Portland’s KATU-TV will face a union picket

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 600 will hold an informational picket Saturday, Jan. 27, from noon to 2 p.m. at KATU TV, 2153 NE Sandy Blvd., Portland. The union represents 24 workers at the station who have been working without a contract since October 2015.

KATU is owned by Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which is working vigorously to change the business model of local television through consolidation.

Speaking to the Executive Board of the Northwest Oregon Labor Council Jan. 8, IATSE Local 600 rep Dave Twedell expressed concern that members’ jobs will be lost in consolidation as Sinclair replaces local news with national content. He said in bargaining Sinclair is refusing to commit that local studios will stay open and continue to produce news.

Sinclair, with 173 television stations, including Seattle’s KOMO, is the biggest station owner in the nation. The company currently is in talks to acquire Tribune Media, which would add 42 stations and reach 72 percent of the television market in the U.S.

Sinclair successfully lobbied the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to change longstanding regulations that prohibited any one company from owning stations that reach more than 39 percent of the U.S. market. The company also successfully lobbied the FCC to change its “main studio rule,” whereby broadcasters were required to operate a studio within the city it was broadcasting to.

“It changes the business model of local television,” said Twedell, adding that general managers from Portland competitors are watching with horror what Sinclair is doing to the business.

“If Sinclair can ship in news from anywhere in the country, how are its competitors — who are paying for full news crews in offices across the street — going to compete?” he asked.

These two new rules were unlawful until two months ago, when the FCC also changed net neutrality rules regulating the Internet.

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