 25, 2010 12:03 PM Reply
The article did not mention the huge bonuses for reporters, editors, pressmen, proof readers, delivery people, etc. Or was there nothing to mention?
p. hertz May 25, 2010 12:14 PM Reply
Rewards for complete failure. Gotta love it.
Joe May 25, 2010 12:21 PM Reply
And the captain of the Titanic should also get a bonus.
reasonableman May 25, 2010 12:28 PM Reply
Really? This is just AMAZING in light of the Tribunes recent, rabid attacks against Teachers and teacher pensions. Seems the Trib is "out of money" (in bankruptcy) but sees no problem in paying out bonuses to itself. What hypocrisy.
justalittlecommonsense2 May 25, 2010 12:56 PM Reply
I now know the true definition of hypocrisy. It's spelled T-R-I-B-U-N-E.
How dare you criticize the people who make this city work ( cops, fire fighters, streets and sanitation, bus drivers, teachers) and tell them that they are going to have to take a pay cut and not have their pensions funded because of the state of the economy and then give millions of dollars in raises to the executives (who never have to get their hands dirty) of a bankrupt company.
I guess this is a case of "Do as I say, not as I do!" Shame on you!
ImBaragas May 25, 2010 1:00 PM Reply
WHAT?????? Bonuses when the industry is going down the toilet? Ad revenues and subscription are plummeting.
How dare management continue to rape and pillage organizations that have employees that depend on the organization for their lives.
I wonder just how management can live with themselves. Oh, wait, the selfish and narcissisitic don't care about anyone but themselves. I wonder how well they sleep knowing that they are putting thousands of people in financial jeopardy while management has their entire retirement funded.
nancy May 25, 2010 1:35 PM Reply
I am a business professional but it amazes me how these top execs set it up so they make millions of $$ off companies that fail or are failing. Meanwhile the people at this company are working like dogs and being laid off right and left - something is wrong here.
IRS May 25, 2010 1:49 PM Reply
The Tribune Company doesn't pay taxes either - it was allowed by the judge set up its bankruptcy so it didn't even have to pay capital gains on the Cubs sale - that $200 million they stole would have gone a long way towards paying teachers salaries.
Add in the the Tribune's illegal ESOP tax-evasion fraud, arrears in payroll taxes, property taxes, etc, and it's easy to see why governments are broke. Also, the banks that "loaned" Zell the money for the Tribune got paid back - by us, because "only the little people pay taxes" - leaving more holes in funding.
If this was a country with real laws, Sam Zell and his tag-alongs would only have one thing left to do: wait to die in a prison cell.
why May 25, 2010 1:50 PM Reply
WHY? Make them turn it over to the state and put it all into funding the shortfall for Education, then 17,000 teachers might not have to lose their jobs.
jack (the real one) May 25, 2010 2:03 PM Reply
The Tribune Company, especially its electronic publishing operations, WGN Radio, and WGN TV are horribly mismanaged, and the executives deserve nothing.
Not to mention lack of bonuses for those working on the lines, how about the severance compensation that the Tribune used bankruptcy to avoid? I think that's fraudulent.
However. Oneal still feels it important to report on the company line.
TribSUX May 25, 2010 2:14 PM Reply
Everyone at the Chicago Tribune should be very ashamed of themselves, the execs for their unbridled greed and avarice, the lower ranks for taking it and doing nothing about it.
hello May 25, 2010 2:25 PM Reply
If the company is losing money where does this money come from, it sounds like they get their money before anyone else including creditors.
Grabbing money off the top before the company fails, sickening.
Good luck trying to do that if you are are a person facing credit problems.
The Mad Hatter May 25, 2010 2:46 PM Reply
Ha! As usual, the underlings get the shaft while the overlords ride the elevator to the high life. You Tribune reporters and editors are just a bunch of stupid sheep. You should all walk off the job if these bonuses are paid to executives who bankrupted your company, put hundreds of your friends and colleagues out of work, and have derailed any hope you had of having a decent retirement. Instead, you rail against others whose pensions haven't been taken away yet. You are truly stupid journalists.
Stupid-Is Stupid-Does May 25, 2010 2:53 PM Reply
$14,000,000 / 35 = roughly $425,000 per person bonus. Good thing the Tribune is flush with cash and not having the financial troubles like the Sun Times and most hard working common folk these days.
