Quality of Local Journalism in Jeopardy
Rochester, New York (Oct. 5, 2009)—Members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) today announced they have requested a federal mediator to join contract negotiations at WHEC-TV in Rochester, New York on Tuesday, Oct. 6. WHEC-TV is an NBC affiliate station owned by Hubbard Broadcasting Corporation which is based in Twin Cities, Minnesota.
AFTRA represents 18 on-air reporters and seven directors at WHEC-TV who have been working under an extension of their union contract for 18 months since it expired on Feb. 29, 2008. Despite ongoing negotiations, both sides have been unable so far to reach an agreement on successor terms for a new contract.
The AFTRA members at WHEC are concerned about management's demands that reporters take on expanded technical duties that would not only erode the journalists' contract jurisdiction, but also permit management to lay off staff without respect to seniority.
"Everyone knows that we live in a challenging economy and we all have a vested interest in sustaining local news operations," said Debra Osofsky, AFTRA National Director of News and Broadcast. "But the company's current proposals will make it more difficult, if not impossible, for WHEC's journalists to do their jobs well. This not only threatens our members' ability to earn a living and support their families, but threatens the public's right to receive quality local news coverage from professional journalists they know and trust. We believe that the company is out of touch with the needs and concerns of local journalists and Rochester's viewing public, and we are hopeful that the federal mediator will assist us in reaching an agreement that is mutually beneficial for both sides and the Rochester community."
The federal mediator is scheduled to attend the negotiations when both sides head back to the table on Oct. 6 and 7.