AFTRA Requests Mediator at WHEC Negotiations

Union says Hubbard is out of touch; WHEC says mediator part of "routine process"WHEC Rochester's contract negotiations today and tomorrow have a special guest--a federal mediator called in by members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA).

AFTRA represents 18 on-air reporters and seven directors at WHEC, a Hubbard-owned NBC affiliate, who've been working under an extension of their union contract since it expired in February 2008.

According to a statement from AFTRA, its 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 AFTRA National Director of News and Broadcast Debra Osofsky. "But the company's current proposals will make it more difficult, if not impossible, for WHEC's journalists to do their jobs well... 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."

WHEC VP/General Manager Arnold Klinsky said having a mediator present was not out of the ordinary for negotiations with talent and directors. "Sometimes one side or the other feels things will go better with a mediator present," said Klinsky, who called it a "routine process."

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.