The situation inside the newsroom at Meredith Broadcasting Corp.’s WFSB(TV) Hartford, Conn., was described as tense Thursday, as anchors and reporters staged a protest over stalled contract negotiations.
According to American Federation of Television and Radio Artists New England Director Tom Higgins, the protest, in which anchors and reporters wore some piece of black clothing on-air, was being characterized by some in management as an attempt to sabotage the newscasts. Management asked some of the newspeople wearing too much black to change, citing stated dress policy. Those staffers complied.
The anchors and reporters, who have been trying to renegotiate new contracts with the station since November 2002, also took out an ad in Thursday’s Hartford Courant explaining the boycott, spelling out their grievances and criticizing the station.
The headline on the Courant ad read: "It is a dark day at channel 3," and said that the station "does not value our relationship with the community," and has "turned out the lights on twenty-five years of positive labor relations." Among its criticisms of the station’s proposed contract listed in the ad are WFSB’s ability to "replace us with subcontractors, fire us and not pay severance," impose noncompetes and limit discrimination claims.
Elden Hale, VP and general manager of WFSB (TV), would not comment on the action beyond labeling the ad "typical union folderol."
AFTRA and the staffers had planned an earlier protest, a boycott of a station-sponsored charity golf tournament in September, but it was called off after requests from the charity, a camp for underprivileged children.
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.