Friday, April 29, 2011

IBEW Statement: CBS Executives “Feasting While Demanding Take-Backs at the Bargaining Table.”

The IBEW released a statement highlighting obscene salary increases among CBS’ elite in advance of June contract negotiations. These self-subsidized salary boosts, which include a $27 million bonus for CEO Les Moonves, come at the same time as concessions are being demanded of CBS employees which include IBEW members. The members, IBEW contends, have “made sacrifices needed to keep the operations up and running.”


The International Brotherhood of Electrical Worker CBS Bargaining Committee issued the following statement in response to the release of the latest report detailing executive compensation at CBS:

The IBEW’s bargaining committee’s goal remains a fair and just contract for more than 2,800 employees covered under the collective bargaining agreement.

While the economy was in a severe down turn IBEW members made sacrifices needed to keep the operations up and running. We are disturbed to see a recent report detailing skyrocketing executive compensation at CBS. The good intentioned corporation has evolved into a greed machine that has lost site of the community that it serves and the people employed who ultimately perform the work.

These exceedingly obscene salaries for CBS’s top executives are handed to them while attacking CBS frontline employees. While CBS’s profit margins are significantly improving they are exploiting the workers and adopting a corporate attitude that the employee is an expendable commodity.

These executives are feasting while demanding take-backs at the bargaining table.

 And further while extending their contracts and bonuses to fill their pockets they are demanding concessions from our members. CBS wants to eliminate many of the protections we have today in the collective bargaining agreement including job security and working conditions.

This is totally unacceptable to the IBEW bargaining committee.

While demanding major concessions at the bargaining table, CBS’s top executives are recklessly awarding themselves record bonuses.

Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Joseph Ianniello took home a $6 million bonus last year, a $3 million increase over 2009. Total compensation: $10,783,784

Executive Vice President and General Counsel Louis Briskman got a $3 million bonus in 2010, an increase of $1 million. Total compensation: $8,339,388

President and CEO Leslie Moonves received a $27,500,000 bonus last year, a more than $12 million increase over 2009. Total compensation: $57,729,020

Serious collective bargaining involves both shared sacrifice and shared rewards. For CBS management to continue to demand more givebacks from its employees, while jacking up their pay to record levels, is unacceptable.

We look forward to resuming negotiations in June and coming to a settlement beneficial to our hard working and deserving members.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

WSJ: At Tribune, Battle Expands



Sam Zell's top-of-the-market buyout of Tribune Co. cashed out shareholders about a year before the media company tumbled into bankruptcy protection. Now, those former holders are bracing for a possible barrage of litigation aimed at clawing back more than $8 billion in payouts.
If successful, any litigation would represent an unprecedented legal development, some lawyers said. It would force shareholders to give back money gained from simply selling their shares into a corporate buyout offer, based on the theory that the deal was so fundamentally flawed that it amounted to a fraud that should never have happened. Under the best-case scenario, creditors likely would get back only between $2 billion and $3 billion, the amount necessary to make unsecured creditors whole.

While most lawyers said such cases are difficult to prove, former shareholders are girding for the worst, in some instances talking with lawyers and investors about plans to sock away money in anticipation of any litigation.

Creditors are going after the shareholders under a legal concept known as "fraudulent transfer." The theory allows creditors to argue that the banks financing Tribune's buyout and the shareholders who cashed out should have known the deal would destroy the company. As a result, the argument goes, the banks shouldn't be allowed to recoup their loans and the shareholders should have to give back money they received.

In certain instances, merely demonstrating a company was insolvent at the time of a leveraged buyout can leave deal participants exposed.

Hedge fund Stark Investments, one of Tribune's biggest investors prior to the 2007 buyout, already has begun setting aside money in anticipation of a settlement or judgment, said people familiar with the matter.

Others on Wall Street are hunting for new ways to profit from it.

Prime-brokerage executives at Deutsche Bank AG are in discussions about setting up an operation through the distressed-debt trading desk that would match buyers and sellers of bankruptcy claims related to the shareholder litigation, said a person familiar with the matter. While banks have set up such market-making operations for creditors' claims, the possibility that shareholders could have to cough up payments expands the market for trading claims.

Deutsche Bank's prime-brokerage business caters to dozens of hedge funds that could want to bet on the probability that claims against shareholders will succeed, an opportunity one bank executive called "creative thinking" by the bank.

In the lawsuit filed in Delaware bankruptcy court last year, Tribune creditors allege that Mr. Zell's buyout was "among the worst in American corporate history." The creditors' complaint said an unnamed engineer of the deal likened it to "carrying a fat person up [Mount] Everest, hopefully it doesn't kill us." The lawsuit was filed by Tribune's official committee of unsecured creditors, which serves as a watchdog in the bankruptcy case and represents bondholders and a variety of other creditors.

