Friday, July 29, 2011

NABET-CWA NBCU Negotiation Update

Bulletin #24

NABET-CWA/NBCU Negotiations

New York City
July 29, 2011

NABET-CWA and NBC Universal negotiators last met in New York City on Friday, June 3, 2011. While the lines of communication have, as always, remained open between the parties, bargaining activity from the Company has been stagnant for most of the past seven weeks.

On Monday, July 25, 2011, representatives from NBCU Labor Relations forwarded a 43-page package of proposed contractual changes to the Union, and asked that your Bargaining Committee formally present the package to the membership for ratification consideration.

The Company’s offer contained a condition that “…the NABET-CWA bargaining committee agrees to unanimously recommend this Memorandum of Agreement for ratification by the NABET-CWA membership.”

Sector President James C. Joyce told Executive Vice President of Labor Relations, Andrew Herzig, that while the Union’s Bargaining Committee would carefully review the package, and give full consideration to presenting the package to the membership for ratification, it is unlikely that the Committee would agree to recommend any package that did not meet the standards of the Union.

During the past few days, Union negotiators spent considerable time evaluating and discussing the Company’s offer.

In light of these intolerably lengthy and unnecessarily protracted negotiations, we are disappointed to report to you that the Company’s current offer falls far short of a contract that merits your acceptance.

You deserve much better.

The NABET-CWA Network Negotiating Committee, through Chief Spokesperson James Joyce, has informed Mr. Herzig that we would agree to present the package to the membership, but the Union’s unanimous recommendation to the membership will be to reject the offer.

Mr. Herzig replied to President Joyce that the Company will need additional time to consider the Union’s decision and to respond.

We will inform you as to the Company’s reply once we receive a response from Mr. Herzig.

Locals 11, 31, 41 and 53 are planning to conduct informational meetings for their respective memberships. Details regarding those meetings will be announced shortly. As always, please ignore all rumors.

NABET-CWA Network Negotiating Committee

501 3rd Street NW
Washington, DC 20001

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

'American Idol' Producer Fremantle Reaches 3-Year Deal With IATSE

By Joshua L. Weinstein

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees has reached a three-year agreement with Fremantle Media.

The agreement covers domestic programs produced for network and basic cable.

Fremantle's programs include "American Idol," "America's Got Talent" and the upcoming "The X Factor."

As for IATSE, it represents makeup artists, wardrobe, camera operators, electricians, props, carpenters, and other production-crew workers.

"This new enhanced agreement underlines our commitment to working with Fremantle Media North America on some of the biggest programming brands in television," the union's president said in a written statement.

In the statement, Fremantle's executive VP of production, Dan Goldberg, said, "When it comes to production, we pride ourselves on a consistent high level of quality and creativity. Members of the IA are the best at their crafts, so it only makes sense to work with them all the time."

Last November, the union called a strike on NBC's "The Biggest Loser," which is produced by Reveille Productions, 25/7 Productions and 3 Ball Productions. The strike lasted two weeks.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Federal Appeals Court Rejects Relaxed Cross-Ownership Rule

By Harry A. Jessell

In remanding the relaxed 2008 version of the 35-year-old broadcast-newspaper cross-ownership rule to the FCC for another look, the U.S. Appeals Court said the agency's decision to allow common ownership in large markets had "failed to meet the notice and comment requirements" in reviewing the rule as required by law. The court also affirmed the TV duopoly rule and other local owneship limits.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia today threw out the FCC's 2008 rule permitting common ownership of broadcast stations and newspapers in large markets, while upholding rules limiting TV station duopolies and other local ownership restrictions. The federal appeals court also ordered a further review of efforts to promote minority and female ownership of media outlets.

The court also said that the FCC failed to demonstrate how its Diversity Order structured primarily to benefit small business entities (and cited in the crossownership rulemaking) would enhance minority and female ownership of media outlets. That has also been remanded to the Commission for further examination. Since the FCC had long ago determined that a return to its previous preferences based on race and/or gender would not pass constitutional muster, the court ruling may not leave the Commission much room to maneuver.

The rules had been challenged by groups opposed to media consolidation who are trying to preserve or strengthen them as well as by broadcasters and newspaper publishers who argued for getting rid of them or loosening them further. In remanding the relaxed 2008 version of the 35-year-old broadcast-newspaper crossownership rule to the FCC for another look, the panel said the agency had "failed to meet the notice and comment requirements" in reviewing the rule as required by law.

