Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tribune's Bankruptcy Plan Likely To Face Legal Challenges

By Michael Oneal - Los Angeles Times

Creditors had until midnight Friday to submit alternatives to a plan backed by the media conglomerate and its largest creditors. At least two groups filed restructuring proposals.

Still recovering from a management scandal that claimed its chief executive a week ago, Tribune Co. is bracing for its next disruption: how to cope with legal challenges from Aurelius Capital Management and other unhappy creditors seeking to upend its bankruptcy case.

Creditors faced a midnight Friday deadline for submitting restructuring plans that would contest a settlement filed Oct. 22 by Tribune, its biggest senior creditors and the committee charged with representing the company's junior creditors.

Aurelius intends to file a competing plan, said Mark Brodsky, chairman of the New York hedge fund. So does a group of senior creditors known as the SoCal lenders, one of its lawyers confirmed. Another group of bridge loan lenders represented by Wells Fargo Bank also is considering a filing, although the group's lawyer, Thomas Lauria of White & Case, said it may end up joining another opposition camp.

Tribune co-President and Chief Restructuring Officer Don Liebentritt hailed the company-endorsed plan last week as the best way "to conclude its bankruptcy proceedings as soon as possible." But many creditors vow to fight the plan, saying it shortchanges their interests.

"They settled amongst themselves … again," Lauria said, noting that key junior creditors were absent from the negotiations.

Tribune, which owns the Los Angeles Times, KTLA, WPIX, WGN, the Chicago Tribune and other media properties, has been struggling in Bankruptcy Court for almost two years. The case has foundered on disagreements over how to settle claims raised by junior bondholders that a 2007 leveraged buyout — led by Tribune Chairman Sam Zell — was a case of fraudulent conveyance, meaning it left the company insolvent from the start.

Nobody disputes that the senior creditors allied with Tribune — a group led by Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo, Gordon & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. — will end up owning the company, as their more than $8 billion in claims dwarf Tribune's estimated $6.6 billion in total value.

But because a court-appointed examiner found that the second part of the two-part transaction may have been a fraudulent conveyance, junior creditors such as Aurelius have leverage for their demands that the senior group pay them for releases from the threat of litigation related to those claims.

The Tribune-Oaktree plan has the support of the biggest constituencies in the case. It also has the seal of approval of the court-appointed mediator who helped negotiate it.

But Brodsky argues that because the Tribune plan was essentially an agreement among the potential defendants of the buyout claims, "without ever including the bondholders in the negotiation," the judge would have a hard time confirming it.


Brodsky said that Friday, Aurelius would submit its plan, which would conclude that there is no chance of a negotiated settlement in the case. Instead, Aurelius would propose that all of the buyout-related claims be put into a litigation trust, preserving them for future court battles. The company could then exit bankruptcy without having to wait for the results of the litigation, which could stretch out for years.

No releases would be granted, but a large portion of the company's value would be distributed to the various parties, most of it going to the senior creditors. A similarly large portion, however, would be reserved to compensate the victors of the court battles. Defendants would include the lenders and advisors to the Zell deal, directors and officers at the time (including Zell), and shareholders who profited.

Bankruptcy experts say Aurelius is probably using the threat of such massive litigation to extract a better settlement from the senior creditors. But if the plan fails, documents suggest Aurelius will switch to another strategy: trying to discredit the Tribune plan by raising questions about the suitability of several key parties who approved it: the creditors committee, Liebentritt and the special committee of the company's board.

Aurelius recently asked the court to replace Tribune officials with a bankruptcy trustee, arguing that executives and board members were conflicted in brokering a settlement in the case. (It has since backed off that request.)

Transcripts of depositions related to the motion show that Aurelius lawyers grilled Mark Shapiro and Maggie Wilderotter, two members of the special board committee, with questions about the settlement they had approved only two days earlier. The apparent goal was to show that they had not lived up to their fiduciary duty by analyzing whether the settlement was fair to creditors such as Aurelius. Questioning focused on whether they understood the deal themselves or whether they relied on the advice of Tribune advisors who may have been conflicted.

In one exchange, an attorney pressed Shapiro, chairman of the special committee, about the logic behind a $120-million payment that is central to the Tribune-Oaktree plan.

"So, in other words," the lawyer said, "if I were to ask you how the $120-million number was arrived at, you would not be able to tell me?"

"Relied on my financial advisors for that," Shapiro replied.

Similarly, a different Aurelius attorney asked Wilderotter about the size of the claim that was being settled for $120 million. After looking at her notes, she gave the wrong answer.

Neither Shapiro nor Wilderotter returned calls for comment.

Aurelius lawyers also questioned Wilderotter about whether Liebentritt, who has long worked for Zell, one of the key targets of litigation, should be viewed as conflicted and unable to represent the interests of creditors who might be looking to sue his former boss. And they asked the board members about evidence Liebentritt may have lost the confidence of various constituents in the case.

Tribune declined to comment.

Tribune Creditors File Three Reorganization Plans And Investors Sue Banks That Arranged Financing

By Tom Hals

(Reuters) - Three different groups of creditors to Tribune Co filed rival proposals for ending the newspaper publisher's near two-year stay in bankruptcy.

The three plans, which were filed Friday with Delaware's Bankruptcy Court, will compete for creditor support against the company's proposed plan.

Like the company's plan, the proposals allow for Tribune's businesses, such as the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, to exit bankruptcy while creditors fight over how to apportion blame for its bankruptcy.

Tribune, which also owns 23 television stations, filed for bankruptcy just a year after real estate developer Sam Zell bought the company with billions of dollars in debt.

Tribune has proposed a reorganization plan based on a settlement among lenders JPMorgan Chase & Co and hedge funds Oaktree Capital Management and Angelo, Gordon & Co.

Under their plan those three would end up controlling the company.

The Tribune plan tries to avoid many potential lawsuits by putting a value on legal claims and settling with bondholders, whose roughly $2 billion in investments were essentially wiped out by the bankruptcy.

A hedge fund holding a large portion of those bonds, Aurelius Capital Management, clearly has no intention of accepting Tribune's settlement offer and it filed one of the competing plans.

The other plans were filed a group holding senior loan claims and Marathon Asset Management LP and King Street Capital LP, which hold bridge loan claims.

The plans mainly differ from the company's by foregoing settlements and pursuing legal claims against lenders, particularly the banks that loaned the money for the second part of Zell's two-step leveraged buyout.

In July, a court-appointed examiner found the second part of Zell's buyout might be determined to be fraudulent.

LAWSUIT FILED

In conjunction with their bankruptcy plan, the group of senior lenders also filed a lawsuit against JPMorgan, Merrill Lynch, Citicorp and Bank of America. They said in the lawsuit the banks arranged $3.7 billion in Tribune loans in 2007 they knew the company could never repay.

"The Lead Banks knew that this financing was barred by the terms of the Credit Agreement and it was tainted with fraud and other misconduct," the lawsuit, which was filed late on Friday, said.

Representatives for the JPMorgan, Bank of America and Merill Lynch were not immediately available to comment on the lawsuit. Citicorp declined to comment.