Tribune declined to comment. Jon Wasserman, general counsel for Mr. Zell's Equity Group Investments, said the bankruptcy examiner found no evidence that Mr. Zell acted in bad faith.

Hedge funds, mutual funds, former Tribune executives and even family trusts and a large foundation are ensnared in the suit. The deal swelled the company's debt to roughly $13 billion before Tribune was forced to seek bankruptcy protection.

Aurelius Capital Management LP, a large Tribune bondholder, recently said in bankruptcy court that it also could go after shareholders in state courts to disgorge payouts from the deal.

"Former Tribune shareholders likely face a daunting task in defending their receipt of proceeds from the mountain of debt used to finance this deal," said Bill Welnhofer, managing director and head of restructuring at investment bank Robert W. Baird & Co. in Chicago. "The company's business model had already started showing signs of weakening."

The owner of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and several television stations used more than $11 billion in debt financing from several Wall Street banks to back the deal and pay off existing shareholders, money some creditors believe belongs to them.

A bankruptcy-court examiner last summer found it "highly likely" that Tribune was "rendered insolvent and without adequate capital" as a result of the deal. The examiner, Kenneth Klee, said some financial projections made by Tribune management as the deal neared closing were too rosy and bore the "earmarks of a conscious effort" to make the company's financial condition appear better so the buyout could be completed. The examiner found Mr. Zell didn't act in bad faith.

Tribune's reorganization plan would shield the lending banks, including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp. and the former Merrill Lynch & Co., which is now owned by BofA, from any future litigation. In exchange, the banks have agreed to pay money to bondholders that those creditors wouldn't normally receive in a bankruptcy. Shareholders and some former Tribune executives, though, remain exposed. The banks declined to comment.

Courts have generally held that shareholders aren't liable in leveraged buyouts that later collapse unless the case involves actual fraud with evidence that shows clear intent, said Richard Levin, a bankruptcy lawyer at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP.

"It's tough to prove actual intent because there usually is not a smoking gun," he said. "Usually, these deals are driven by an intent to make a good business deal, not harm existing creditors."

For Stark, the potential litigation exacerbates an already precarious position. In 2007, Stark managed $13 billion for investors. But it suffered investment losses in 2008 and some of the worst client withdrawals in the industry, leaving it with $3 billion now, with investors still waiting for several hundred million dollars more in redemptions that haven't yet been paid, said people close to the matter.

Stark has told clients that the Tribune bankruptcy "could get messier," and the hedge-fund firm is being conservative by holding back money, said one person familiar with the matter.

Other large former shareholders targeted by Tribune creditors include the Chandler family, among Tribune's largest owners at the time of the buyout, and the McCormick and Cantigy foundations. The trio held at least a third of Tribune's shares and reaped more than $2 billion in the buyout, according to creditors.

Tribune's former chief executive, Dennis FitzSimons, also is targeted.

Representatives for the Chandlers didn't respond to requests for comment. The foundations declined to comment. Mr. FitzSimons, also the McCormick foundation's board chairman, declined to comment.

Write to Mike Spector at , Jenny Strasburg at  and Shira Ovide at  

Monday, April 18, 2011

TVNewsCheck: Special ENG Gear Report

Panasonic Ships Low-Cost AG-AF100 Camera

Advanced, custom-designed 4/3" sensor delivers depth of field and field of view similar to a 35 mm movie camera. The camcorder uses low-cost still camera and film-style lenses. Panasonic Solutions Co. today begins deliveries of the AG-AF100, a professional micro 4/3-inch video camcorder optimized for high-definition video recording.

Available at a suggested list price of $4,995, the AF100 offers a new level of affordability for HD motion image quality.

Targeted at the film and video production communities, the AF100 delivers film-like shallow depth of field and the wider field of view of a large imager, with a growing line of professional quality, industry-standard micro 4/3-inch lenses, filters and adapters. The full HD 1080/720 production camera offers native 1080/24p recording, variable frame rates, professional audio capabilities and compatibility with SDHC and SDXC media.

Click Here to read the full story.

By Frank Beacham TVNewsCheck

In the modern TV operation, manufacturers of end-to-end systems are now focusing on a process that involves all aspects of the story. The portable tools of the multimedia reporter working in the field are integral to that process. All the story elements — including video, audio, text, graphics, Web links and metadata — are brought together in the field and sent back to the station via an expanding range of options, including microwave, satellite, aircards, Wi-Fi and even 3G smartphones. Television news editing has quickly moved from the TV station to the field. Now, more than ever, stories are being edited on laptops from where the news is happening or in nearby coffee shops or even at a reporter’s home.

