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AFTRA Blocks CC'S Homogenization of NY
By Eric de Fontenay (Founder & Publisher)
(more articles from this author)
2003-04-24
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An agreement reached by the New York Local of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and Clear Channel Radio over the fate of on-air hosts in key local radio stations represents a small victory in the face of well-entrenched trends unleashed by the 1996 Telecom Act and subsequent consolidation in the radio industry.

Clear Channel had been seeking to replace unionized live on-air hosts with pre-recorded announcements made by out-of-state non-union announcers, a process known as "voice tracking." The demand was not unreasonable in a 'Corporate America' context: the entire premise of acquisition & mergers is that the larger group can achieve cost savings and efficiencies by centralizing and streamlining decision making & operations. Without these cost-cutting efficiency measures, the bill for the buying spree can't be justified to Wall Street. Clear Channel is therefore simply fulfilling its fiduciary obligations to its shareholders.

The problem is that radio is not simply nuts-&-bolts. It is a key national infrastructure for the diffusion of ideas, debate and, of course, music. Federal courts, up to the Supremes, have consistently determined that broadcast radio is an essential element in nurturing our democracy and free expression for citizens and communities. This is why, unlike nuts-&-bolts, radio as well as other major media sectors have been subject to a whole series of ownership restrictions, whether it be by foreign entities (not withstanding Murdoch) or cross-media ownership in a given community.

Notwithstanding the issue of undercutting New York's labor market with out-state "scabs," Clear Channel's vision of radio is not one of diversity and community empowerment, but of price-earning ratios and ROI. That's understandable for its not Clear Channel's job to ensure the public interest, that task falls on the FCC and Congress. We can only hope that they will pursue it with as much zeal as AFTRA did in ensuring their members' interest.

Related News from Mi2N:
» Clear Channel Radio And AFTRA Reach Agreement
» SAG Supports AFTRA In New York Clear Channel Negotiations
» AFTRA National Board Urges Members To Avoid Clear Channel New York Stations


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