iHeartMedia has reached an agreement with SAG-AFTRA to retain all of the staffers at News/Talk 1030 WBZ Boston.
As first reported by the Boston Herald, the agreement states that iHeart “agrees to recognize the union as the exclusive bargaining representative for all full-time and regular part-time announcers, producers, editors, writers and production assistants employed by WBZ-AM. The Employer agrees to offer employment to all current union represented employees of WBZ-AM who are listed on the attached exhibit at their current salary or hourly rate of pay.”
iHeartMedia is expected to begin operating WBZ via LMA around November 17 when the Entercom/CBS Radio merger closes.
Original Report 11/6: Will all current employeed at soon-to-be iHeartMedia News/Talk 1030 WBZ Boston be forced to reapply for their current jobs?
A memo from an iHeartMedia attorney to SAG-AFTRA’s National Director of News and Broadcast Tom Higgins was circulated to WBZ staffers on Friday and then to The Boston Globe on Saturday setting off a firestorm of confusion and fear. With eleven days remaining until the planned closing of the Entercom/CBS Radio merger and the beginning of iHeart’s LMA to operate WBZ there still is time for a new agreement with the union.
Let’s first start with what we do know. In iHeart’s letter to the union they made it clear they were not going to assume the current CBS Radio contracts and will interview and hire some of the current on-air and off-air staffers currently employed by the station. They are not seeking to break up the union as they mention beginning collective bargaining negotiations. As we mentioned on Wednesday when the deal was announced, with iHeart owning its Total Traffic and Weather Network producing news, weather, and traffic content for stations there likely will be integrations of that service into WBZ which will eliminate some positions currently filled at the station.
But we do not know how deep those cuts will be yet and if it will affect the way the station operates. WBZ currently runs local News programing from 5am to 8pm on Weekdays, 5am to 6pm Saturdays, and 5am-10am and 12pm-7pm on Sundays. Talk programming, mostly locally originating but with some brokered and syndicated on weekends, fills the remainder of the WBZ lineup. While iHeart is known for running mostly syndicated Talk content on its AM News/Talk stations there are some very successful exceptions to that rule. 640 KFI Los Angeles is live & local from 5am-10pm weekdays, 700 WLW Cincinnati from 5am-12am, and 1530/93.1 KFBK Sacramento from 5-9am and 12pm-10pm. What iHeart does not have in its portfolio until now is a station so reliant on News blocks outside of morning and in a few cases afternoon drive. This will be uncharted waters for the company.
The letter to Tom Higgins follows:
As you may know, iHeartMedia is acquiring certain assets of radio station WBZ-AM in
Boston from Entercom and CBS Radio. The transaction is expected to close in mid November
following receipt of necessary government approvals.
In connection with the asset acquisition, iHeartMedia will interview and consider for
employment the on-air announcers and off-air production staff currently employed by
CBS at WBZ-AM and represented by SAG-AFTRA. Although iHeartMedia management will be making a number of changes to integrate WBZ-AM into the iHeart platform, it will have a number of positions to fill. Interested individuals who meet our qualifications will be offered employment under iHeartMedia’s compensation and benefits program. iHeartMedia will not be assuming the two collective bargaining agreements between CBS Radio and SAG-AFTRA.
We fully expect and hope that those announcers and production staff offered employment
will choose to work for WBZ-AM as an iHeartMedia radio station. I will be in touch with you as we move through this process to insure that the transition is as smooth as possible, and as appropriate, begin negotiations for collective bargaining agreements. In the meantime, if you have any questions please let me know.
iHeartMedia released the following statement regarding the letter:
When stations change hands there are many moving parts, and we are working to resolve them as quickly as we can. That includes labor contracts, which aren’t transferring. We know this process may cause anxiety, and we truly apologize for any discomfort some union employees may be feeling. We plan to get all these important details in place as soon as possible. iHeartMedia and SAG-AFTRA have worked constructively after other transactions and we expect that to continue after the acquisition of WBZ-AM. We plan to work with the union as we integrate WBZ and the individuals we hire into the iHeart platform