This shift, over the past two years, comes as a tough economy has caused news operations to downsize staff and do more stories with fewer producers and reporters who are busier than ever. In addition to newscasts, they now must feed websites and mobile devices in a never-ending 24/7 news cycle.

“Traditional news roles are disappearing. There used to be writers, reporters, editors and producers. Now one person is being asked to do all of these things,” says Jeff Broderick, product manager for Grass Valley’s Aurora news editing system. “This has caused vendors of news production equipment to create simpler user interfaces and much tighter integration that allows a single operator to move from one task to another.”

Click Here For The Full Story

With TV stations more concerned than ever with their bottom lines at the same time their news needs have expanded to include 24/7 Web coverage, the demand for low-cost camcorders is skyrocketing. Canon is the latest equipment maker to take on incumbents Sony, Panasonic and JVC with two new ENG camcorders. The XF305 and XF300 (right) are now available for less than $8,000. Thorpe said an advantage of Canon's new camcorders is that both models use an MPEG-2 4:2:2 50 Mbps codec for capturing and recording native 1920x1080 video onto standard Compact Flash cards. The XF305 at $7,999 includes an HD-SDI output, genlock and SMPTE time code (in/out) terminals for multi-camera or 3D productions. The XF300, minus those features, is priced at $6,799.

Most competing camcorders still record at 35 Mbps, 4:2:0, which offers half the color resolution, he said. "Currently, we are a little ahead on those specs, plus we have a CMOS sensor that's pretty impressive for a camcorder of this price."

Click Here For The Full Story

New Cameras Make Multimedia Easy

By Frank Beacham

With all video moving toward the Web, there is demand for new hybrid video camera designs. Canon, Sony and RED Camera are all introducing units that offer the ability to simultaneously record both full-motion video and high-resolution still images. This flexibility, it's hoped, will appeal to journalists shooting for TV, newspapers, magazines, websites and mobile applications.  Not only do camera prices keep falling, but the new models are hybrids that can simultaneously record both full-motion video and high-resolution still images.

"At TV stations, the old news model is pretty much dead. The producer, the cameraman and the editor have all merged into one person. Stations are now ditching their Betacams," said Dirck Halstead, a veteran photographer who, for 29 years, covered the White House for Time.

Halstead teaches new techniques to photojournalists throughout the nation with his Platypus Workshops. The 37 workshops so far have trained more than 400 students. He recently returned from the National Press Photographers Association meeting in Charleston, S.C., where he said "Topic A" was discussion of the new generation of cameras for journalism.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

CBS CEO Moonves’ Pay Jumped To $57 Million In 2010

By Joseph Tartakoff

CBS (NYSE: CBS) CEO Leslie Moonves’ total compensation in 2010 jumped to a staggering $57.7 million, up from $43 million in 2009, according to the company’s latest proxy statement. That’s still below the huge $67.7 million payday he received in pre-recession 2007, but from the footnotes in the filing it appears that the company’s board was nevertheless very pleased with Moonves’ performance last year.

CBS CEO Les Moonves
The company’s board says it gave Moonves a $20 million payment “for the successes in his role” and another special cash payment of $7.5 million “for his leadership in connection with the creation of premium content across the Company’s portfolio of businesses, particularly with respect to the CBS Television Network, which outperformed its media peers in 2010.” Most of the remainder of the total comes from stock awards, although he also received $2.5 million in tax reimbursements and $262,707 in “transportation-related benefits.”

His colleagues, including executive chairman Sumner Redstone, also did just fine. Redstone’s compensation totaled $20.3 million, which included a $10 million cash bonus.

The details (Click to enlarge):

Friday, April 15, 2011

Writers Guild, AFTRA Slam Cancellation of ABC Soaps

By Lindsay Powers
The Hollywood Reporter

WGAE says it's "deeply disappointed" that "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" will go dark, while AFTRA says it’s a “devastating loss” for its members.

The Writers Guild of America and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists are not pleased ABC is canceling two long-running soaps, All My Children and One Life to Live, which will go dark September and January respectively.

"The WGAE is deeply disappointed by ABC's announcement that both All My Children and One Life to Live will cease production," the Guild says in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.

"These groundbreaking shows have provided entertainment and enlightenment to millions of viewers, and have provided good employment to dozens of talented, dedicated writers. We urge the company to reconsider."

ABC plans to launch younger-skewing, lifestyle-oriented series, The Chew and The Revolution in their place.

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists also called the end of the shows a "devastating loss for thousands of AFTRA members, union crew members and production staff in Los Angeles and New York" in a statement.