The lawsuit, which claimed that the banks had no exposure to the loans and collected more than $120 million in fees, was filed in the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan.

The plaintiffs, including Alden Global Distressed Opportunities Fund and Arrowgrass Distressed Opportunities Fund, claim that the loans arranged by the defendants prevented Tribune from paying back earlier debt obligations.

Separately, New York hedge fund operator Aurelius Capital Management proposed a competing plan late on Friday for the reorganization of Tribune that would take an aggressive stance in pursuing lawsuits stemming from the buyout of the troubled publisher.


The filing in a Delaware court set the stage for a showdown with those who back the company's plan for getting out of bankruptcy. That plan has the support of other creditors including some big hedge funds and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

An examiner's report earlier this year said part of the buyout deal engineered by Zell might be "an intentional fraudulent conveyance." That opens the door to legal challenges to banker fees, creditor claims and billions in payments to shareholders.

AGGRESSIVE TACTICS

Aurelius, a Tribune creditor, is known for its aggressive tactics in bankruptcy. A steady stream of litigators from law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer Feld LLP filed requests with Delaware's bankruptcy court to appear on the hedge fund's behalf as it prepared for a showdown.

Under Aurelius Capital Management's plan, a reserve would be created for holders of the company's bonds.

Aurelius would then aggressively pursue lawsuits against Zell, the lenders who supported his leveraged buyout in 2007, advisers and company executives among others.

As part of the company-backed reorganization plan, JPMorgan, Merrill Lynch, Merrill's parent Bank of America Corp and Citigroup Inc agreed to pay $120 million to settle claims over the fees paid to leveraged-buyout bankers.

Tribune's attempts to exit Chapter 11 have recently been overshadowed by a management upheaval.

The company last week replaced Chief Executive Randy Michaels, who became a target of critics following a New York Times story that quoted numerous employees who were upset at pervasive sexual banter and profanity among top managers.

The case is In Re Tribune Co, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 08-13141.

(Reporting by Tom Hals and Mark Weinraub in Chicago; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Media Watchdog Organization Public Knowledge Sees The Future In Cablevision/Fox Dispute

RBR-TVBR: Media public interest organization Public Knowledge has something to say about the dispute between Fox and Cablevision: Get used to it. And it goes on to argue that the proposed merger of Comcast and NBCU may only make the problem worse. It also said broadcasters have an unfair advantage in retransmission negotiations.

PK Legal Director Harold Feld wrote, “The Commission should not view Fox’s blocking of Cablevision customers, as a one-of- a-kind occurrence. Rather, it is a sign of things to come, unless the Commission reexamines its media ownership, merger, and retransmission consent policies.”

A good example; after each blamed the other for their contract impasse in letters to the FCC, Fox Networks and Cablevision found a new battleground for their dispute – the Internet.

As first reported by the New York Daily News, a Fox employee who is a Cablevision subscriber taped a Cablevision customer service agent advising him of illegal Internet sites where he could view Fox programming for free while the channels are not being carried on the local cable system.

That led to Fox expressing outrage over the seeming complicity of Cablevision in stealing content in violation of copyright law. Fox fired off a cease and desist letter to Cablevision.

Noting that Fox briefly pulled online access of its programming from Cablevision internet subscribers, PK said:

 “…Fox’s blocking of Cablevision’s broadband customers shows that the current generation of dominant content and content delivery networks are trying to control the next. This kind of blocking, which concerns anti-competitive conduct inflicted on ISPs or end-user applications, rather than committed by an ISP, is not a ‘network neutrality’ concern as precisely understood. But network neutrality is not the end-all be-all of consumer protection, and these practices could threaten the integrity of the open Internet as much as anti-competitive behavior by telecommunications providers.”

And that, PK says, is cause for the FCC to investigate.

PK says this problem will only be exacerbated by the market power wielded by a combined Comcast/NBCU, saying “...a combined Comcast/NBC would have the incentive to block customers of competing MVPDs or competing ‘over-the-top’ programming distributors independent of retransmission disputes.

Alternatively, rather than block access entirely, Comcast/NBC would have strong incentive to impose discriminatory terms for access to Hulu to competing broadband access providers and MVPDs.

Therefore, it should deny the Comcast/NBC merger, or should impose conditions that would prevent Comcast/NBC from behaving in such an anti-competitive and anti-consumer fashion.”

PK argues that media consolidation is a problem in and of itself, allowing millions of consumers to be held hostage during a single dispute, and making the internet just a new arena for giant conglomerates rather than a competitor to them.

PK also came down on the side of MVPDs when it comes to retransmission, saying that must-carry, network program nonduplication, syndicated program exclusivity, and sports blackout requirements give broadcasters the upper hand in negotiations and asked the FCC to do something about it. It said Fox’s decision to extend the battle to the internet was a further abuse of its power.

Tribune Braces For Competing Bankruptcy Plans - Unhappy Creditors To Offer Alternatives

By Michael Oneal, Tribune reporter

Still recovering from a management scandal that claimed its chief executive a week ago, Tribune Co. is bracing for its next disruption: How to cope with legal challenges from Aurelius Capital Management and other unhappy creditors seeking to upend its bankruptcy case.

Creditors face a midnight Friday deadline for submitting restructuring plans that would contest a settlement filed Oct. 22 by Tribune Co., its biggest senior creditors and the committee charged with representing the company's junior creditors.

Aurelius intends to file a competing plan, said Mark Brodsky, chairman of the litigious New York hedge fund. So does a group of senior creditors known as the SoCal lenders, one of its lawyers confirmed. Another group of bridge loan lenders represented by Wells Fargo Bank also is considering a filing, although the group's lawyer, Thomas Lauria, of White & Case, said it may end up joining another opposition camp.

Tribune Co. Co-President and Chief Restructuring Officer Don Liebentritt last week hailed the company-endorsed plan as the best way "to conclude its bankruptcy proceedings as soon as possible." But many creditors vow to fight a plan they insist continues to shortchange their interests.

"They settled amongst themselves … again," Lauria said, noting key junior creditors were absent from the negotiations.

Tribune Co., which owns the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, WGN, WPIX, KTLA, and other media properties, has been struggling in bankruptcy court for almost two years. The case has foundered on disagreements over how to settle claims raised by junior bondholders that a 2007 leveraged buyout led by Tribune Co. Chairman Sam Zell was a case of fraudulent conveyance, meaning it left the company insolvent from the start.

Nobody disputes that the senior creditors allied with Tribune Co. — a group led by Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo, Gordon & Co. and JPMorgan Chase — will end up owning the company, since their more than $8 billion in claims dwarf Tribune's estimated $6.6 billion in total value.

But because a court-appointed examiner in the case found that the second part of the two-part transaction may have been a fraudulent conveyance, junior creditors like Aurelius have gained leverage for their demands that the senior group pay them for releases from the threat of litigation related to those claims.

The Tribune-Oaktree plan has critical mass, given that the biggest constituencies in the case have signed on. It also has the seal of approval of the court-appointed mediator who helped negotiate it.

