Why are the Teamsters Supporting the Job-Killing Retransmission Consent System?

Yesterday, the Teamsters sent a letter to Capitol Hill supporting retransmission consent. President James Hoffa argued it’s “good for Teamster members and their jobs in the broadcasting industry.”

He’s wrong. Retransmission consent is terrible for workers.

As SNL Kagan, Free Press and others have noted, the explosion in revenues is financing a wave of consolidation. This results in lost jobs at television stations around the country.

Last August, the AP reported that Disney “expects to boost revenue from so-called ‘retransmission fees’ to $400 million to $500 million annually by 2015.” Two weeks later, Disney slashed 175 jobs at the ABC Television Group.  USA Today learned the “majority of job cuts will be at operations and the eight TV stations it owns in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh-Durham and Fresno.” This is paired with Disney’s decision last May to eliminate “about 400 jobs to manage costs despite rising ad sales and affiliate revenue.”

Then there’s Sinclair, purchasing local stations at breakneck speed, cutting jobs every time. After Sinclair purchased affiliates in Seattle and Portland and fired dozens of local workers, a Seattle Times editorial said:

Welcome to the Northwest, Sinclair. Decimating the soul of this city’s last locally owned commercial TV station is a heck of an introduction.

Those editors, satellite-truck operators, writers and producers are vital to keeping our community informed via the people’s airwaves, which stations are entrusted with to balance profit and public interest.

Free Press reported Sinclair is “leading the wave of consolidation” and “in the last two years has closed or announced deals that would increase its holdings from 58 to 161 stations nationwide.” Sinclair’s actions are the norm, not the exception.

ACA President Matt Polka put it simply: “Sinclair’s intent is as clear as it is anti-competitive — to gain insurmountable bargaining leverage over ACA members and stage, when needed, massive and strategically timed blackouts to enhance the receipt of windfall profits.”

It’s unfortunate the Teamsters are siding with broadcasters as they consolidate, slash jobs and black out viewers. We encourage them to consider the facts, not broadcaster talking points.

Retransmission consent isn’t good for anyone except broadcasters.

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