"The AFTRA actors – past and present – of these two ground-breaking serial dramas have entertained generations of viewers around the globe for more than 40 years with stellar performances and dedication to their craft.

“AFTRA representatives are communicating with affected members in both cities to ensure they are fully informed of their rights and benefits under the AFTRA Network Television Code. Additionally, AFTRA is in contact with ABC representatives to oversee as smooth a transition as possible for these performers.

“It is no secret that serial dramas, once a prolific source of employment and benefits for television actors, have been challenged by the new economics of television. It is, therefore, critically important that AFTRA members stand united to strengthen existing contracts and to organize new increased work opportunities in new and evolving media industries."

Broadcast Union News: The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians - Communication Workers of America (NABET-CWA) represents the broadcast engineers on both soaps and could see a large number of layoffs in New York and Los Angeles as a result of the cancellation of All My Children and One Life to Live. Director's Guild of America (DGA) and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) could see job cuts as well. NABET-CWA is currently in contract negotiations with  the Disney owned ABC Television Network. The talks are ongoing and additional staff cuts could have a negative impact on these negotiations. - BD

AP union: Managers are threatening mass layoffs if proposals aren’t accepted

By Jim Romenesko

Members of Local 31222 of The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America (The Guild)  employed by the Associated Press (AP) say managers told them that mass layoffs would start immediately if the News Media Guild didn’t accept the AP’s proposals within the next few days. “Several staffers reported that 80-100 layoffs would result if immediate acquiescence was not obtained,” says a release.

AP spokesman Paul Colford tells Romenesko: "We have made clear that, unless we can freeze our defined benefit pension plan, we must turn to other options to cut costs.We have a decades-long history of respecting the negotiating process."  

Local 31222 of The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America release:


Apr 14, 2011 NEW YORK — The News Media Guild launched a nationwide investigation into possible illegal coercive anti-union conduct by The Associated Press after receiving reports this week that managers threatened mass layoffs at the news cooperative.

The Guild told AP on Wednesday that it had reports from its members that some managers may have violated the anti-coercion provisions of the National Labor Relations Act. It demanded that AP produce a summary of all management contacts with staff about the ongoing labor negotiations. The union is also consulting with its membership of award-winning journalists and news workers to obtain details of the activity.

The union also believes the company is bargaining directly with employees rather than with the union’s negotiating committee. The National Labor Relations Act views such activity as bargaining in bad faith.

Members reported that their managers explained they were acting at the behest of senior AP officials and were directed to require employees to attend conference calls, office meetings, and in some cases personal “chats” about contract bargaining.

Members reported that managers told them that mass layoffs would start immediately if the Guild did not accept the AP’s proposals within the next few days. Several staffers reported that 80-100 layoffs would result if immediate acquiescence was not obtained.

“We will conduct an investigation into these reports immediately, and if there are grounds, we will promptly file charges with the National Labor Relations Board,” said Tony Winton, the Guild’s president. “Quality journalism starts with legal conduct and fair dealing with the employees that report the news.”

The AP has never used an 80-100 layoff figure in its on-the-record discussions with union negotiators nor has it ever said that mass layoffs would start in days. The union learned this through reports from union members nationwide. AP has said a settlement of the contract is critical to the international news cooperative’s ability to be competitive and that it needed to freeze the pension by July 1, but it also denied it had an inability to pay. The nationwide campaign by managers to talk about bargaining directly with AP staff is unprecedented.

Guild employees have not had a wage increase for two years, and they accepted major changes to medical plans to cut costs in the last bargaining. A previous layoff and employee buyout in 2009 resulted in the loss of more than 100 positions, although AP has posted more than two dozen openings on its jobs website recently.

In bargaining, the union has repeatedly offered major concessions to no avail. The Guild developed a creative, cost-saving revision to the pension plan, which would have reduced 95 percent of the volatility the AP complained of and made employer costs predictable. The “fixed cost” plan — which AP itself described as “innovative” — would have largely met AP’s savings goals announced earlier in the talks. AP rejected the proposal, saying nothing but a total pension freeze was suitable.

On Tuesday, the Guild proposed a defined contribution plan in another attempt to reach settlement. The union’s proposal involved a tiered system that would retain some core retirement protection for all staff, as opposed to the sweeping reductions sought by AP.

Although the Guild’s latest concession would save AP $18 million over five years, it too was immediately rejected.

AP told the union it could cancel or delay offered contract improvements or cut pay and reduce other contract terms so employees could fund their own retirements.

On Wednesday, the Guild asked AP to present its final offer to members of the union. The AP declined to do so, adding that it would not “add one penny” to the economic package.

