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CWA Takes Aim at FCC’s Broadcast Transaction Merger Review Process

"LeGeyt is more concerned with rushing the process than with transparency and thoroughness"

The leaders of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and its affiliate, the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians–CWA (NABET–CWA), have issued a joint statement following recent discussion at the congressional level concerning the FCC’s broadcast transaction merger review process.

That discussion has been amplified over the past week by various comments made by the head of the National Association of Broadcasters.

Following Senate confirmation of Anna Gomez to the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday, Sept. 7, NAB President/CEO Curtis LeGeyt published a blog about how the commission can better support local broadcasting.

LeGeyt wrote that there are three important areas where FCC action is necessary “to keep broadcasting strong for the millions who depend on our free, locally-focused service.”

His remarks included a call for deregulatory “reform” of the FCC’s merger review process. He said potential investors must have certainty that the FCC’s merger review process will conclude with an up or down vote in a timely fashion. “Unfortunately, opaque and shifting guidelines about broadcaster transactions can deter potential buyers from investing in new and established entrants,” wrote LeGeyt. “This would-be investment can save struggling newsrooms and preserve local journalism.”

In response to LeGeyt’s blog post — as well as his written testimony for Wednesday’s House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Hearing on the State of the Video Marketplace, where he said “mergers and acquisitions enable stations to achieve the economies of scale and scope that are necessary for broadcasters to thrive and serve their local audiences” — CWA President Claude Cummings Jr. and NABET-CWA President Charlie Braico issued the following statement:

“Protecting and maintaining local broadcasting in the U.S. 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.”

In their joint statement, the unions said any efforts at the FCC or in Congress to address the commission’s merger review process must ensure that unions have standing to oppose broadcast transactions, include labor markets as part of the public interest review and 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,” wrote Cummings and Braico in their statement.  “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.”

They said only a hearing process allows the applicant, as well as the public, to have an opportunity to address disputed facts.

CWA represents working people in telecommunications, customer service, media, airlines, health care, public service and education, manufacturing and tech.

[Related: “LeGeyt Applauds Fully-Seated FCC, Says There’s More Work to Be Done“]