But Brodsky argues that because the Tribune plan was essentially an agreement among the potential defendants of the buyout claims, "without ever including the bondholders in the negotiation," the presiding judge would have a hard time confirming it.

Brodsky said Aurelius on Friday will submit its plan, which will conclude that there is no chance of a negotiated settlement in the case. Instead, Aurelius will propose that all of the buyout-related claims be put into a litigation trust, preserving them for future court battles. The company could then exit bankruptcy without having to wait for the results of the litigation, which could stretch out for years.

No releases would be granted, but a large portion of the company's value would be distributed to the various parties, most of it going to the senior creditors. A similarly large portion, however, would be reserved to compensate the victors of the court battles. Defendants would include the lenders and advisers to the Zell deal, directors and officers at the time, including Zell, and shareholders who profited.

Bankruptcy experts say Aurelius is likely using the threat of such massive litigation to extract a better settlement from the senior creditors. But if the plan fails, documents suggest Aurelius would switch to another strategy: trying to discredit the Tribune Co. plan by raising questions about the suitability of several key parties who approved it: the creditors committee, Liebentritt and the special committee of the company's board.

Aurelius recently asked the court to replace Tribune Co. officials with a bankruptcy trustee, arguing that executives and board members were conflicted in brokering a settlement in the case. It has since backed off that request.

Transcripts of depositions related to the motion show that Aurelius lawyers grilled Mark Shapiro and Maggie Wilderotter, two members of the special board committee, with questions about the settlement they had approved two days earlier. The apparent goal was to show that they had not lived up to their fiduciary duty by analyzing whether the settlement was fair to creditors like Aurelius. Questioning focused on whether they understood the deal themselves or whether they relied on the counsel of Tribune Co. advisers who may have been conflicted.

In one exchange, an attorney pressed Shapiro, chairman of the special committee, about the logic behind a $120 million payment that is central to the Tribune-Oaktree plan.

"So, in other words," the lawyer said, "if I were to ask you how the $120 million number was arrived at, you would not be able to tell me?"

"Relied on my financial advisers for that," Shapiro replied.

Similarly, a different Aurelius attorney asked Wilderotter about the size of the claim that was being settled for $120 million. After looking at her notes, she gave the wrong answer.

Neither Shapiro nor Wilderotter returned calls for comment.

Aurelius lawyers also asked Wilderotter if the board had considered whether Liebentritt, who has long worked for Zell, one of the key targets of litigation, should be viewed as having conflicts that would be disruptive to brokering a settlement. They further asked the board members about evidence Liebentritt may have lost their confidence or that of various constituents in the case.

Tribune Co. declined to comment.

mdoneal@tribune.com

Statutory Realignment at Tribune Company

By DAVID CARR - New York Times

Not long after Sam Zell, the real estate mogul, took over the Tribune Company, he installed a sculpture in the headquarters lobby titled “Bureaucratic Shuffle,” a six-legged man going in circles and nowhere fast. But what was intended as a commentary on the existing culture at Tribune Towers came to be seen as a metaphor for the new management after the company tipped over into bankruptcy and a new, non-linear approach to management failed to gain traction.

Last week, Randy Michaels, chief executive, and Lee Abrams, chief innovation officer, resigned and were replaced by a four-person committee, which will run the company on an interim basis. The sculpture had served as a much-loathed sentry in the Nathan Hale Lobby of the building with a presence that many employees took as a taunt from a management that did not hold journalists or their handiwork in very high regard.

In fact, after an in-house editorial awards celebration last winter, a few employees took the liberty of tipping over the statue. But they won’t have “Bureaucratic Shuffle” to kick around anymore. Apparently on orders from the new managers, Mr. Bureacratic Shuffle has gotten his walking papers, although it probably took a bit of an assist from a very big dolly. “It’s gone,” said one employee. “And people are pretty happy about it.”

The Chicago Reader is on the case, but so far, no comment from Tribune Company about why the statue had lost the confidence of the board and the current management.

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BBC Journalist Union NUJ Sets Strikes Over Pension Plan, While Technicians Union BECTU Accepts 'Final Offer'

By STEVE CLARKE - Variety

BBC journalists have called two 48-hour strikes starting next week in the dispute over staff pension reform. But the pubcaster's other main union, BECTU, which represents technicians, has voted to accept what director general Mark Thompson described as a final offer.

The journos' first two-day walkout begins Nov. 5, with the second set to begin Nov. 15, following a 70% vote in favor of the move. More strikes are being lined up over the December holiday season.

The offer accepted by Bectu bases pensions on average pay instead of the existing final salary scheme, regarded as one of the most generous pension plans in the U.K.

National Union of Journalists general secretary Jeremy Dear said, "This massive vote against the BBC's latest proposal comes as no surprise, given the fundamental 'pay more, work longer, get less' nature of the offer. NUJ members across the BBC have consistently dubbed the proposals pensions robbery. That hasn't changed."

The NUJ represents 17% of the pubcaster's staff.

In an email to employees after the results of the strike ballots were announced on Thursday, Lucy Adams, director of people at the BBC, said management was "pleased that the offer was accepted by the majority of union members."

Contact the Variety newsroom at news@variety.com.

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At Long Last, Ringing Out the Zell Era at Tribune

By: Brian Lowry - Variety

All journalists are challenged in this current digital age, but few have been as abused or ill-served as those under the stewardship of Tribune Co. since real-estate billionaire Sam Zell took over the Chicago-based conglomerate. Fortunately, that sorry chapter is one step closer to being over.

Zell's hire as CEO, Randy Michaels, has finally resigned, after dragging the company through various rounds of staff cuts (to be fair, there have been a lot of those all over) and a series of decided unique embarrassments tied to a frat-boy management team and culture, handily delineated in David Carr's recent New York Times page one opus.

Clearly, Michaels was in over his head, and exhibited a kind of contempt for traditional journalism that was disguised as "innovation" -- a word that will never quite be viewed the same thanks to Lee Abrams' dim-witted memos.

Still, the blame for these last few years at Tribune ultimately resides with Zell, who swooped in, acquired the company using an arcane financing formula and proceeded to gut it, refusing to admit that what he didn't know about media would have filled the Tribune Tower. Or as Rem Reider put it in the American Journalism Review:

"Zell was one of those rich guys who thought because he had so much money, he knew more about everything than anyone else. With his free-wheeling ways, unencumbered by bureaucrats and uptight, old-school notions about journalism, he was going to turn things around."

Consumer newspapers and to a slightly lesser extent local television have already been dying the death of a thousand small cuts. Those at Tribune helped hasten the process, however, and along the way made it even more brutal on employees than it needed to be.

They deserve each other, and their own special place in, er. Zell.

Here's the key passage from the new four-member management committee that will replace Michaels, consisting of Don Liebentritt, Chief Restructuring Officer, Nils Larsen, Chief Investment Officer, Tony Hunter, President, Publisher and CEO of Chicago Tribune Company, and Eddy Hartenstein, Publisher and CEO of Los Angeles Times Communications.