The Guild represents about 1,200 reporters, photographers, broadcast workers, technicians, and other news workers in all 50 states. Contract talks started last October, with AP demanding that the union agree to a pension freeze and deep medical premium increases. AP eventually offered to cancel the health care increases, but remained adamant about the retirement reductions.

In a message to staff during bargaining, AP CEO Tom Curley told employees that the non-profit cooperative, owned by U.S newspapers, was expected to return to profitability soon. However, in the round of Wednesday meetings, staffers reported managers claimed the company’s finances were dire and that the immediate concessions were needed.

The Guild is Local 31222 of The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America. Founded in 1958 as the Wire Service Guild, the local represents workers at AP, United Press International, and U.S. workers of the Spanish-language EFE News Service. Among its members are several Pulitzer prize winners. Recently, several AP journalists won a Polk award for coverage of the Gulf oil spill.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

As Larry Mendte Returned from Libya Empty-Handed, Some Question Wisdom of Trip

By Andrew Gauthier TVSPY

WPIX reporter Larry Mendte returned from Libya last week after a hectic trip to the country’s capital with U.S. Congressman Curt Weldon, and now some are questioning the wisdom of the mission as Weldon’s planned meeting with Muammar Qaddafi never materialized. “This is a station that fires people left and right, and they’ll pay for a Libya trip,” a WPIX insider complained to the New York Post recently.

This morning the New York Post published a takedown of WPIX, which is currently trailing far behind its rival WNYW in the ratings, and wondered if Mendte’s trip to Libya was less about bolstering the station’s hard news identity and more about repairing the image of the troubled reporter, who is in the midst of a messy legal battle with his former KYW co-anchor Alycia Lane:

Skeptics inside the station told The Post they believed Mendte wanted to go on the assignment so he could rebuild his reputation weeks before he faces charges for damaging Lane’s reputation.

Weldon and Mendte this week returned from Libya essentially empty-handed.

After a splash of publicity early last week, Qaddafi ultimately refused to meet with Weldon. And the congressman, who has a long-term relationship with the Qaddafi family, was left trying to fabricate moral victories from his trip. As WPIX reported last week:

While the initial goal of the trip proved elusive, Weldon’s visit was a timely one as he says he was able to work on pressing humanitarian missions — securing the release of four journalists who were seized Tuesday by Qaddafi loyalists, and escorting rape victim Eman al-Obeidi out of Tripoi to her family in Benghazi.

According to Weldon, he organized a face-to-face meeting between Eman and Muammar Qaddafi’s son, Saadi Quaddafi, to garner support for her release. He also claims to have reached out to Angelina Jolie’s publicist through U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly (CA) to coordinate an escort to Benghazi through Tuis and Cairo.

Even after meetings with high Libyan officials including Quaddafi’s son and the prime minister, al-Obeity and the four journalists are still detained, however.

In the meantime, Mendte was left reporting, not on a historic summit with the famously elusive Libyan leader but on “The Beauty of Libya,” a segment that certainly won’t provide the type of ratings momentum that WPIX so badly needs.

Tribune Troubles: Lenders Fiddle As WPIX-TV Stumbles


Competing Tribune lenders are still fiddling over the bankrupt company -- while its local TV station WPIX burns. If they do not reach an agreement, the bankruptcy judge may take another six months to choose a winning plan, another source said.

The confirmation hearing for bankrupt media conglomerate Tribune is expected to resume today, after months of haggling among creditors, if court-ordered talks yesterday between two competing groups of lenders do not result in a settlement, a source close to the situation said.

A confirmation plan for Tribune and a new plan of attack for WPIX appear badly needed.

Ratings for WPIX among the highly coveted 25-54 age group, which were trailing WNYW-Fox 5 by just 1.16 to 1.10 in October, saw the gap widen to 1.35 to 0.92 in December and then 1.96 to 0.84 last month, according to Nielsen. In addition, Chris Burrous, who joined the station last June as part of an overhaul directed by News Director Bill Carey, and anchored the "PIX Morning News," was transferred last month to Tribune's Los Angeles affiliate KTLA after ratings failed to grow under his stewardship.

A WPIX spokeswoman pointed out that WNYW's lead-in, "American Idol," draws much higher ratings than WPIX's CW reruns.

That may be true, but the ratings disparity started in December, a month before the "American Idol" season debut on Jan. 19.

WNYW, like The Post, is owned by News Corp.

Carey also ran into turbulence last year when he hired long-time friend Larry Mendte as a commentator although he had been let go by KYW-TV in Philadelphia after allegedly hacking into co-anchor Alycia Lane's e-mail. Soon after salacious details of a bitter lawsuit between the two recently surfaced, Carey sent Mendte to Libya for an exclusive interview with Muammar Khadafy.

He accompanied former Pennsylvania Rep. Curt Weldon, who has a long history with Khadafy, and went to broker a truce.