Pete May 25, 2010 2:57 PM Reply
LOL - steer through bankruptcy? I think the entire country has gone wacky with diverting responsibility. When will the madness end.
Well here is your bonus - I am canceling the home delivery of the paper. Calling right now.
Just canceled my subscription to the Tribune. The gentlemen on the phone was very cordial and tried his best to keep me as a subscriber.
I asked if he received a bonus and he said he did not.
He asked what it would take to get me back - I said have the top 35 turn in the 14M and I will come back.
He ended by saying thank you and was hoping I would subscribe in the future.
Lake in the Hills
LAME May 25, 2010 3:29 PM Reply
i have lots of friends that were laid off here because they didn't have money to pay them and the same people are giving themselves bonuses. thats pathetic and not right!
FoxSnooze May 25, 2010 4:35 PM Reply
Makes me sad to see the greed on display in so many companies these days, and the people at the top blame the union workers and their "high" wages/benefits!
Shame on the Tribune!!
Frank May 25, 2010 5:38 PM Reply
"Darius May 25, 2010 12:03 PM Reply The article did not mention the huge bonuses for reporters, editors, pressmen, proof readers, delivery people, etc. Or was there nothing to mention?"
Didn't they lay off or fire most of those people? Must be where they got the money for such stellar performance from the execs.
Published: May 25, 2010
WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission said on Tuesday that it would begin soliciting public comments as part of a review and possible revision of its media ownership rules, which set limits on the ownership of multiple television and radio stations and newspapers in a single commercial market.
Julius Genachowski, chairman of the F.C.C.
The commission said its review, which by law takes place every four years, would focus on whether the current rules promoted the agency’s goals of competition, localism and diversity.
The ownership rules have been the subject of fierce debate in each of the two previous reviews under the Bush administration. They drew the ire of cable television companies, public interest groups and some members of Congress, including then-Senator Barack Obama.
Julius Genachowski, who was appointed chairman of the F.C.C. by President Obama, said the agency was seeking feedback that would “help ensure that our media ownership rules continue to protect consumer interests in today’s marketplace.”
Even as the commission undertakes its latest survey, it is still awaiting a federal appeals court ruling on the steps it took after the last review. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit is considering an appeal of the F.C.C.’s decision in 2007 to relax its ban on cross ownership of a daily newspaper and a television station in the same market.
Also in 2007, the F.C.C. tightened the reins on the cable television industry, stipulating that no single company could control more than 30 percent of the market. That rule was struck down by a federal appeals court last August.
In its request for public comments, the F.C.C. said it was seeking opinion on whether its current ownership rules were necessary or in the public interest to promote competition in the media business.
But the agency also noted that it would look closely at the impact of consolidation of ownership on competition in media markets. Since the 1996 Telecommunications Act was put into effect, the number of commercial radio stations and commercial television stations has increased by 10 and 15 percent, respectively. But the number of owners of those media outlets has fallen by more than 30 percent in each case.
The F.C.C. also is seeking opinion on the impact of the Internet on consumers’ use of television and radio, as well as their ability to gain access to sources of news. As newspaper circulation has declined, the agency noted in its release, the number of people who say they get news online has increased.
But the agency also noted that 20 of the 25 most-visited news Web sites shared corporate owners with other television or newspaper companies.
Two F.C.C. commissioners who were part of the last review issued statements on Wednesday commenting on the effects of the agency’s recent actions. Michael J. Copps, a Democratic commissioner who opposed loosening the ownership rules, said that “fewer and fewer voices do not an informed electorate or robust democracy make.”
Commissioner Robert M. McDowell, a Republican commissioner, lamented that the agency had continued over the last eight years to put in place “burdensome rules” that impeded broadcasters and newspapers and which demonstrate the agency was “unable to fully adapt its regulations to the new realities” of the Internet age.
A version of this article appeared in print on May 26, 2010, on page B10 of the New York edition.
(Crain's) — Tribune Co. plans to pay top executives and managers bonuses of $16.2 million when its bankruptcy reorganization plan takes effect, the company said in a court filing.
The Chicago-based company — owner of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and broadcast outlets — said in a revised reorganization plan filed Monday that it will pay $10.3 million in incentive compensation to its top 19 executives, who earned the maximum amount possible for their performances last year, and $1.3 million to other employees who made “valuable contributions.”