In essence, the rule would have allowed newspaper-broadcast combinations in the top 20 markets and in smaller markets under certain limited circumstances. Media owners felt the rule was a modest concession to the previous ban.

In affirming the FCC TV duopoly rule, which limits the markets where a broadcasters may own two stations, the panel said it was not persuaded by the broadcasters' argument that the rule was "overly restrictive."

According to the panel, the FCC, in choosing to retain the rule in 2008, did not ignore the explosion of other media outlets; it simply concluded that the rule remained necessary to promote competition among stations within markets.

The court also affirmed that the ownership rules are constitutional, rejecting arguments that they violated the First and Fifth Amendment rights of broadcasters and publishers.

The panel said the FCC rules do not violate the First Amendment because they "are rationally related to substantial government interests in promoting competition and protecting viewpoint diversity."

And the panel ruled that there is "no basis" for the claim that the rules are aimed at manipulating content. "These rules apply regardless of the content of the programming," it said.

Cox Media Group and Media General argued that the broadcast-newspaper crossownership rule violated newspapers' right to equal protection under the First Amendment by treating newspapers differently from other media.

The panel said the argument lacked merit. "The Supreme Court has upheld this treatment ... and we are bound by that precedent," it said.

The panel also declined to toss out the Supreme Court's long-established scarcity doctrine that says the government may regulate broadcasting because broadcast channels are scarce.

The abundance of non-broadcast media does not render broadcast spectrum less scarce, the court said. "The Supreme Court's justification for the ... doctrine remains as true today as it was in 2004 — indeed, in 1975 ...."

Over the objections of consolidation foes, the court decided not to undo the FCC's grant of permanent waivers of the crossownership rule that allow two companies operate TV stations and newspapers in five markets — Gannett in Phoenix and Media General in Myrtle Beach-Florence, S.C.; Columbus, Ga.; Panama City, Fla., and Tri-Cities, Tenn.-Va.

"Although we have several concerns about these permanent waivers, we conclude that we do not have jurisdiction to reach the merits of ... petitioners' claims," the court said.

Reaction to the ruling from the National Association of Broadcasters was muted. "There have been sweeping changes in the media landscape since most of the broadcast ownership rules were adopted decades ago," said EVP Dennis Wharton in a statement. "NAB believes that modest reform of rules to allow free and local broadcasters to compete successfully in a universe of national pay TV and radio platforms is warranted."

Meanwhile, Free Press, the group that has been leading the charge against structural deregulation, applauded the ruling.

“Today’s decision is a sweeping victory for the public interest,” said Corie Wright, policy counsel of Free Press. “In rejecting the arguments of the industry and exposing the FCC's failures, the court wisely concluded that competition in the media — not more concentration — will provide Americans with the local news and information they need and want.”

The court also affirmed that the rules are "not only constitutional but necessary to preserve competition, as well as to promote diverse sources of news and information for the American people,” said Wright, who argued the case along with Andrew Jay Schwartzman of Media Access Project, on behalf of Prometheus Radio Project, Media Alliance, the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ and Free Press.

Media owners seeking relief from the rules were awaiting the decision so that the FCC could get on with another review of the ownership rules, which it is mandated by law to do every four years. While the case based on the 2008 action has been pending at the Third Circuit the FCC has been pretty much unable to complete work on its 2010 Quadrennial Review of its ownership rules. The court said the issues it remanded should now be incorporated into the 2010 Quadrennial Review. The FCC is currently undertaking another review of its media ownership rules. In a statement, the agency said that they ‘’should be able to take appropriate steps to ensure that the nation’s media marketplace remains healthy and vibrant.”

Broadcast Union News: The rules struck down by the court had lifted the ban on cross ownership in the 20 largest media markets, reducing diversity and limiting access for new media outlets. ”This decision is a vindication of the public’s right to have a diverse media environment. We won on almost every point,” said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, senior vice president and policy director of the Media Access Project, which represented Prometheus Radio Project in challenging the changes. "The FCC majority knew that its effort to allow more media concentration was politically and legally unworkable, so it tried to end-run the procedural protections that are designed to give the public the right to participate in agency proceedings. ”


NEW YORK CITY – After a three-month investigation, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has just issued a formal complaint against ITV/Kirstall for firing a long-time producer for his support of the Writers Guild of America, East’s (WGAE) efforts to organize ITV employees. The NLRB hearing is expected to begin in late July.

