Media unions tell FCC to reject local news takeover
The NewsGuild-CWA and NABET-CWA petitioned the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday to reject the attempted takeover of TEGNA by hedge fund Standard General and private equity firm Apollo Global Management.
“Local news is being murdered by Wall Street. The attempted takeover of TEGNA is just the latest example. Standard General and Apollo don’t care about journalism. They care about money,” said NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss. “Our union — thousands of journalists and media workers — is aggressively fighting to save the news industry, local journalism jobs and our democracy.”
“We call on the FCC to reject this takeover attempt because it will further erode local news and raise consumer prices at the worst possible time,” Schleuss said.
The two media unions pointed out that a takeover of TEGNA would likely reduce local news jobs, raise consumer prices and violate the FCC’s ownership cap.
Last week Standard Media CEO Deb McDermott sent an unusual email to TEGNA employees saying the company has “no intention, and have never had the intention, of reducing news or news staff at TEGNA stations.” Standard Media is a subsidiary of hedge fund Standard General.
“The word ‘intention’ is doing a lot of work here,” Schleuss said. “Standard General isn’t promising to preserve jobs.”
In an April 2020 presentation to the TEGNA board called “Tomorrow’s TEGNA,” Standard General said that TEGNA is overstaffed compared to its corporate peers, with double the number of employees per station.
“They should be clear: Standard General plans to cut jobs,” Schleuss said.
The Guild first raised questions in April about the proposed transaction: Would the deal further erode local journalism? Why are the companies asking for a waiver of foreign ownership rules without a commitment to preserve local journalism? Is the deal structured in a way to circumvent broadcast ownership limits? Will it raise prices for consumers?
In May, The NewsGuild, Common Cause and Public Knowledge asked the FCC to delay the acquisition and requested more information. The FCC approved a one-month delay and requested more information from the companies involved in the acquisition.
In early June NewsGuild President Schleuss called on President Biden in an open letter to urge the FCC to reject the attempted takeover of TEGNA.
Both TNG-CWA and NABET-CWA represent workers at TEGNA stations and other media workers in TEGNA markets.
TEGNA operates 64 television stations in 51 U.S. markets. At the end of 2021, TEGNA reported 6,200 full- and part-time employees in its annual report filed with the SEC. The number at the end of 2020 was 6,430. TEGNA had cut 3.58% of its workforce during 2021. If Standard General thought that TEGNA had twice as many employees as necessary to generate profits in April 2020, and the company cut less than 4% of its workforce since those remarks were made, then Standard General apparently believes it necessary to cut hundreds more jobs from the company.
About The NewsGuild-CWA
The NewsGuild’s members include journalists, interpreters, translators, workers at organizations dedicated to fighting for social justice and the staff of nonprofit organizations. The NewsGuild is a sector of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which represents workers in telecommunications and information technology, the airline industry, health care, public service and education, manufacturing and other fields.
The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians represents more than 10,000 workers in broadcasting and related industries. NABET is a sector of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which represents workers in telecommunications, news, manufacturing, state and local government, nursing, policing and other fields.
CONTACT: Sally Davidow