Under a separate bonus program that rewards some of the same executives, another $4.6 million will be paid out to business unit leaders, the filing said.
The payouts follow a move in February to award $42 million in bonuses under the same programs to top managers for their work last year.
The compensation awards have drawn criticism from creditors in the past and could become a point of contention when the company seeks to have the plan confirmed at court hearings that begin the week of Aug. 16.
Tribune sought Chapter 11 protection in the Delaware Bankruptcy Court in December 2008, just a year after Chairman Sam Zell took the company private in a $13.8-billion leveraged buyout.
Creditors, including J. P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Angelo Gordon & Co., will take control of the company under the reorganization plan. The plan is still subject to a creditor vote and court approval.
B.U.N. Note: I don't understand what possible "valuable contributions" are worthy of a total of $ 58.2 million dollars in Executive bonuses.
How hard is it to increase your profits by laying off thousands of workers and forcing those who remain to work harder, while cutting their pay and benefits?
All it takes is hard hearts and set of corporate core values that have neither soul nor integrity.
An actual "valuable contribution" would have been if Tribune executives had bought or produced better programs and increased their profits through offering a better product rather than by cutting jobs.
- Bob Daraio, Broadcast Union News
Tribune seeks approval to send plan to creditors; some bondholders urge delay
(Reuters) - Tribune Co.sought court approval on Thursday to put its reorganization plan to a creditor vote, with objectors attacking a proposed settlement of legal claims tied to the leveraged buyout blamed for its bankruptcy.
Junior bondholders wanted the owner of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and New York's WPIX television station to wait for a report by a court-appointed examiner before sending out the disclosure statement, which describes the plan, and ballots.
But that report will not be available until July.
An attorney for the junior bondholders, who will get nothing from the planned reorganization, told the Delaware Bankruptcy Court the disclosure statement was a garish advertisement for the settlement at the heart of the company's plan.
The company aims to include in the disclosure statement a hyperlink to the examiner's report, which will be available by July 12.
Under their plan, creditors will have until the end of July to vote.
The examiner will report on the potential value of claims the company may have against lenders, management and advisers for landing Tribune in bankruptcy in 2008, about a year after real estate developer Sam Zell took control through an $8 billion leveraged buyout.
The company has proposed releasing any potential liabilities and in return giving a stake in the company worth about $450 million to senior bondholders, who otherwise would lose their investment.
That represents a recovery for those investors of about 35 percent.
"Mr. Zell and various members of Tribune's board and senior management have significant, personal interest in seeing all LBO-related litigation 'swept under the rug,' especially when the proposed settlement does not require them to pay any amounts and also shelters them from all further litigation exposure," the junior bondholders' letter to creditors said.
The letter warned the reorganization plan would be subject to lengthy court fights if it is not a consensual plan. Other parties seemed to agree.
Holders of senior loan claims, who will get the company's equity under the proposed reorganization, doubt there is much likelihood of success of any litigation tied to the leveraged buyout.
They have argued the company is giving too much away to head off those disputes.
They also wanted the Tribune to disclose that their group is larger than the group of senior loan claimants who support the plan.
The judge, Kevin Carey, asked the parties to try to draft a letter or find a way that they could explain their differences that could be included in the disclosure statement.
Depending on the outcome of their work during the lunch break, Carey said he may have to continue the hearing on another day.
"It's been a long time since I crawled this far into the weeds on a disclosure statement," Carey said.
Tribune Co. buyout to be studied by trustee-appointed ...
Tribune Co. wants to award executives another $16.2M
Tribune Co. strikes deal with creditors on bankruptcy exit
Tribune Co. wants another month to file reorganization plan
Tribune Co. heading for bankruptcy exit in the black
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
The third line in the chart offers some perspective by showing the change in the pre-tax median household income over the same period, which grew just 13.2%.
The median pre-tax household income for a family of four in 2007 was $50,233, while the top-earning 400 households earned a median $345 million, almost 6900 times as much income.
In contrast, in 1992 the ratio was just a sixth as large, with the top 400 households having 1124 times as much income.
Last week, the very rich once again attacked the middle-class, this time in U.S. News and World Report. Billionaire publisher Mort Zuckerman decided to use his magazine to publish a rabid attack on public employees, the men and women who provide the services that keep our communities safe, teach our children, keep our streets paved and our water clean.