Let's hope it's true:

"We also believe that Tribune’s greatest asset is its employees and we know how much pride you take in your work and in this company. During the last few weeks the company has drawn a lot of media attention, much of it negative. That coverage has diverted attention from the things that matter most: The quality of our media products, the talent and dedication of our people, and the very real progress that we’ve made over the last two-and-a-half years. Now, it is time to move forward and focus on the future."

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Fox News Tries to Foreclose on Sesame Street

By Timothy Karr, Huffington Post

Sarah Palin, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich and Megyn Kelly, among others, have taken to the air calling on Congress to wholly defund public broadcasting. They don't just want to silence NPR, but to pull the plug on every network, station and program that gets public support -- from PBS to Pacifica. They want to freeze out "Frontline" and foreclose on "Sesame Street."
 
The high-pitched pundits of Fox News Channel have had their sites aimed at NPR nonstop since the radio network sacked analyst Juan Williams last week for likening all Muslims to terrorists.

They've not only tried to turn Williams into some kind of media martyr (though it's hard to feel too sorry for a guy who was unemployed for about 20 minutes before signing a $2 million deal with Fox) but have gone so far as to stalk NPR President Vivian Schiller on the streets of D.C.

The Williams' hullabaloo has dominated the headlines, but Fox News and its Republican allies are hunting much larger game: Big Bird.

Sarah Palin, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove and Megyn Kelly, among others, have taken to the air calling on Congress to wholly defund public broadcasting. They don't just want to silence NPR, but to pull the plug on every network, station and program that gets public support -- from PBS to Pacifica. They want to freeze out Frontline and foreclose on Sesame Street.

On The Factor, O'Reilly called for "immediate suspension of every taxpayer dollar" going to public media. "We're going to get legislation," he said. "We're going to freeze it down, so they don't get any more money."

On cue, Sen. Jim DeMint (R -S.C.) promised to introduce legislation that would do just that: zero out $420 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which supports stations that offer important public affairs programs such as The News Hour with Jim Lehrer and All Things Considered. Eliminating funds would kill the successful "Ready to Learn" program, which supports children's shows, including Sesame Street, Arthur and Dragon Tales.

"There's ... no reason to force taxpayers to subsidize liberal programming they disagree with," DeMint said late last week.

What We Get from Public Media

The right's gamble here is that their efforts to paint public broadcasting as the voice of encroaching socialism will fire up the passions of some Americans, a week before many of us head to the polls.

"NPR is a public institution that directly or indirectly exists because the taxpayers fund it. And what do we, the taxpayers, get for this?" asked Sarah Palin.

Well, according to poll after poll, the taxpayers believe that they get a lot -- not just the educational programming that brings us Big Bird, but also hard-hitting journalism that the much of the commercial media have abandoned.

According to the nonpartisan Roper polling firm, Americans rank PBS as the second "most valuable" service taxpayers receive for their money, outranked only by national defense. Moreover, a majority of the public believe the amount of federal funding public broadcasting receives is "too little."

Comparatively, this is true. The United States already has one of the lowest levels of federal funding of public media in the developed world -- at just $1.43 per capita; Canada spends $22 per capita; England spends $80; people in Finland and Denmark spend much more. And it's no coincidence that the nations with highest public media funding seem to do a far better job producing journalism that challenges government and corporations and upsets the status quo.

And maybe that's what scares Palin's crew the most. Perhaps their goal in all of this, as has been suggested elsewhere, is not to slash funding for public broadcasting but to scare public broadcasters into presenting news with a slant more favorable to the right.

Why Bashing Big Bird Will Backfire

Whatever the rationale, their tactics are a proven loser.

Every time PBS and NPR have come under attack, the American public has risen up in protest to defend -- not defund -- it. A similar right-wing push in 2005 failed after more than a million people contacted Congress demanding that full funding be restored. Attacking public media also ended up hurting Nixon in the 1970s, Reagan in the 1980s, and Newt Gingrich in the 1990s.

In just a few days, hundreds of thousands of people already have mobilized in defense of Big Bird and better journalism. You can add your voice here.

Here's hoping this time we don't just stop yet another assault on public media, but actually start solving the structural problems with the system that has left it underfunded and overexposed to these types of political shenanigans.

Follow Timothy Karr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TimKarr

Zell's Tribune and the Hidden Costs of Bad Management

Bradley W. Bloch
Social networks behind the news

On Friday, Sam Zell finally talked Randy Michaels, the former disc jockey he named to run Tribune Company, into stepping down. By now, of course, the story is well known of how Michaels and his crew -- a traffic reporter who became the manager of the Tribune's storied headquarters building (where he covered up the smoke detectors so they wouldn't interfere with poker parties), the grammatically challenged radio programmer who became "chief innovation officer" and so on -- systematically desecrated the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and dozens of other media properties.


"They wheeled around here doing what they wished, showing a clear contempt for most everyone that was here and used power just because they had it," said James Warren, the former managing editor and Washington bureau chief of the Chicago Tribune, in the exposé by The New York Times' David Carr that led to Michaels' resignation.

It's easy to regard this as just another case of corporate buffoonery in an age of excess. But because it's such a blatant case of corporate buffoonery, it actually serves as a useful vantage point from which to consider the larger role that corporations and other types of organizations play in society -- and the rarely recognized social cost of their mismanagement.

How do market economies organize the people within them? Consider the rather remarkable fact that there are 150 million workers in the United States, from CEOs to janitors, and they all reached the positions they hold without anyone telling them where to go. (Helicopter parents don't count.) How is it that people develop skills, take on tasks and organize themselves into hierarchies -- in other words, how do they "find their place" in the work force?

Education plays a role, of course, but from the long-term perspective, it just gets you to the starting line. Medical school explains who becomes a doctor, but it doesn't explain who becomes CEO of a sprawling hospital system and who becomes a general practitioner in a small family practice. There is no less stratification in blue-collar trades: Some become -- and stay -- construction workers, and others go on to run construction companies. How does this organization happen?

As Max Weber pointed out nearly a century ago, it is organizations themselves that do the organizing. Like Richard Dawkins' selfish gene, they use the resources they have at their disposal to perpetuate themselves. But in doing so, they fulfill a critical social function by providing people with the experience, opportunities and networks that move them from point to point in their careers.

An institution like Tribune Company, then, does more than run media properties. It picks up where education leaves off, developing and refining a slice of the nation's collective human capital, from fresh-faced journalism school graduates to wizened publishing executives. And the extent to which a person fulfills his or her potential depends almost exclusively on how well they navigate this process (and the luck they have while doing so). But it also depends on how rational the process is -- how good a job the organization does in recognizing and promoting talent, putting people in the right places, and giving them opportunities for growth.

The societal impact of good or bad management goes unrecorded on any balance sheet. But consider the differences in abilities -- experience, mental health, contribution to the tax base, or any other measure -- between a person who spends, say, two years with a supportive mentor in challenging and meaningful work, and a person who spends the same two years in a place run like a frat house. Now, multiply that by the 4200 people who have lost their jobs since Sam Zell acquired the company, and the social cost begins to come into view.

