By: E&P Staff
In testimony prepared for Thursday evening’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) public hearing, International Brotherhood of Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa argues the going-private deal for Tribune Co. is a perfect example of why media ownership regulations should not be loosened.
The Teamsters oppose the Tribune buyout led by Chicago real estate mogul Sam Zell, saying the structure of the employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) being used to swing the deal gives workers no real voice in the management of the company. The deal, which was approved last month in a stockholders vote, is expected to close by the end of the year.
Tribune owns 16 dailies and 23 television stations, some in the same markets. Tribune is exempted from the 1975 ban on common same-market ownership of newspaper and broadcast in some cities because it was “grandfathered” when the law took effect. In other cities, especially with the media properties it acquired in 2000 purchase of Times Mirror Co., it is operating the stations under waivers from the FCC.
“The proposed Tribune buyout is an example of why the FCC must concern itself with the ownership structure of media companies — particularly when waivers of cross-broadcast ownership rules have been sought — in order to fulfill its mission to protect localism, viewpoint diversity, media access and other issues of vital importance,” Hoffa’s written testimony stated.
“The structure proposed in the Tribune application provides insight into the potential dangers of approving an ownership structure that insulates an individual with total control of a company from the owners of that company as well as the diverse interests of the communities that company serves,” Hoffa added, referring to Zell becoming chairman when the deal closes.
The FCC hearing will be held at the national headquarters of Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH in Chicago.
Among the speakers scheduled are Tom Langmyer, vice president and general manager of Tribune-owned WGN Radio in Chicago; Dorothy Leavell, the publisher and editor of The Chicago Crusader; John Lavine, dean of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism; and Joyce McCullough, publisher of the NewsTribune in LaSalle, Ill.