In his piece, Zuckerman would have us believe that the hunt is over and we have found the culprits who trashed America’s financial health. It was our nation’s librarians, corrections officers, teachers, cops and fireman who drove our economy off the cliff. Wall Street and a compliant Federal Reserve had nothing to do with it. There’s really nothing more to see here; it’s time to move on.
Zuckerman’s short-sighted assault on public employees appealed to the editors of Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, who decided to republish it on their op-ed page. The billionaires are happy to amplify their anti-worker screeds in each other’s media empires.
Mort Zuckerman is one of the world’s wealthiest men.
While never once mentioning the reprehensible behavior of the investment and banking community in causing an economic collapse that wiped out half a generation of retirement savings (including the home equity that many had counted on), nor acknowledging that wealthy Americans pay less in taxes than they did 60 years ago, Zuckerman launches a rant against public employee unions and the “extraordinary benefits” paid to workers that is long on hyperbole and short on facts.
AFSCME’s non-teaching public employee members earn, on average, $45,000 a year to protect the public and the most vulnerable members of our society.
After a career of service, AFSCME members retire with modest pensions of about $19,000 per year. And, unlike most private sector workers, members typically contribute towards this pension benefit. In fact, of the final pension benefit, taxpayers contribute just 25% of the cost.
The fact that public employees have decent health benefits and pensions, now scarce in the private sector, is genuine cause for alarm. Zuckerman’s solution is for these benefits to be taken away from public employees.
Of course, he has a net worth of over $2 billion, so he’s not much troubled by such a sacrifice. Zuckerman claims the benefits earned by public employees are “galling” to private sector workers.
How would he know?
What is truly galling for private sector employees is the outright refusal of our political and economic elites to recognize and deal with stagnant wages and eroding retirement and health security.
Our nation’s problem is not that public service workers have decent pensions, it is that so many other employees don’t.
The cause of our fiscal problems is declining revenues, pure and simple. The fact that state governments have cut almost half a trillion in spending over the last three budget cycles is ample evidence of this. Moreover, Zuckerman misrepresents the facts about public pension funds. The primary cause of our pension funding challenges is the failure of state governments to contribute required payments over many years.
For example, the political leaders in New Jersey deliberately failed to make required contributions over a period of more than ten years.
Of course, employees have been paying in full, year after year. The employees acted in good faith, the political leaders did not.
We have a genuine retirement security crisis in this nation — the average 401(k) balance is just $35,000 — yet we see nothing from Zuckerman or his billionaire buddies like Rupert Murdoch that would even remotely address the problem.
Vilification of public employees may fit their anti-working-class agenda, but it won’t create good jobs in our economy. Nor will it solve the problems facing states that have failed to keep up with their pension obligations.
Sam Whitmore is the best media watcher around, he regularly talks to the press as part of his research for the excellent Sam Whitmore's Media Survey, which is heavily used by all the large PR agencies.
I was at a recent panel moderated by Sam Whitmore that discussed pageviews and the effect on journalism. Although nothing much emerged from that event, it is an important issue, and Sam has been collecting more information on this topic.
Sam Whitmore reports:
It's now a luxury for a reporter to write a story about an obscure but important topic. That used to be a job requirement. Now it's a career risk.Example: let's say an interesting startup has a new and different idea. Many reporters now won't touch it because
(a) the story won't generate page views, and
(b) few people search on terms germane to that startup. Potential SEO performance is now a key factor in what gets assigned.
Two reporters from two different publications this month both told us the same thing: if you want to write a story on an interesting but obscure topic, you had better feed the beast by writing a second story about the iPad or Facebook or something else that delivers page views and good SEO.
Page view journalism will make our society poorer because less popular but important topics will be crowded out.
This also means companies with decent stories to tell will be lost in the media tsunami. All the more reason why companies must also generate their own media, to make up for the shrinkage of the independent media industry. (When Every Company Is A Media Company...)
The dirty little secret of journalism's focus on pageviews is that the value of each page view is decreasing, because there is so much competition for views. This means its a strategy that will likely lead to failure. Media organizations need to adopt a multi-revenue business model, or what I call a Heinz 57 model.
In January I wrote:
The Killer Pitch? - When PR Agencies Can Do This - Look Out ...