A majority of writers and producers at ITV Studios, which produces shows including Steven Seagal: Lawman, The First 48 and Four Weddings, voted for WGAE representation in a secret ballot conducted in December 2010. Since that time, the company has tied up certification of the majority vote with various legal maneuvers. About 80 people will become WGAE members when the vote is certified and will bargain for health and pension benefits, improved compensation, and reasonable working hours.

“We are pleased the NLRB is pursuing this case. No one should be fired for supporting a union and seeking a voice on the job,” said Lowell Peterson, WGAE Executive Director. “While the NLRB’s decision is good news, ITV continues to ignore its employees’ vote for Guild representation. We urge ITV to reinstate the employee and to come to the bargaining table so we can negotiate a fair and equitable contract for all the employees who do the work that makes the company successful.”

ITV is one of three NLRB elections the WGAE has won its industry-wide campaign to organize the largely non-unionized non-fiction sector of the TV industry. Other wins include Atlas Media (Biography, Dr. G: Medical Examiner, American Eats) and Lion Television (Cash Cab for Discovery Network, Megadrive for MTV, and History Detectives and America Revealed for PBS).

The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO, is a labor union representing writers in motion pictures, television, cable, digital media, and broadcast news. The WGAE conducts programs, seminars, and events on issues of interest to, and on behalf of, writers. In addition, it represents writers’ interests on the legislative level.

For more information on the Writers Guild of America, East, visit

For all editorial and press inquiries, please contact:

Elana Levin
Director of Communications

WGA Stats Reveal Paltry New Media Payday

By Richard Horgan
July 6, 2011

In recent years, newspaper and TV coverage of contract renewal negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and Hollywood has placed great emphasis on the new media landscape, and how online streams of member content should be compensated.

Thanks to the latest stats from WGA West, it is possible to quantify just how well (or not so well) west coast scribes are doing these days on the Internet. According to the figures, 2010 new media residuals for west coast union members amounted to a total of $2.63 million.

At first glance, not too bad. But when you divide this amount by the WGA West’s membership total of 12,000, it amounts to an average per member of just $219.16.

That’s barely enough to cover the cost of an awards season tuxedo rental and dry clean. It’s better than nothing, obviously, and actually as a whole a 24% increase over the previous year. But the average sum shows that the union’s new media equation still has a long way to go before it can be truly deemed a Hollywood success story.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tribune Company ‘Deal From Hell’: A Tale of Greed and Hypocrisy

By Sharon Waxman

It’s hard to say who comes out worse in James O’Shea’s new book, “The Deal from Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers” -- the Tribune Company itself Sam Zell, Mark Willes, the Chandler family, JP Morgan or any one of the myriad senior executives who cut the bottom line while pocketing huge bonuses.

The journalists don’t come out looking so great either.

I already knew the story and even so, reading this tale of bad-to-worse makes me seriously depressed.

Why did anyone think that a trash-talking billionaire, Zell, who proudly stated he knew and cared nothing about newspapers, would be able to save The Los Angeles Times and other Tribune papers?

Here’s how it turned out: bankruptcy, and an atmosphere so hostile to journalism that talent fled while everybody else cowered in fear.

Sam Zell
 O’Shea does a service in laying out precisely how much precious cash was wasted on bonuses to senior managers to close deals that had no long-term strategy for success, investment bankers with no stake in the future of the company and lawyers sorting through the bankruptcy.

For those who value newspapers and what they contribute to society, the numbers are enough to turn your stomach:

* $283 million in investment banking fees to close the $7 billion “deal from hell” -- Zell’s creative takeover of the Tribune Company, which used an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) to avoid taxes.

* $41 million in salary, bonus and stock to Tribune CEO Dennis Fitzsimons, who presided over the decline of the company, for closing the deal.

* $10 million in bonus, salary, stock to John Reardon, president of Tribune Broadcasting.

* $13.8 million to Don Grenesko, CFO, bonus, salary and stock.

* $300 million in legal fees over the bankruptcy fight.

That would be more than enough cash to run the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune for several years. In other words, they could have made the product better, instead of coming up with endless ways to refinance and cut operating costs.

But that’s starting at the end of the story.

O’Shea spent three decades at the Chicago Tribune and then led the Tribune-owned Los Angeles Times for a year, giving him a front-row seat to the historic drama of decline at a great newspaper company.