Skeptics inside the station told The Post they believed Mendte wanted to go on the assignment so he could rebuild his reputation weeks before he faces charges for damaging Lane's reputation.

Weldon and Mendte this week returned from Libya essentially empty-handed.

"This is a station that fires people left and right, and they'll pay for a Libya trip," a WPIX insider said.

As for the Tribune reorganization, hedge fund Aurelius and Deutsche Bank, which have competing plans, are trying to get JPMorgan and others who financed Sam Zell's disastrous 2007 Tribune buyout to pay them more for settling charges of profiting from financing a deal that they say rendered Tribune bankrupt from the start.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

ABC'S WTVG Ch. 13's New Owners Cut 20-Plus Jobs

Toledo Blade: Only a week after SJL Broadcasting purchased WTVG-TV, Channel 13, and station officials announced there would be no job losses among the station's 100 or so employees, approximately two dozen positions have been eliminated.

The job cuts were to Channel 13's production, support, Web, and sales staff -- none involved on-air talent -- and included several buyouts, sources at WTVG said.

SJL Broadcasting of San Luis Obispo, Calif., purchased WTVG, Toledo's ABC affiliate, from ABC-owned Television Stations Group, part of the Walt Disney Co., for $16.8 million. The transaction also included a second station, WJRT-TV, Channel 12, in Flint, Mich., for $13.2 million. The Federal Communications Commission approved the sale in February.

SJL Broadcasting has also cut approximately the same number of positions at WJRT, including two of the station's longtime anchors, Bill Harris and Joel Feick.

Toledo and Flint represent two of the smallest markets out of ABC's 10 corporate-owned stations, which include Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, and Houston.

SJL President and Chief Executive Officer George Lilly owned the Toledo and Flint stations 16 years ago before selling them to ABC.

In the most recent Neilsen ratings book for the industry's February sweeps, Channel 13 won five of the six head-to-head newscasts over its longtime rival Channel 11.

Tribune’s WPIX Skips Over Breaking News in Assembly Line Newscast

By Andrew Gauthier - TVSPY
Jerry Barmash and Jerry Barmash - FishbowlNY

New York’s WPIX was constrained by its newscast’s slick format on Monday night when breaking news hit.
Just after 8 p.m. on Monday, two planes collided while taxiing at JFK airport. And while WPIX’s rival WNYW began its 10 p.m. newscast with prolonged coverage of the accident, the Tribune-owned CW-affiliate launched into its regular “11 in 11″ segment, giving just a few seconds to the breaking news before darting to another story in the fast-paced rundown of news that begins every WPIX nighttime newscast.
WNYW (FOX5) Anchors Ernie Anastos and Dari Alexander opened the newscast with the story, supplementing information available (no one was injured) with live video and reporting from the chopper. Fox 5 remained on that lead story for four minutes.
As FishbowlNY points out, anchor Jodi Applegate  mentioned the JFK accident as the #1 story of “11 in 11″ as the station showed still photos from a website. Applegate said Marvin Scott was on the scene, but they would get to him “in just a little while.” Instead, PIX moved along to “number two.”
Meanwhile, WNYW, which has lately been expanding its 10 p.m. ratings lead, devoted several minutes of “Breaking News” coverage to the story with live video and reporting from its chopper.
As promised, WPIX returned to the Kennedy Airport story at 10:20 p.m., this time with Scott live on the scene for a 2 minute and 30 second report. Continuing with the “lack of urgency” theme, WPIX didn’t even have the breaking news graphic on the screen.
There would be no follow-up for WPIX during the remainder of the newscast.

Meantime, back at WNYW, after their initial four-minutes from Kennedy, Anastos and Alexander gave updates three times during the broadcast.

At 10:13 and 10:30, the WNYW anchors reiterated the breaking news to viewers. Then at 10:54, Fox 5 closed the newscast with a one-minute report from Andrea Day at the airport.

WPIX Channel 11 underwent a new 10 p.m. look on October 11, bringing in Jodi Applegate, late from News 12 Long Island as the solo anchor of the PIX News At 10.

The station built a new look in the newsroom, allowing Applegate to be free of the usual TV news constraints. If nothing else, WPIX management, led by news director Bill Carey, should be recognized for trying to break with the norm. Unfortunately, there’s not much else.

The tandem of Kaity Tong and Jim Watkins was relocated. Tong still has roots on the weeknight newscast, but “anchoring” portions from remote locations in Brooklyn or Queens. Watkins anchors four newscasts, but he has been relegated to weekends. Tong appears live for five-minute segments from the outer boroughs. But, along with the dramatic metamorphosis back at the home base, Tong’s appearances are almost jarring. Tong is a solid pro who shows off her interviewing skills. However, with decades of anchoring on her resume, seeing someone throw to her for a live remote seems amiss.