In theory, market-based economies are supposed to minimize this sort of bad behavior. Because most corporations have the goal of maximizing their performance (whether profit or some other yardstick), they are motivated to behave rationally, and the tendency is to assume that corporations are, almost by definition, coldly rational. After all, even if Sam Zell managed to buy Tribune for $8.2 billion with only $315 million of his own money, it was still $315 million, so one assumes he had the incentive to put the best possible person in charge.

That's exactly what Zell thought he was doing. He, and his board of directors, actually believed putting Randy Michaels in charge was a good idea. "He has the kind of approach that motivates many people and offends others, but we think he's done a great job," is the assessment that one board member gave of Michaels in the Times piece that served as Michaels' death knell. And thus we come to the crux of the problem.

Corporations can't be expected to be any more rational than the people who run them. And it turns out that people, as a general class, aren't very rational at all. One of the central tenets of market economies is the figure of homo economicus, that self interest drives people (and companies) to clinically evaluate options in terms of their costs and benefits and then make the best possible choice. But in the last twenty years, the burgeoning field of behavioral economics, a hybrid of psychology and economics, has provided us with all sorts of evidence that this "rational actor" assumption is deeply flawed.

People have been shown to predictably overestimate their abilities, ignore information that goes against their preconceptions, assign inconsistent values to objects or opportunities and make a host of other errors of judgment. So while people may think they are acting in their own best interest, their track record in actually doing so leaves a great deal to be desired.

When we're operating in a vacuum, our inclination to make poor choices only hurts ourselves. But when we control the environment in which others thrive or wither, the cost of our inclination to be stupid is magnified and spread considerably. And while Zell's Tribune may provide one of the more colorful examples of this phenomenon, it is hardly unique.
Follow Bradley W. Bloch on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bwbloch

Tribune Company Has Spent $135 Million on Bankruptcy, Creditors Allowed to Sue Sam Zell

By Matthew Fleischer  Mediabistro.com

The Tribune Company submitted a new proposal to exit Chapter 11 protection on Friday, and some mighty interesting factoids were revealed in the filing. Among other tidbits, it was revealed the Tribune Company has spent $135 million in bankruptcy-related fees.

Hmmmm, wonder how many LA Times staff positions can you save with $135 million…

Also decided on Friday, bankruptcy judge Kevin Carey said he would allow creditors to sue Sam Zell, Tribune executives, advisers and, reports the Chicago Tribune, “other architects of the ill-fated leveraged buyout after Tribune Co. restructures. Junior creditors have charged that the two-step transaction, which was led by Zell, was a case of fraudulent conveyance, meaning it left Tribune Co. insolvent from the start.”
Also from the Tribune, in the wake of the resignation of CEO Randy Michaels, an apology to its readers for its morally bankrupt corporate culture.

[Our executives] conduct has embarrassed us in front of our readers, our advertisers, our business partners and our families. It has left us answering questions about whether reports of their actions reflect the environment in which we work. We want to tell you that Chicago Tribune employees, including those who work in our newsroom, don’t conduct themselves in the manner attributed to some Tribune Co. executives.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fox/Cablevision: Day 3 Of Standoff Continues

RBR-TVBR Here it is: Tuesday, 10/19/10 and the battle continues: It is over retransmission fees which to a number of reports Cablevision is estimated to be paying $70 million a year for access to 12 Fox channels, including those in dispute. Fox parent, News Corp., is rumored to want more than $150 million a year for that same programming.

And 3 million Cablevision homes are without Fox programming which includes the National League baseball championship series between the Giants and Phillies and NO NFL football and consumers, politicians are all getting into the act.

Monday, 10/18/10, Charles Schueler, Cablevision's executive vice president of communications, put out this release stating: "When broadcasters like News Corp. remove their signals, they hurt viewers in an attempt to gain business leverage. Cablevision agrees to submit to binding arbitration, as called for by more than 50 elected officials from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut as the fastest and fairest way to return Fox programming to Cablevision viewers. We call on News Corp. to do the same."

The fight over retransmission is a continuing battle and a prime example of how networks are struggling for profit. Advertising dollars in many respects are shrinking as money is redistributed to 'New Media' portals.

But the networks are seeing their programming cost escalate. Networks broadcast their signals free over the airwaves but with increased programming costs especially with live sporting events networks are pitted against cable TV and satellite operators for dollars for their programming and signals.

The networks are claiming the cable operators are charging hefty subscription fees every month.
Editors note: Just examine the number of broadcast packages offered by any cable/satellite company and if you are a customer you know those fees. And in many respects consumers in the current economy have cut back on their paid programming packages.

Now we have the first mega stand off between two giants and it is over money and once this is resolved wonder how much the consumer is going to pay.

The New Jersey delegation to the US Senate, Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), are calling for the FCC to impose itself into the dispute over retransmission fees between News Corp./Fox and Cablevision. The senators represent constituents in both the New York and Philadelphia DMAs, both affected by the dispute.

In a letter for FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, they urged the FCC to act as an intermediary between the two, and to begin swift action of a petition to modify the rules governing retransmission consent negotiations pending since March.

“Unfortunately, the FOX and Cablevision dispute is not an isolated incident,” they asserted. “Disputes between broadcasters and video providers appear to be increasing. Just last March, Cablevision and Disney/WABC-TV failed to reach an agreement and the WABC-TV signal was pulled from Cablevision. While that signal was eventually restored, it was only after Cablevision customers were without WABC-TV for approximately 20 hours, including the first 15 minutes of the Academy Awards broadcast."
"Upcoming retransmission consent negotiations between FOX and the DISH Network may put even more hardworking New Jerseyans at risk of losing television programming that they have come to expect and rely on for their local news and entertainment. We are deeply troubled that consumers are repeatedly being used as pawns in these programming disputes.”

They concluded, “We urge the FCC to work diligently and expeditiously to consider the comments that have been filed on that petition and revise its rules. We ask that the FCC provide us with a response within five business days that outlines a firm schedule for the FCC’s action on the pending retransmission consent petition (MB Docket No. 10-71). Continued delay in reforming the retransmission consent process will only harm consumers in New Jersey and throughout the country.”

Consumer note: If you check the web, News Corp. set up a website pointing Cablevision subscribers to find other ways to get Fox programming, http://www.keepfoxon.com/ helps consumers find providers by zip code.


FCC Issues Consumer Advisory Over Fox/Cablevision Dispute
http://www.rbr.com/tv-cable/28403.html

Consumers stuck in the middle of the retransmission fee dispute between News Corporation programming properties and MVPD Cablevision are no doubt frustrated. The FCC responded by issuing a consumer advisory that explains what’s going on and suggests options that may be at a Cablevision subscribers’ disposal.

First among them is one that Cablevision might not be too fond of – it is the option of going to a competing MVPD. The FCC notes that AT&T, DIRECTV, DISH Network, RCN (limited areas of Brooklyn), and Verizon FIOS are possibilities, although not all are available throughout the Cablevision service area.

The FCC also suggests picking the three affected Fox television O&Os -- WNYW & WWOR in the New York City area and WTXF in the Philadelphia area, directly off air, using a digital receiver or an analog receiver run through a converter box, each with an appropriate antenna.

