Standing with Broadcast TV Workers, Supporting Local Broadcasting

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On June 27, 2016, the Seattle City Council passed International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 600 and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 46’s resolution to protect high quality locally produced broadcast news. For more, watch or read my speech below.

Transcript of Speech as Delivered

I’d like to thank all the activists from IATSE Local 600 and IBEW Local 46, who were instrumental in bringing us this resolution. They represent workers in television news in general, and at King 5 in particular where they are involved in contract negotiations at the present time. Thank you Councilmember González for coordinating this through your committee.

This year, as IATSE and IBEW negotiate a contract that defends their members, all the local workers in the field, they have also been forced to defend the public in general, and our rights to locally produced news with social value, such as essential emergency notifications.

That is because the whole television news industry is changing. Many of these changes are natural, inevitable, and even desired, because, as technology changes, I think we need our infrastructure to evolve. Part of the change we see is the change in the function of airwaves, from broadcast television to wifi. These are positive reflections of technological advancements.

But some of the changes are motivated purely by a drive for greater profits by private corporations, rather than for any public good, and the technological changes are being used as an excuse or cover to bring in undesirable changes.

Let’s be clear: privatization and consolidation of the media by a corporate conglomerates has nothing to do with technological innovation.

Unfortunately, more and more media companies are being conglomerated into a few mega-corporations.  Here in Seattle, King 5 has been bought by a conglomerate called Tegna Inc.

To maximize their profits, King 5/Tegna is attempting to shift away from professional, locally produced, quality news, and replacing it with rebroadcasts of nationally produced news bits. This is bad for quality unionized jobs at King 5, but it is also bad for the quality of the news coverage for the public in Seattle.

In particular, we should be concerned about their future reliability and ability to report necessary information during disasters or other emergencies if this trend continues, especially in the context of the FCC’s public airwaves auction this summer.

To be clear, this is a resolution, and, through this resolution, the City of Seattle does not have a legal mandate on Tegna Inc. or any other body to act in the public interest, but it will register the formal opinion of the Seattle City Council:

  • in support of the workers in broadcast media; and
  • in support of the public interests in media; and
  • in a way that the activists from IATSE and IBEW can immediately use in their contract negotiations, and in their ongoing struggle.

For this reason, I think that it is very important. Please support this resolution passed through committee, and I thank all the organizers who are standing up to powerful media conglomerates for the public good.