...here's a killer pitch. It's one that I haven't heard yet but it's only a matter of time. " ... and we have the ability to drive a lot of traffic to your story."
In a world where reporters are increasingly rewarded not on the quality of their work but on how much traffic their stories attract -- this becomes the killer pitch.
Luckily, PR companies haven't figured out how to reliably drive traffic to a specific story beyond submitting it to Digg, etc.
Contact Tom Foremski
1900 Eddy Street #6
San Francisco, CA 94115
USACell 415 336 7547
Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman, Rep. Henry A. Waxman Announces Process to Update the Communications Act
Watchdogs Oppose Relaxed Cross-ownership Rules
Leo Hindery, Jr. Managing Partner, InterMedia Partners
Albert Kramer, Board Chair, Partner, Dickstein Shapiro LLP
Jorge Schement, Dean, School of Communication & Information, Rutgers University
Roanne Robinson Shaddox, SecretaryFormer Chief of Staff of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Mozelle W. Thompson, Thompson Strategic ConsultingFormer Commissioner, Federal Trade Commission
Kathleen Wallman, Wallman Consulting, LLCFormer Chief of the FCC Common Carrier Bureau
The three groups include the Parents Television Council, Consumers Union and Free Press.In a release, they said they would like to see the FCC “…prevent a repeat of deadlocks that have deprived paying customers of access to television programming, and to reform retransmission processes to put consumer choice and the public interest ahead of parochial industry interests.”
The a la carte lite proposal would allow subscribers to opt out of any channels carried on an MVPD as a result of a bundled retransmission agreement, and get a discount for the refused channels.
A full a la carte system would allow each subscriber to completely custom-order their channel lineup, a regimen that MVPDs have strongly opposed.
Free Press policy counsel M. Chris Riley said, “Unless the FCC acts to fix this broken system, we can expect a long hot summer when consumers will likely be caught again between sparring broadcasters and cable companies, and will face more service disruptions and ever higher cable bills. These bills continue to go up, while many costs are going down. Consumers deserve a break.”
Dan Isett of the Parents Television Council added, “The Commission must act to shift the balance of power to the public. Consumers should no longer be prisoners of pricey bundles, but should have the freedom to select, pay for and receive in their living rooms only those channels they want. The Commission’s aim should not be to pick winners and losers in industry disputes, but rather to protect families and consumers.”
"Cable customers should get what they pay for, instead of being held at the mercy of these disputes between the cable companies and the broadcasters," said Joel Kelsey of Consumers Union. “Consumers should be able to choose their channels, and they should get a refund when they lose access to the channels they pay for."
RBR-TVBR observation: We would take issue with comments that we’re in for a long hot summer of service disruption due to contentious broadcast/MVPD negotiations. The fact is that service disruptions are exceedingly rare, and when they do come up, it is most likely near the end of the year when contracts typically expire. Summertime disruptions are usually the result, not of retransmission negotiations, but of extreme weather that knocks out electrical and cable infrastructure.
The premise of the Post story is that the networks are in line to split as much as $5 billion annually in retrans sharing with stations by 2016, which makes the networks more attractive after years of not having a second revenue stream like their cable competitors.
But the story also claims that the value of the networks is held back by their ownership of broadcast stations, which have been hard hit by the advertising downturn of the past couple of years. The story fails to note that Comcast has emphatically stated that it does not want to sell off the O&O stations and become 100% dependent on affiliates for distribution of NBC.
Disney CEO Bob Iger has been asked repeatedly about whether he would be willing to sell off ABC – and he has diplomatically done what any good CEO would do – never say never and leave the door open to future possibilities.
Sumner Redstone, the controlling shareholder of both CBS and Viacom, has been more resistant to any talk of selling – but then, he will turn 87 next week.
RBR-TVBR observation: Only a fool would want to buy a broadcast network without its big market O&Os. Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corporation owns the NY Post along with Fox, has tried to explain that numerous times to dunderheaded Wall Street analysts who just don’t get it.
As for whether ABC or CBS will be sold, we can say with considerable confidence that Bob Iger would be willing to sell ABC if someone offers Disney a premium price above its value to the parent company. To overcome Sumner Redstone’s ego, though, a bid to buy CBS would probably have to be at a really big premium to win acceptance.
Broadcast Networks in Good Time Slot for Sale
By CLAIRE ATKINSON
The upfront presentations may have wrapped up last week, but the broadcast networks' sales pitches may be just beginning.