RBR-TVBR observation: Despite frequent requests from elected politicians, the FCC has taken pains to point out that it has very little power to do anything. It also made a statement that echoes what the NAB has been saying all along. It’s statement – “In almost all cases, agreement is reached and the station is carried without interruption.” – is practically NAB boilerplate.

Legislators make the law – maybe they should learn the law as well. By law, this is a free negotiation – according to the FCC, other than requiring that negotiations be conducted “in good faith” – and try proving bad faith in court some time – Congress has given the FCC no teeth in the matter.

The danger here, of course, is that Congress WILL do some lawmaking. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) is already on record saying he will get the ball rolling.

Companies that want to play hardball within the business – and Cablevision is a frequent player – just ask Disney/ABC and Scripps/Food Net/HGTV – may soon find themselves playing hardball on Capitol Hill.

Broadcast Union News: The airwaves belong to the people, you remember, the "We The People" mentioned from time to time. Perhaps Fox doesn't deserve an FCC license and maybe Cablevision subscribers should get a rebate on their cable bill for services purchased, but not provided. Greedy and greedier, fighting over who can gouge the most is particularly ugly when the public interest is ignored. Shame on them both.

A Look At The Tribune Company Board Of Directors


RBR-TVBR: Who are the directors at the Tribune Company who will decide whether CEO Randy Michaels should stay or go? Only a few of the nine are likely to be well known to people in media industries.

There are 10 board members in all, but we will exclude Randy Michaels from this list of those deciding his fate.

Board Chairman Sam Zell is the one who recruited Michaels to come to Tribune. They had been previously associated at Jacor Communications, where Zell came in as the primary owner in a financial restructuring. He, Michaels and their investors made big profits when Jacor was merged with Clear Channel. Michaels stayed and became the head of Clear Channel Radio for several years until his clashes with the members of the founding Mays family became too much for either side to live with.

Very well known to RBR-TVBR readers is Frank Wood, CEO of Secret Communications, which was once a radio group owner and is now a venture capital company. He was once president of Jacor Communications.

Also on the Tribune board is Mark Shapiro, Partner and CEO of Dick Clark Productions as well as a network media consultant for the National Football League. He was previously CEO of Six Flags Entertainment Corporation.

Tribune director Jeffrey S. Berg is Chairman and CEO of International Creative Management Inc., one of the world’s premiere talent and literary agencies.

Brian L. Greenspun is Chairman and CEO of The Greenspun Corporation, a privately owned firm based in Henderson, NV, with interests in media and commercial real estate development. He also is President and Editor of the Las Vegas Sun, which has been exclusively an online newspaper for several years.

Betsy D. Holden is a senior advisor to McKinsey & Company. She previously served as president of global marketing and category development at Kraft Foods Inc. from January 2004 through June 2005 and before that was the company’s co-CEO from 2001 to 2003 and president and CEO of Kraft Foods North America from 2000 to 2003.

William A. Osborn is Chairman and a director of Northern Trust Corporation, a large banking company.

William Pate is chief investment officer for Equity Group Investments LLC, a privately held investment firm controlled by Sam Zell.

Maggie Wilderotter is Chairman and CEO of Frontier Communications Corporation, a telecom company serving mostly rural areas and small communities.

Friday, October 15, 2010

NLRB Slams KGTV in San Diego for "Unlawful Conduct"

The National Labor Relations Board has issued its decision in two cases where NABET-CWA alleged that KGTV violated the law. The first involves the layoffs of three part-time employees in January 2008 without bargaining with the Union. The second involves KGTV prohibiting Local 54 President Dennis Csillag from using the Union office located at the station. The cases were combined into one hearing for efficiency.

In its decision, the Board said, "It is undisputed that the Union requested bargaining over the effects of the layoffs announced on January 9, and that (KGTV) refused that request. Having found that (KGTV) has engaged in certain unfair labor practices, we shall order it to cease and desist and to take certain affirmative action designed to effectuate the policies of the (National Labor Relations) Act."

The NLRB ordered KGTV to bargain with the Union over the layoffs and provided limited back pay —with interest— for the employees. In ordering the backpay, the Board said, "Because of (KGTV's) unlawful conduct, however, the laid-off unit employees have been denied an opportunity to bargain through their collective-bargaining representative. Meaningful bargaining cannot be assured until some measure of economic strength is restored to the Union."

The Board ordered KGTV to turn over "all payroll records, social security payment records, timecards, personnel records and reports, and all other records, including an electronic copy of such records if stored in electronic form, necessary to analyze the amount of back pay due under the terms of this Order."

Regarding Csillag's access to the Union office, the Board ordered KGTV to immediately "restore the parties’ past practice of permitting" access to the office.

"This decision really exposes KGTV as a poor steward of the money invested by McGraw-Hill shareholders," Csillag said. "Management made these bad decisions solely on the advice of their union-busting law firm — which cares nothing about shareholder value — and then spent tens of thousands of dollars defending those decisions. It was nothing more than part of a power play to convince employees to withdraw support for their Union. But our members were hurt and we're pleased the Board didn't let KGTV get away with unlawful conduct," Csillag said.

McGraw-Hill and KGTV have been involved in a union-busting campaign since 2006, and have refused NABET-CWA's efforts to seek resolution.

More information on the Local 54 campaign at KGTV can be found at: 10NewsUnfair.com
http://afl.salsalabs.com/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=ZRan2C9x3qMktn5S15zBMCtvZRIieLoF

CWA and NABET-CWA Call for Immediate NLRB Decision on CNN Case



The Communications Workers of America, and the NABET-CWA Sector have filed a motion with the National Labor Relations Board calling on the Board to immediately hear the case involving CNN/Team Video and 250 technicians in New York and Washington, D.C., who have been harmed by CNN’s illegal actions.

“This case has been languishing before the NLRB since 2003, and points out the total failure of U.S. labor law when it comes to workers’ rights,” said CWA President Larry Cohen. “CNN set out to get rid of union workers and their bargaining rights. Despite overwhelming evidence that CNN broke the law, today, nearly eight years later, workers still are denied justice. It’s time for the NLRB to take action.”

In November 2008, NLRB Administrative Law Judge Arthur Amchan issued a scathing decision against CNN, finding that the network created a phony reorganization scheme to get rid of workers because they had a union, the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA. The judge said that CNN engaged in “widespread and egregious misconduct, demonstrating a flagrant and general disregard” for workers’ rights.

He ordered the immediate reinstatement of the 110 workers who were not rehired through CNN’s scam hiring system, called for the restoration of the economic losses of all 250 workers and ordered CNN to recognize and bargain with NABET-CWA. None of CNN’s defenses was accepted by the judge.

“Two years after that decision, after the NLRB judge confirmed CNN’s union-busting practices, CNN technicians still are waiting for justice,” said NABET-CWA Sector President Jim Joyce. He added, “Without a doubt this is the largest back pay case currently in front of the NLRB nationally. CNN’s liability is well over $100 million, and it is time for the Board to definitively act.”