Sherry from Bayside tweeted that “the format just worked well for sports and not much else in my opinion.” It actually makes sense given since sports is commonly delivered quick and upbeat. Unfortunately, the sports section of WPIX is no more, other than Applegate reading a few scores (the no-frills graphic is a throwback to the Jerry Girard days). 

With the station about to mark the pivotal six-month period, FishbowlNY spoke to Carey for his examination of the product and the all-important ratings.

“When I put my plan together last year, I forecast that we would go down in ratings for six months, and that it would take a while to find its audience and build,” Carey tells FishbowlNY. “But the evaluation that I had made was that we could grow it to a higher height than where we were treading along.

“Much to all of our delight, and hard work of the staff, we blew through our own estimates … We enjoyed a win in November, which was very gratifying to the team and validated ourselves for a month,” Carey says. “And now, we’re measuring our success against ourselves.”

You can put an asterisk next to the “win” that Carey mentioned. The November sweeps got underway as Fox 5/WNYW and Cablevision were embroiled in a bitter carriage dispute. It affected the first two days of the sweeps results.

“…We’re delighted with our objective measurements, subjectively we’re resumes from all around the country of people who want to come here and try to do the news differently, and break out of the same rut that everybody’s in,” Carey says.

WPIX is giving itself those personal goals, because they haven’t been able to beat the competition (save for November), specifically WNYW/Fox 5 with anchors Ernie Anastos and Dari Alexander.

WPIX performed well behind WNYW in the all-important February 2010 sweeps. Among the pivotal Adults 25 to 54 demographic, which is used by the sales department to generate ad rates, WNYW had a 1.8 compared to WPIX with a .8 rating.

Delving further, FishbowlNY has obtained the March rating that shows WNYW actually making gains on WPIX (although Channel 11 did have its own slight improvement). In the 25 to 54 demo, Fox 5 outpaced WPIX, 2.2 to .9.

Carey says viewers will have the opportunity to participate in conversations with Channel 11 staffers.

“We want to be known as the best place where you can tune in and sound off in real time and be validated and count,” Carey says. “Where this goes is going to be a fun experiment with New Yorkers about how engaged we can get with them in the course of an hour.”

Once they complete the hard news, live remote-intensive Top 11 stories in 11 minutes, another of Carey’s newscast signature is on display—opinion and commentary.

“You got to remember, a year ago nobody was doing any commentary in late news. Then, when we first launched Larry Mendte (a multiple-Emmy winner Sunday night) as commentator it was received with a lot of looks over the shoulder,” Carey recalls. “Next thing you know, I got general managers showing up doing editorials on other stations.”

Carey is referring to WNYW vice president/general manager Lew Leone who does a Lew’s View segment on the Fox 5 newscast and posted on the Web. (WNYW also incorporates stand-up comedian Jessie Cantrell into the news for a witty repartee with people on the street.)

Sources close to Fox 5 tell FishbowlNY that several Fox-owned stations began doing commentaries in January 2010, one month prior to the first Mendte sighting at WPIX. Fox eventually brought the Leone commentaries to WNYW in July 2010.

Back to WPIX, they didn’t stop with Mendte, adding Lionel to the mix, and even reporter Greg Mocker is known to intersperse opinion.

WPIX news director Bill Carey told FishbowlNY, “We’re emboldened by going our own way with stories, People may like it, they may not like it, but we're getting away from the obvious stories that everybody does.”

Unfortunately, that goes for breaking news as well.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011



15,000 union members rallied in Times Square on Saturday, April 9, 2011

All sectors of the labor movement stood in solidarity delivering one simple message:

"We Are One-Respect Our Rights"

New York State AFL-CIO & Central Labor Council Hold Solidarity Rally On Behalf of New York's Working Men and Women

Labor's Message: "We Are One - Respect Our Rights"

New York City -- The New York State AFL-CIO and the New York City Central Labor Council held a giant rally in Times Square on Saturday on behalf of workers' rights in both the Empire State and throughout the country.

Workers from the public sector, private sector and building trades lined Seventh Avenue, starting at 42nd Street and stretching several blocks south, in a show of solidarity to deliver one simple message: "We Are One - Respect Our Rights."

The rally was held in response to unprecedented attacks on the rights of working men and women to organize, to engage in collective bargaining and to hold safe those benefits won at the bargaining table over the past 50 years. It was one of more than 1,200 AFL-CIO Days of Action events - rallies, teach-ins, faith services and town halls - held throughout the week of April 4th.

