President Hill To Congress: Support our Broadcast Partners


November 13, 2013

For many decades, IBEW members have skillfully brought news and entertainment to local audiences across the nation, working for major broadcasting companies likeCBS, Fox and ABC.


Even while our members established constructive collective bargaining relationships with those companies, pay-TV operators arrived on the scene and retransmitted programming produced by our IBEW-organized employers without paying for it.

That shouldn’t be surprising. Cable companies like Comcast have established a history of running on the cheap—poor service to customers, lack of respect for their employees and hostility to unions. The IBEW has worked hard to reverse their WalMart approach to the industry byorganizing new unitsand bargaining hard for members under contract.

In 1992, broadcasting companies succeeded in winning retransmission consent as part of theCable Act, passed by Congress. That meant that cable operators and other video programming distributors were required to obtain authorization from broadcasters before airing their programs. In exchange broadcasters could arrange for cable operators to pay cash or ask for other means of consideration to carry their productions.

The compensation received by broadcasting companies helped fuel innovation and strengthen the position of IBEW members in the industry. Local broadcast channels are today the most watched programming on the television landscape.

But, today, cable companies and others are trying to convince Congress to allow them to abandon or weaken their commitment to compensate broadcasters. One of their proposals is a “standstill,” a contract with broadcasters that would never end even if its terms or conditions are outdated.

In a sharply worded letter to Congress cited inBroadcasting and Cablemagazine, International President Hill said: “Applied to collective bargaining, a contract like this would be unacceptable to IBEW members. For our employers in the broadcasting industry, such a contract is an unnecessary restraint of trade … Legislative efforts that undermine retransmission consent would have a negative impact on the livelihoods of IBEW members in the broadcasting industry.”

The IBEW Telecommunications and Broadcasting Department reports that relationships with TV broadcasters remain strong.

“The last thing our members who work for those broadcasters need,” says Director Martha Pultar, is to have their employers’ revenues undermined by a cable sector that has overwhelmingly shown hostility to workers organizing for similar relationships and a voice on the job.”