The Union’s motion calls on the NLRB to give this case priority over all other pending cases. This action is necessary, CWA said, because none of the remedies ordered by the ALJ in 2008 have been implemented and more than 204 workers are due substantial remediation. “The saying ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ has particular relevance to violations of the National Labor Relations Act,” CWA said, because such delay makes it more difficult for workers to believe they will ever obtain justice under the law. The Union called for a decision to be issued without further delay.

More information on this story, a link to the filed motion, can be found here:
http://files.cwa-union.org/national/news/newsletter/101013_cnnmotion.pdf

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Comcast, NBCU Tout News, Public Interest Commitments for Proposed Deal in FCC Meeting







By Alex Weprin
TVNEWSER




Comcast and NBC executives met with the FCC last week to tout the unified company’s commitment to news and public interest programming once the acquisition of NBC Universal is completed, according to documents obtained by TVNewser.

The participants in the meeting were Jordan Goldstein, senior director of regulatory affairs for Comcast, Margaret Tobey, VP of regulatory affairs for NBC Universal as well as outside counsel for both companies. For the FCC, staffers from the office of the general counsel, office of strategic planning & policy analysis and from the FCC’s media bureau were all represented.

According to the ex parte letter, which was filed with the FCC October 7, the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the public interest commitments made by Comcast, as well as what role the new company would play in the FCC’s “Future of Media” project. NBC’s news and public affairs programming looks to play a big part of that, if this section of the letter is any indication:

Specifically, the participants discussed both companies’ historic and ongoing commitments to their local communities and the ways in which the transaction will benefit communities and citizens by allowing NBCU to expand its production and distribution of local news on multiple platforms. In addition, the participants discussed commitments offered by Comcast with respect to public, educational, and governmental (“PEG”) programming. Consistent with the goals of the FOM proceeding, Comcast and NBCU also provided information on the companies’ efforts to nurture the next generation of professional journalists.

Unfortunately, the specifics of what was discussed was not included in the letter, so the “companies’ efforts to nurture the next generation of professional journalists” will have to remain a mystery for now. But if nothing else, the meeting shows that the FCC is seriously looking at whether Comcast has any intention of changing NBC News or the network’s local and public interest programming in any way.

Others have speculated that Comcast is more likely to make changes at MSNBC, which the FCC does not have authority over. The problem there is that Comcast is a cable business partner of News Corp., which owns Fox News Channel, and Time Warner, which owns CNN.

For its part, Comcast maintains that it will keep the cable division of its business separate from the content division.

Ex-Tribune Editor Recalls ‘Pressure’ From Sam Zell

By Robert Feder
Robservations on the media beat

Overshadowed by the frat house hijinks detailed in David Carr’s New York Times opus on Tribune Co. last week was a potentially more damaging allegation — that owner Sam Zell tried to use the Chicago Tribune to benefit his other business interests.

Former editor Ann Marie Lipinski recalled a June 2008 meeting at which the billionaire mogul told her the newspaper should be harder on then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. (“Don’t be a pussy,” she quoted Zell saying. “You can always be harder on him.”) Later that day, she learned that Zell was negotiating to sell Wrigley Field to the state sports authority. Lipinski quit the following month. “It was hard to avoid the conclusion that he was trying to use the newspaper to put pressure on Blagojevich,” said Lipinski, who’s now a vice president at the University of Chicago.

Though current Tribsters deny any influence from Zell, Capitol Fax editor Rich Miller isn’t buying it. “It’s just ridiculous,” he says. “When are they ever going to come clean on this?”

Robert Feder has been keeping tabs on the media in Chicago for 30 years. A lifelong Chicagoan and graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, he was television and radio columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. At age 14, he founded the first and only Walter Cronkite Fan Club.

Tribune Bankruptcy Judge Extends Filing Deadlines

By Michael Oneal
http://chicagobreakingbusiness.com

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey extended the filing deadlines in Tribune Co.’s bankruptcy case Wednesday to give rival creditor groups more time to propose alternative restructuring plans for the Chicago-based media company.

The move will push the first disclosure hearing on those plans into late November and guarantees that the all-important confirmation hearings in the case won’t be held until sometime next year.

Carey had earlier given Tribune Co. and its various creditor constituencies until this Friday to file any restructuring plans. But junior creditors asked that a company-sponsored plan negotiated earlier this week be filed first and that they be given two extra weeks to decide whether to file competing plans.

The judge said Tribune Co. and its partners would have to file its plan by Oct. 22 and any other plans would be due by Oct. 29. The mandatory disclosure statement hearing to release the competing plans for vote would be held Nov. 29.

The Tribune Co. group includes senior creditors Oaktree Capital Management and Angelo, Gordon & Co.; banks represented by JPMorgan Chase, and the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, which represents the interests junior creditors.

That plan would give the junior bondholders $420 million, or about 33 cents on the dollar, and provide another $102 million to pay off retirees and general unsecured creditors. Senior creditors would end up owning the company.

But a number of other creditor constituencies, including Aurelius Capital Management, the largest junior bondholder, have signaled they will reject the proposal.

Bloomberg reported that at least five creditor groups told Carey during a telephone conference Wednesday that they needed time to study Tribune’s bankruptcy-exit plan before they could decide whether to file their own.

Any of the plans will seek to settle claims brought by junior bondholders that Tribune Co.’s 2007 leveraged buyout, which was orchestrated by Chicago real estate magnate Sam Zell, left the company insolvent.

Tribune Co., which owns the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, WGN Ch. 9, WPIX, KTLA, and many other media properties, has been in bankruptcy since Dec. 8, 2008.

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Lee Abrams Suspended At Tribune For Racy Memo

RBR-TVBR: Just days after a front page article in the New York Times accused Tribune Company of having a “bankrupt culture” steeped in sexism, Tribune Chief Innovation Officer Lee Abrams sent out an email Monday with a link to bawdy video. He has now been suspended.

According to media columnist Phil Rosenthal at the flagship Chicago Tribune – and thus a recipient of employee emails – one video that the Abrams email linked to was “labeled ‘Sluts’ in which a gyrating woman appeared to pour liquor on her bare breasts.”

Abrams quickly issued an apology, but the new controversy was the last thing the company needed as it tries to nail down its emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

A Tribune company spokesman confirmed to RBR-TVBR Wednesday that Abrams had been suspended. The company is making no other public comment. However, the suspension announcement from CEO Randy Michaels is readily available from employees.

Message from Randy Michaels/Lee Abrams Suspended

"I want to let you know that today we made the decision to suspend Lee Abrams from his position as Tribune’s Chief Innovation Officer. He will remain on suspension indefinitely and without pay while we review the circumstances surrounding the email and video link he distributed on Monday. We’re in the process of determining further disciplinary action."