With General Electric in the process of selling NBC Universal to cable giant Comcast, some Wall Street dealmakers predict Sumner Redstone and Disney will begin debating whether to put CBS and ABC, respectively, on the block.
Among bankers, CBS appears to be garnering the most attention amid signs Redstone these days isn't dismissing out of hand the notion of selling CBS.
"This is a good time to sell a network," said one Wall Street exec. "Retransmission makes it look more interesting. [CBS] has assets in radio but no long-term strategy in cable." Retransmission refers to fees for "retransmission consent," in which cable and satellite operators pay a network a monthly per-subscriber fee to carry the channel on their systems.
Reps for CBS and for Redstone, who is CBS' majority owner, declined to comment.
Meanwhile, ABC's future in the Mouse House is also not guaranteed, with Disney chief Bob Iger said to be taking a hard look at the network.
"There are no guarantees," he said recently about ABC's future at Disney. A source said the issue is what to do with the accompanying stations.
Sources said this year may be broadcast TV's best hope for finding buyers. While the audience tuning in to broadcast TV continues to erode, the Big Four networks -- ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC -- collectively are expected to pull in as much as 20 percent more in ad dollars at this year's upfront than in last year's dismal showing. (News Corp. owns both Fox and The Post.)
Further, the networks are gaining ground in their years-long fight with cable and satellite operators to get paid for their broadcast signal the way ESPN and MTV do.
Analyst Larry Gerbrandt forecasts that networks could each reap up to $400 million in the coming years, thanks to retransmission fees. He predicted that by 2016, the networks' take from retransmission consent could hit $5 billion.
That's good news because these days broadcast networks make little, if any, profit just by airing sitcoms and dramas.
While audiences will still show up in droves for tentpole events like the Super Bowl or an awards show, the increased popularity of cable is eating into broadcast networks' bottom line, which is further hampered by the high costs associated with producing series, steep sports-rights fees and expenses tied to owning a news operation. Also weighing on broadcasters is their ownership of local TV stations, which have been hit hard by the ad slowdown.
Experts said the networks' real money-making opportunities lie in ancillary businesses, such as international syndication, DVDs and other merchandise, and ownership of a network isn't necessary to reap those benefits.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Broadcasting & Cable, 5/24/2010
FCC, court keep juggling rule changes
FOR ALL the talk of the digital age and the changes wrought by multiple platforms, the arguments over the FCC’s media-ownership rules continue to be divided along decidedly historic lines.
Broadcasters keep pushing the FCC to get rid of a bunch of structural regulations that limit how many stations they can own, and where.
Meanwhile, consolidation foes say the next proposed deregulatory move is already one too many.
Any final resolution on changes to TV or radio-station ownership rules, however, could wind up being a split decision if a federal court moves the issue one way and the FCC goes another. And that decision could take some time, all the while providing none of the regulatory safeguards broadcasters have been seeking for more than a decade.
Last week, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals—the same court that put a hold on the FCC’s far more deregulatory rewrite of its ownership rules in 2003—collected the first round of briefs in a boatload of challenges to the FCC’s 2007 rule rewrite. The 2003 rewrite loosened the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules just enough to anger consolidation activists, but not nearly enough to appease broadcasters and newspaper owners. Broadcasters weighed in on the issue in droves, but by all appearances this still has the look of a pitcher’s duel, and one that could easily go to extra innings. For the most part, broadcasters aren’t looking to heavy up on stations. And the FCC is pushing broadcasters to reduce their stake in spectrum, not increase it.
But lifting the limits is not necessarily about building large groups. Broadcasters have been arguing, in fact, that this multiplatform synergy will most benefit smaller groups or individual stations in smaller markets currently denied deals with both newspapers and other stations.
It is unclear when the pivotal Third Circuit will hear oral arguments in the case; after that, it could be months before a decision is made.
Meanwhile, the FCC on a separate track is looking at all of its media-ownership rules as part of its regularly scheduled, congressionally mandated review. Depending on the timing of that review—FCC officials have said it was on track to be completed by the end of the year—the commission may make new changes to the rules even before the court passes judgment on its change to the old ones.
“You have the last decision under review while [the FCC] is considering what to do with the new one,” says one broadcast attorney who asked not to be named.