He sums it up succinctly: “The greed, incompetence, corruption, hypocrisy and arrogance of people who put their interests ahead of the public” add up to a tale of corporate disaster.

As we headed into the 21st century, the broad strokes were well known.

At the Chicago Tribune, as at the Los Angeles Times and other papers, circulation was in decline, advertising was also ebbing, the internet was on the rise and ideas about how to counter these trends were remarkably simple: fire people, cut costs.

O’Shea does a good job of sketching the historic backdrop of the Tribune Company, and reminds us that this is not the first major dislocation in American newspapers. Thousands were laid off in the 1930s, many never to find work again, as cities with a half-dozen newspapers found markets to sustain only a few.

And again, he reminds us that newspapers had been severely downsizing non-editorial staff since the mid-1970s, as technological efficiencies reduced the need for manpower at the printing presses.

Between 1975 and 1990, he tells us, production staffs were cut by 50 percent or more. Not surprisingly, this coincided with Tribune Company going public in 1975, and pushing hard to increase profit margins.

Which it did.

Heirs of Henry Chandler, who married the daughter of L.A. Times founder Harrison Gray Otis, share in the trusts that had long controlled the ownership of Times Mirror.

After more than 120 years, the Chandlers got out of the newspaper business.

The much-celebrated and maligned Chandler family that once dominated the civic, cultural and political life of Southern California through its control of the Los Angeles Times agreed to what had previously been unthinkable, selling its entire stake in Tribune Co., the newspaper's parent, cashing in on their historic legacy.

Calculations by Forbes of the family's collective net worth, based on the stock price of $88 on the day of the sale, showed a 35% jump to $3.8 billion from the prior to the transaction estimate of $2.8 billion.

Tribune had been bought, merged with the L.A. Times and bought again, each time by partners not particularly interested in the legacy of the journalism that is the essence of America’s great newspapers.

Each new owner and dealmaker thought that he could fix it by cutting further. No one had the thought that investing in the new direction journalism was going made any sense.

Much more than “Page One,” the new documentary about The New York Times, the “Deal from Hell” gives us a serious and informed view of the destruction of an American journalistic institution (or two of them, in this case).

O’Shea shares some fascinating inside stories based on his front-row seat as editor in chief and his long-time relationships with people who gave him interviews for the book.

We learn that the famed “cereal killer” Mark Willes, the manager who came from General Mills to be CEO of Times Mirror in 1995 with a business-first approach, was not all bad. (Not counting the time he brought in consultants who declared that the shredded paper “smelled like fish,” where it needed to smell like “Starbucks and coffee cake.”)

Those of us who only knew Willes as a clueless bottom-liner responsible for the Staples scandal may be surprised to learn that he vastly improved the financial outlook at the Times in the late 1990s. He shut the money-losing New York Newsday and cut jobs, along with the newsstand price, and created new sections and additions to broaden the reader base.

Under Willes, circulation rose, operating profits soared and earnings per share increased more than 50 percent, O’Shea writes.

It wasn’t enough for the Chandlers, the family that held the controlling stake in Times Mirror. Despite being paid $2.1 billion in dividends under Willes’ tenure, the Chandlers still decided to cash out further. Without telling Willes, they sold the company to Tribune.

According to former managing editor Leo Wolinsky, Willes would wander the halls and weep after this stunning betrayal.

Dennis Fitzsimons
 There’s delicious gossip in Chicago rube (and Trib CEO) Dennis Fitzsimons not knowing that he needed a passport to travel to Istanbul, and revealing his main source of knowledge about the Iraq war -- his friend Geraldo Rivera. The sexist, potty-mouthed dirt on Zell and his frat-boy buddies has been well documented previously by David Carr at The New York Times.

But the journalists don’t look too swell, either. They were arrogant and clueless about the need for change in their long-protected newsrooms. They were slow to understand that this was a battle for survival, slow to adopt the changes the internet demanded.

In his reporting, O’Shea relies too heavily for my taste on Wolinsky, a senior editor in the L.A. Times newsroom. And he has high praise for John Montorio, someone whose reputation in the newsroom and beyond was not consistent with that view.

These are among those who failed to push toward the new type of journalism that defines our era -- immediate, informed by a strong point of view and open to interaction with the reader. (Oddly, Wolinsky praises Willes for believing that “our future was squarely in print. He ignored the internet, thought it was just a fad.”)

