The FCC’s broadcast transaction merger review process must consider impact on workers
In response to National Association of Broadcasters CEO Curtis LeGeyt’s September 8, 2023, statement that included a call for deregulatory “reform” of the FCC’s merger review process, and LeGeyt’s written testimony for a recent House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Hearing on the State of the Video Marketplace, CWA President Claude Cummings Jr. and National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA (NABET-CWA) President Charlie Braico issued the following statement:
Protecting and maintaining local broadcasting in the US means making sure that broadcasting industry workers have good, union jobs and a strong voice in public policy impacting the broadcast industry. It should not mean inviting hedge funds, private equity, and other predatory investors to undermine local broadcasting in order to extract profits, as they already have done to newspapers, including through cutting jobs and importing “local news” from distant markets. To that end, any efforts at the Federal Communications Commission or in Congress to address the FCC’s merger review process must incorporate the following reforms:
- Ensure that unions have standing to oppose broadcast transactions. Congress or the FCC should clarify that, as established in prior FCC doctrine, labor unions have standing as institutions and associations to challenge an entire broadcast group transaction, not just with respect to a single station in that deal. CWA, NABET-CWA, or any other labor union speaking on behalf of affected workers should be able to oppose that deal in its entirety as institutions and associations.
- Include labor markets as part of the public interest review. The TEGNA Hearing Designation Order (HDO) made explicit that employment at broadcast TV stations is material to determining whether localism, and therefore the public interest, is being served by a transaction. That should be codified as bedrock public interest policy for all broadcast transactions going forward. Also, labor markets generally should be addressed in any future competition analysis.
- Preserve fact-finding hearings. In his call for a simple “up or down vote,” LeGeyt is more concerned with rushing the process than with transparency and thoroughness. The public has a right to know, when parties raise serious factual issues, whether a broadcast license transfer applicant has lied or lacks the character required to hold a broadcast license. Only a hearing process allows the applicant as well as the public to have an opportunity to address disputed facts.
CWA urges the FTC and the DOJ to take into account in merger review guidelines the role of collective bargaining in counterbalancing employer market power