That said, more than one broadcast attorney who deals with the FCC says that an end-of-the-year deadline looks increasingly unlikely. John Crigler, a partner at Garvey Schuber Barer, gives the FCC no chance of providing regulatory certainty anytime soon. “The FCC has never kept to a timetable,” he says. “Even with broadband, they had to squeal for an extension.”
In the meantime, the industry will have to rely on what the attorneys call “synthetic duopolies,” the joint services agreements and joint marketing deals that they concede the FCC has been fairly liberal in granting.
On the other side of the argument, Media Access Project (MAP), Free Press, United Church of Christ and Prometheus Radio Project said the the FCC's decision to relax the crossownership rule failed to meet the minimum standards for informed and rational agency action.
The Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University (one of two key authors of the brief, along with MAP) is not mentioned, and neither is their client, Media Alliance.
They pointed to the fact that the commission voted only days after hundreds of comments had been filed that "could not possibly" have been taken into account. Even the item that was voted included changes circulated only hours before the vote.
Note: Public interest groups and trade unions are active in opposing shared services agreements, duopolies, "synthetic" or otherwise. Media consolidation reduces the number of diverse voices in news coverage, which is a danger to any democratic society. - Bob Daraio , Broadcast Union News
Saturday, May 22, 2010
The former chief meteorologist for CBS News, George Cullen, is suing the company for wrongful termination, seeking $1.752 million in damages.
In the lawsuit filed Thursday in Manhattan U.S. District Court, Cullen says he was fired last month after he failed to attend a mandatory training session on new weather software. "CBS's stated excuse for terminating Cullen that day was blatantly pretextual," the lawsuit says. In the suit Cullen argues that he was let go so that CBS could bring in a "younger and less qualified" weatherperson.
A spokesperson for CBS News told TVNewser "We have not yet been served, however, we intend to vigorously defend these meritless allegations."
Thursday, May 20, 2010
All told, 400 people in local TV news lost their jobs in 2009, according to the survey – accounting for 1.5 percent of the local TV workforce. That may be considered a bad year, but not nearly as bad as 2008, when 1,200 people lost jobs in TV news (4.3 percent of the workforce).
Even as staffing fell, the amount of news on the average station rose to another record high of five hours per weekday. That’s up from last year’s record 4.7 hours.The best news in this year's survey regards planned staff changes in 2010. In a dramatic turnaround from a year ago, over 60 percent of TV news directors say they expect staffing levels to stay the same. That's up nearly 20 points from a year ago.
The number expecting a decrease in staffing dropped 77 percent from a year ago, and the percentage expecting an increase in staff went up by 145 percent.Station profitability on news dropped slightly, but the percentage of station revenue produced by news remained the same.
2009 started with 770 TV stations producing original local news, shared with another 205 stations for a total of 975 using the content. Going into 2010, a net loss of eight stations left 762 stations producing original local news, and sharing it with another 224, for a total of 986 stations.
Only one network affiliate simply dropped local news completely in 2009. Most of the cuts involved independent stations, and most wound up continuing to run local news but getting it from another station.
RTDNA/ Hofstra Survey Finds One-Man-Band Usage Up Modestly
Over the last few years, talk about using one-man bands has soared, but it seems that actual use of one-man-bands has risen only modestly, according to the latest installment of the RTDNA/Hofstra survey.
"It appears that with one-man-band usage, a lot of [television] stations are more talk than action, according to the numbers," said survey director Bob Papper, professor and chair of journalism at Hofstra University.
Three years ago, 22.3 percent of surveyed television stations said they "mostly use" one-man-bands. Today, that percentage is up to 31.7 percent. The stations reporting "some use" of one-man-bands edged up from 26.9 percent to 29 percent this year. The "not much" usage category slid from 22.3 percent to 21.0 percent, and the "do not use" group dropped just over 10 points from 28.6 percent to 18.3 percent.
Most of the growth in the use of one-man bands from 2007 to 2010 came in the smallest markets and in the smallest newsrooms. Only 8.5 percent of the largest newsrooms - 51 or more employees - said they "mostly" use one-man-bands.
"Expected use" of one-man-bands is where we see the biggest change - up to 43.1 percent this year from 27.7 percent three years ago. There should be a word of caution in interpreting these results, though. These are close to the same numbers we had the year before, and the actual growth of one-man-bands was far more modest than the expectation.
