Friday, March 10, 2006

No competition

Non-compete clauses have long been a touchy issue in newsrooms everywhere. The clauses, which keep talent from popping up on a competitor for a certain amount of time, have been used by stations to cover themselves, especially when it comes to popular anchors. Those who are subjected to the clauses say it's unfair.

Over time, non-compete clauses have been made illegal through laws passed in places like Massachusetts, Maine, and Illinois. New York might be next (those of you in Binghamton and Elmira, pay attention). A bill in the state's assembly would make a journalist's non-compete clause unenforceable, thus allowing reporters and anchors to move where they want once their contract expires.

I'd like to see a similar bill passed here in Pennsylvania. I can understand the argument for contracts in general, but why should a station have a say in where their employees work, once the contract expires? If a station is so concerned about someone jumping to a competitor, then management should find a way to entice their talent to stick around. Trust me, a station that wants to keep a popular anchor has a way of suddenly approving a pay raise and other whims.

Until such a bill becomes law in Pennsylvania, those subjected to non-competes have the following options:

1. Wait it out.
2. Sue. And whatever happened to Phil Yacuboski's lawsuit?
3. Newsbot.
4. Find a loophole and exploit it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

In this market, non-compete clauses have really never been a huge issue. And the reason is WNEP's dominance, which means they have neither need nor interest in wooing away even a "marquee name" from WBRE or WYOU. And this isn't new, it was the same pre-Nexstar. If there was a neck-in-neck ratings war here, yeah, you might find it an issue, but as things now stand, non-compete issues are almost non-existent.

In the scant handful of instances where a contract employee has gone cross-town, the non-compete hasn't been enforced, because in each case the current employer was quite happy to see the individual become a former employee.

On a somewhat related matter, who knows the contract situation at WNEP? Once upon a time, and not all that long ago, very few of their reporters were under contract. And I know that as recently as ten years ago they had some anchors who likewise were not bound contractually.

Oh, and a final thought; contracts always favor the employer, they mean little to the employee, especially the way they are written these days. If you're new in the biz, don't think a contract is insurance or protection. And with corporate ownership in place, any station can out-lawyer you like you don't exist.

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Up north in Binghamton, there was a perfect example over the 2005 summer. NewsChannel 34 (WIVT-ABC) hired Kerri O'Hara as a part-time reporter. Within a few weeks she jumped ship to WBNG Action News (CBS-12) as weekend anchor/reporter. She was literally seen on one station one day and seen on another just a few days later. There was a lot of confusion of who really worked for who, and I believe there were even a few promos played featuring Kerri after she left WIVT. She is a great reporter and very nice to work with, but shes a perfect example of this issue really happening.

5:18 PM  

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