Tribune, about to emerge from bankruptcy in a matter of months, is one of the most extreme examples of what has happened to American newspapers in the past decade. It is an extraordinary saga of greed, arrogance, self-interest and lack of vision.

At the end of bankruptcy, the Tribune Company is likely to end up being run by Jamie Dimon and his JP Morgan Chase.

It’s the end game for Tribune Company, and we are all the worse for it.

Friday, July 1, 2011

New York City Central Labor Council AFL-CIO June 2011 Report

After a three month hiatus in which the New York State AFL-CIO President, Denis Hughes coordinated a 21 amendment redesign of the New York City Central Labor Council constitution, a meeting was held on June 9, 2011 at which the 21 amendments to the constitution were presented to the delegates for review.

Vincent Alvarez, newly elected President
At that meeting Vincent Alvarez from IBEW Local 3 was nominated for President.

Arthur Cheliotes from CWA Local 1180 and Janella Hinds from UFT were nominated for Secretary Treasurer.

NABET-CWA Local 16 Secretary/Treasurer, Rich Gelber, made a seconding speech for Arthur Cheliotes.

At the June 30, 2011 NYCCLC meeting, attended by 318 delegates from 21 unions representing 590,827 members, approved the new constitution, which had been pre-approved by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

On instruction from the national AFL-CIO, the package of constitution changes was voted on intact, with no separation of issues permitted, to the consternation of several delegates, many of whom felt that each of the 21 ammendments should have been discussed and voyed upon individually.

Vincent Alvarez from IBEW Local 3 was elected President.

Janella Hinds and Vincent Alvarez
 Janella Hinds was elected Secretary Treasurer, Arthur Cheliotes having dropped out in expectation of a run for a new, as yet not created Executive Vice-President position to be proposed at the next NYCCLC meeting.
An additional constitution change, submitted by Arthur Cheliotes at the June 9 meeting, and read, but not voted on yet, was discussed at the June 30 meeting. This ammendment would create 6 Senior Vice President (SVP) positions, to be appointed by the CLC President and ratified by the Executive Board. These new SVPs would be tasked with promoting diversity.
Respectfully Submitted,

Rich Gelber and Robert R. Daraio
NABET-CWA Local 16

New York City Central Labor Council Elects New President

Vincent Alvarez Will Lead Largest Labor Council in the Country

by New York State AFL-CIO

Last night, Vincent Alvarez was elected President of the New York City Central Labor Council, the largest such council in the country, representing more than one million union members throughout the city.

Brother Alvarez was unanimously elected by the umbrella organization's delegate body to serve a four year term. Earlier in the evening, delegates voted to amend the constitution, making the President a full-time officer of the Council.

A 21-year member of Local 3 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and a native of Staten Island, Mr. Alvarez won the esteem of union leaders over two decades of volunteer work with the Council.

“He is the most honest and decent guy you’ll ever meet,” said Ed Ott, a former executive director of the Council who is now a distinguished lecturer in labor studies at the City University of New York’s Murphy Institute. “This is what the Council needs. It will reassure the members that the place is now in good hands.”

Upon his election, Vincent Alvarez, a member of IBEW Local #3, stated, "It is an incredible honor to lead this Council at such a critically important time for working families. Working men and women face immense challenges, both in the workplace and in their everyday lives. Our city, state and country are continuing to struggle through one of the most difficult economic periods in the last 80 years. And during that time, we have seen workers suffer dramatically.

"It's time the New York City labor movement raises its collective voice and says "enough is enough" to policies that adversely affect working people. We have the talent, we have the strength and we have the resolve to address these challenges. And together, we will prevail."

In his address to the delegates, Brother Alvarez also outlined his vision of the Central Labor Council under his leadership. "We are committed to working tirelessly at putting together a competent organization, comprised of intelligent and dedicated individuals poised to deal with today's challenges and who are ready, willing and able to serve this labor movement. Tonight I pledge to you that working together as one movement – public sector, private sector and building trades – we will redouble our efforts to find effective solutions to complex problems affecting working people."

Janella Hinds
Delegates also elected Janella Hinds, a member of the United Federation of Teachers, to the newly created position of Secretary Treasurer. Sister Hinds has been a labor activist for fifteen years, and is a skilled negotiator who has served on numerous negotiating committees advocating for member rights.

The four year term for each of the newly elected officers begins immediately.