The Writers Guild of America is using allies in Washington, D.C., to amp up pressure on CBS over its long-stalled contract negotiations.
Moves by the WGA come five months after the guild asked the Federal Communications Commission to intervene in the negotiations with Viacom and CBS, alleging that the network’s contract proposals violated FCC public-interest rules. The WGA announced this week that Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) has written to FCC chairman Kevin Martin urging him to take prompt action on the issues of news quality and localism.
“CBS wants to remove members of the newsroom from the protection of the WGA East and West, which insulates them from being pressured by management to report news with a particular slant,” Weiner said in the letter. “To provide quality local news, the newsroom should be governed by people with a high degree of independence.”
A CBS rep had no comment.
The guild and CBS are at odds over the net seeking the right to combine the newsrooms and consolidate the staffs of the two all-talk radio stations in Los Angeles, KNX 1070 and KFWB 980, along with combining New York all-news radio stations CBS 880-AM and WINS 1010-AM. The WGA has noted that such combos would allow CBS to air news content written by one staff on both stations without informing the public.
WGA also said its reps have been meeting on the issue with the offices of New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, California Sen. Barbara Boxer and Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin.
Current three-year contract expired April 2. The WGA has told members they should continue working, adding that terms and conditions of the pact will continue to apply.
Contract covers about 500 news writers, editors, assistants, graphic artists and researchers. Stations covered include WCBS-TV, WBBM-AM, KNX-AM, KFWB-AM, KCAL-TV and KCBS-TV.