Denis M. Hughes, President of the New York State AFL-CIO, stated, "Working men and women across the country are under attack like never before. But as today's rally has shown, these attacks have only served to energize working people. Today's massive turnout is a testament to New York labor's strength, solidarity and commitment to our shared sense of purpose. For anyone who doubts our resolve, our message today is clear: We are one movement, and we demand that our rights be respected.

"New York's labor movement is rich in tradition when it comes to the unity and solidarity of its members. That's why it comes as no surprise that brothers and sisters from all sectors of our movement; public sector, private sector and building trades, stood together side by side, to respond to these unprecedented attacks.

"With 2 ½ million union members in this state, the labor movement will continue to speak with one voice on behalf of all working people. We urge all those interested in the future well-being of our state, to join us in a thoughtful and comprehensive dialogue regarding the important issues of shared concern and interest facing all New Yorkers."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Furloughs For Workers, But Big Paydays for Brass At Gannett

New York Times reporter David Carr wrote in an April 10, 2011 article " Just in case Gannett employees thought 2011 might bring better news after years of layoffs and furloughs, the year was just four days old when a note landed in the in-box of people who work for the community news division saying, once again, they were required to take an unpaid week off."

Gannett CEO Craig A. Dubow
Carr goes on to report " After explaining that revenues at the newspaper giant continued to be soft and the outlook was uncertain, Robert J. Dickey, Gannett’s president of U.S. Community Publishing, said, “I know furloughs are very hard on you and your families and I thank each of you for the continued commitment and great work.”

Mr. Dickey made it clear that not only did the company’s executives feel their pain, they would share the sacrifice, noting that he too would take a furlough and that Craig A. Dubow, the chief executive, and Gracia C. Martore, the president and chief operating officer, “each will be taking a reduction of salary that is equivalent to a week’s furlough.”

Carr wrote "Revenues have declined at the company four years in a row and the stock price is down more than 70 percent, but even divine intervention could probably not fix all that is wrong with Gannett and publishing in general. The company has 23 television stations, but with 82 newspapers, many of them dailies in small and medium-size cities, the company was bound to be clobbered by a recession on the one hand and a systemic flight from advertising in newspapers." 

Gannett, a company best known for publishing a newspaper mostly only read in hotels, and for decimating and demoralizing community newspaper staffs across the country, saw a marginal revenue drop last year and, according to the company, operating cash flow was $1.3 billion, up 19 percent from 2009, while debt was reduced by $710 million, to $2.35 billion. That’s a testament to what Wall Street would call “aggressive cost management.”

But out in the rest of the world, we know that generally means dumping bodies overboard, and Gannett is a high achiever when it comes to downsizing. In the five years that Mr. Dubow has run the company, its work force has gone from 52,000 employees to just over 32,000.

Most of its employees are nonunion, so the leadership is free to manage as it sees fit, including telling some people their careers are over and telling the people that remain not to come to work. Under Craig Dubow, who became CEO in 2005, the company has now eliminated 20,000 jobs -- more than one in every three.

Although CEO  Craig A. Dubow took a 17 % pay cut for 2011, this gesture was offset by  a cash bonus of $1.75 million for 2010. COO Gacia C, Martore received a  $1.25 million bonus. They were also received stock, options and deferred compensation rasing their combined compensation packages to $17.6 million. The top six executives at Gannett will take home compensation packages of more than $28 million, if certain financial projections come to fruition.

Two years of mandatory week long furloughs for the rest of Gannett employees saved the company $33 million, harships for Gannett workers that covered less than half the executive compenseation of the top six bosses over the same period.

“It has been incredibly galling to watch them lining up for these big compensation packages while they have squandered every opportunity to make the kind of changes necessary for the company to survive,” said an employee of USA Today. "Meanwhile, we have had furloughs three years in a row, so you can’t help but feel exploited and angry.” Mr. Carr noted that employees he interviewed feared there would be retaliation if they spoke for attribution.

In announcing Dubow's hefty package, double the previous year, Gannett was very clear about was driving the certainly generous award: “The company achieved substantial expense reductions through a variety of efforts, including continued centralization and consolidation efforts and salary freezes, positioning the company for growth as economic conditions improve.”

On the Gannett Blog, an independent site about the company, employees have expressed a high level of frustration and outrage about the compensation going to the folks at headquarters while people in the field watch newsrooms and their compensation shrink. “Pure and simple, a laugh in every employee’s face,” said one anonymous poster on the day the packages were announced.

Another posted, "Have they (the CEO, COO and others) no shame? It takes no leadership skills to layoff people, to order furloughs or to cut expenses. Why is the New York Times rolling out significant changes for new media and Gannett does little beyond layoffs, furloughs and expense reductions?"