"Lee recognizes that the video was in extremely bad taste and that it offended employees—he has also apologized publicly. He reiterated those feelings again to me privately today. But, this is the kind of serious mistake that can’t be tolerated; we intend to address it promptly and forcefully. "

"As I said last week, a creative culture must be built on a foundation of respect. Our culture is not about being offensive or hurtful. We encourage employees to speak up when they see or hear something that they find offensive, as a number of employees did with regard to this particular email. I can assure you, you will be heard, Randy”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Next CUNY Murphy Institute Open House is on October 26, 2010

Master of Arts degree in Labor Studies at the CUNY School of Professional Studies

· Earn a professional degree to enhance career opportunities in Labor, HR,
and related fields.

· Develop a deeper understanding of work, workers, and workers’
organizations
in a global society.

· Become a more effective advocate for labor rights, human rights, andsocial justice.

· Study with world-class faculty and outstanding practitioners in the field.

· Obtain professional experience through exciting internship opportunities



The New York Union Semester is an innovative semester-away scholarship program for select local, national, and international students. Open to undergraduates, graduate students, and college graduates, t his unique 15-week program combines a New York City based Union internship with labor studies courses for a full semester of undergraduate or MA in Labor Studies college credit. Students work 32 hours a week and receive a weekly stipend and partial tuition scholarship.

Fall 2010 Open House Dates

October 26 and December 2, 2010
6 - 8 p.m.
CUNY Murphy Institute
25 West 43rd St., 18th Floor, New York, NY 10036






RSVP: Laurie Kellogg (212) 642- 2055
or
Tica Frazer (212) 642- 2050

Students explore issues from many perspectives, including economics, sociology, history, political science, global studies and cultural analysis. The curriculum combines theory with practice and includes internship opportunities. Graduates are prepared to work with unions as representatives, organizers, researchers, educators and communications specialists, among other staff and leadership positions. Others pursue careers in law, labor relations, human resources and government.


Brief Faculty Biographies for the M.A. in Labor Studies Program


Full Time Faculty

Dr. Ruth Milkman
, a renowned Professor of Sociology, comes to JSMI from the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at UCLA. She is an expert on women and immigrant workers, and contemporary unionism, and is the author of many books including L.A. Story: Immigrant Workers and the Future of the U.S. Labor Movement.

Dr. Joshua Freeman is an award-winning teacher and author of the acclaimed book Working Class New York. He serves as consulting editor for New Labor Forum, and is the Executive Officer and a Professor in the doctoral program in History at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Dr. Stephanie Luce has gained widespread recognition for her work on Living Wage campaigns as well as the effects of globalization on jobs and workers. She comes to JSMI from UMass, Amherst, where she was an Associate Professor and Director of Research at the Labor Center.

Dr. Penny Lewis, Assistant Professor of Labor Studies, is an award-winning teacher who has taught at CUNY schools, Brown, and Barnard. Her areas of scholarship include social movements, social class and the contemporary labor movement.

James Steele, Distinguished Lecturer, is a highly regarded political analyst with expertise in labor and politics. He has served as Special Assistant to Congressman Gregory Meeks and was the Program Director for the Council of Black Elected Democrats.

Ed Ott, Distinguished Lecturer is the former Director of the NYC Central Labor Council. Ed has over 40 years of experience in the labor movement and has played a major role in shaping politics and policy in New York, as well as key legislation, such as the Living Wage bill.


Consortial Faculty

(Faculty from CUNY divisions teaching in the Labor Studies program)

Dr. Stanley Aronowitz is a Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the CUNY Graduate School, and Director of CUNY’s Center for the Study of Culture, Technology and Work. He is the author of 23 books, including Working Class Hero and From the Ashes of the Old: American Labor and America’s Future.

Dr. Frances Fox Piven, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center, is a prominent scholar and activist whose work focuses on social policy and the social welfare system. She is the author of many groundbreaking books and articles, including Regulating the Poor.

Dr. Stephen Brier is a Professor of Urban Education at the CUNY Graduate Center and an expert in the use of new media and technology. He cofounded and was the Executive Director of The American Social History Project, and co-authored their widely used text, Who Built America?


The Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies was established in collaboration with New York City labor unions and the City University of New York.

The Institute offers educational opportunities to union members and serves as an academic resource on issues of concern to the labor movement. The Institute includes The Center for Worker Education and the Center for Community, Labor and Policy Studies.


LINKS
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Tribune Announces Settlement With Official Unsecured Creditors Committee and Major Senior Lenders

Expanded Settlement Endorsed by Mediator

CHICAGO, Oct. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- Tribune Company announced today its support for an agreement reached by its Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, Oaktree Capital Management, L.P., Angelo, Gordon & Co, L.P., and JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. on a plan of reorganization that will settle certain claims surrounding both "Step 1" and "Step 2" of the company's 2007 going-private transaction.

This settlement expands upon the previously-announced settlement with Oaktree and Angelo Gordon with respect to Step 1, and comes as a result of the court-ordered mediation overseen by U. S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Kevin Gross.
The settlement has been endorsed by Judge Gross as mediator and approved by the Special Committee of Tribune's Board of Directors, comprised of independent members of the company's board. Oaktree, Angelo Gordon, and JPMorgan hold significant amounts of the Initial and Incremental Senior Loans of Tribune Company, and the Official Committee represents the interests of all unsecured creditors in the Tribune bankruptcy cases.

"With the able assistance of Judge Gross, we continue to achieve success in our mediation efforts, and are pleased to have now expanded the plan settlement to include the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors," said Don Liebentritt, Tribune's Chief Restructuring Officer. "The additional value being allocated to our bondholders and other unsecured creditors represents a fair and equitable settlement for all of our constituencies. We remain confident that Tribune continues on a path toward resolution of its Chapter 11 cases that maximizes the value of the bankruptcy estates, preserves all stakeholders' legitimate entitlements and enables the company to conclude its bankruptcy proceedings as soon as possible."

An important component of the new settlement is the contribution of $120 million in cash by recipients of pre-bankruptcy payments on the Incremental tranche of the Tribune Senior Loan and the Bridge Loan facilities through an optional settlement of those claims, with the arrangers for those facilities providing a backstop to ensure that the estates receive the full settlement payment on the plan's effective date.
This additional settlement payment, together with additional contributions by holders of the Senior Loans, allows for Tribune's bondholders to receive $420 million, representing 32.73 cents on the dollar upon emergence plus their interest in a litigation trust, and provides for trade creditors of Tribune's operating subsidiaries to be paid in full.

As with the previously-announced settlement, this agreement allows for the distribution of the equity of the reorganized Tribune and its subsidiaries pro rata to the holders of the Initial and Incremental Senior Loan claims.

In addition, claims and causes of action against various parties (including advisors, directors and officers involved in the 2007 transactions) will be preserved and placed in a litigation trust and pursued for the benefit of creditors of Tribune. The first $90 million of recoveries from the trust will be allocated to Tribune's general unsecured creditors, including its bondholders. The litigation trust will allow an independent litigation trustee to pursue legal action relating to the remaining fraudulent conveyance issues alleged by various unsecured creditors, while minimizing the possible negative impact these litigation issues might have on the company's business operations.

The company intends to file a plan of reorganization and disclosure statement incorporating both settlement agreements with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware by Friday, Oct. 15.

SOURCE Tribune Company