Radio news changed little in 2009. The amount of news on the air is just about the same as a year ago, and the typical radio news staff remained at one person. If anything, radio news is even more centralized now than it has been, with the typical news director overseeing the news on three stations, and more than 80 percent of radio news directors saying they have additional station responsibilities beyond news.
Over the next few weeks, RTDNA will incrementally release a series of results from the full survey to RTDNA members including information on: how TV news is changing, social media usage, technology development, web trends and one-man bands.
About the Survey
The RTDNA/Hofstra University Survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2009 among all 1,770 operating, non-satellite television stations and a random sample of 4,000 radio stations. Valid responses came from 1,355 television stations (76.6 percent) and 203 radio news directors and general managers representing 301 radio stations.
Some data sets (e.g. the number of TV stations originating local news, getting it from others and women TV news directors) are based on a complete census and are not projected from a smaller sample.
The annual survey is conducted for RTDNA by Bob Papper, the Lawrence Stessin Distinguished Professor of Journalism and chair of the Department of Journalism, Media Studies, and Public Relations at Hofstra University. This research was supported by the School of Communication at Hofstra University and the Radio Television Digital News Association.
RTDNA is the world's largest professional organization devoted exclusively to electronic journalism. RTDNA represents local and network news executives in broadcasting, cable and digital media in more than 20 countries.
Contact: Ryan Murphy, 202.495.8730, email@example.com
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
We invest our government and corporate research funding, and the efforts of our best people, creating new and improved ways to have fewer and fewer people able to run our industrial plants, rather than focusing that same set of limited resources on discovering ways of employing the same number of people to create more, better quality, more useful products, and creating new products whose production would create even higher levels of employment. Better products increase demand, higher employment increases disposable income, and both contribute to higher profits, and therefore a stronger economy.
Corporate funding to permanently endow innovative elementary and secondary school programs; corporate and union funded endowment of professorships, teaching assistantships, and research staffs at universities; government, corporate, and labor partnerships in the endowment of international educational exchange programs would create a permanent environment for ongoing educational innovation.
Robert Daraio is the Recording Secretary of the New York Broadcast Trades Council, moderator of the Broadcast Union News website, and a graduate student in the CUNY Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies program.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Screen Actors Guild are pleased to announce the beginning of the Joint Wages & Working Conditions (W&W) process in preparation for the negotiation of the AFTRA Exhibit A and SAG TV/Theatrical Contract.
This contract will expire on June 30, 2011, and early negotiations are scheduled to commence in September or October 2010. Proposals for this important negotiation are developed through the involvement of members like you.
There are four ways to make your voice heard: AFTRA Exhibit A and SAG TV/Theatrical Contract Caucuses:
Join your fellow members to discuss what really matters! Open to all paid-up AFTRA and SAG members, the caucuses are open sessions where you can raise issues regarding the AFTRA Exhibit A and SAG TV/Theatrical Contract provisions that you feel should be addressed in the upcoming negotiations. Input from the caucuses informs the proposals that will be developed by the Joint Wages & Working Conditions Committee.
Joint Wages & Working Conditions Committee Meetings: These formal meetings use the information and ideas gathered from the caucuses to create proposals for the 2010 contract negotiations.
Email Suggestions: Can’t make it to a caucus or committee meeting? You can still play an active part by emailing your ideas to or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
All proposal recommendations will be reviewed by the Joint Wages & Working Conditions Committee and inform the Committee’s final recommendations to the AFTRA and SAG National Boards.
On-site Suggestion Box: Feel free to drop-in your contract-related thoughts and concerns in suggestion boxes available at both AFTRA and SAG in New York and Los Angeles. AFTRA members may use suggestion boxes available in the 9th Floor Membership Department at the AFTRA office at 5757 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles and in the 7th Floor Membership Department at the AFTRA office at 260 Madison Avenue in New York.
SAG members may use suggestion boxes available in the 7th Floor reception areas at the SAG offices at 5757 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles and 360 Madison Avenue in New York.
Note: Upcoming dates for the Joint Caucuses and W&W meetings in Los Angeles and New York will be emailed soon. Local and regional Branch members should contact your Local or Branch staff and visit the AFTRA or SAG Web sites for local dates and times.
Click here to visit the new AFTRA.com.