The National Labor Relations Board on Thursday dismissed an unfair labor practice charge leveled by the National Association of Broadcast Engineers and Technicians against ABC.
The union had claimed that the Disney unit failed to submit timely information about health care benefits to the union and illegally locked the workers out. But Daniel Silverman, NLRB regional director, said in a statement that ABC in fact took timely steps to get the health care information to the union. He also concluded that the lockout was a lawful economic weapon used to to force NABET to give advance notice of any future strike. Disney (DIS) shares fell 11/16 to 28 5/16.
In other media news Thursday:
- Time Warner(TWX) declared a 2-for-1 stock split Thursday, payable Dec. 15 to shareholders of record as of Dec. 1. Chairman and CEO Gerald Levin said in a statement that the split, taken with Wednesday's upgrade of the company to investment grade debt status, "is indicative of the robust progress we've made in strengthening our balance sheet and creating significant value for our shareholders." Levin added that at the post-split price, the shares will "become even more attractive to the retail investor." Time Warner shares jumped 7 1/8 to an all-time high of 106.
- CBS (CBS) shares rose 1 1/16 to 29 7/8 trading on Prudential's initiation of coverage at "accumulate." The affirmation comes just ahead of the debut of Infinity, the 20-percent spin-off from the company's radio group. The IPO's prospects got a boost with last week's successful launch of Fox Entertainment Group (FOX), the 18-percent spinoff from Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. (NWS)
- Clear Channel Communications (CCU) and Jacor Communications (JCOR) plan to sell 20 radio stations in five markets in Ohio, Florida and Kentucky in order to gain federal approval of their proposed merger. Clear Channel is buying Jacor for $3.4 billion to create the nation's second-largest radio broadcaster in terms of station ownership. The deal, announced last month, is subject to federal regulatory approval and may not be cleared until September 1999, the companies said. Clear Channel shares rose 2 7/16 to 49 7/16, while Jacor stock added 2 3/4 to 62.
- The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to establish a program that would charge broadcasters a fee to use the new digital spectrum for ancillary or supplemental services. Depending on how much space on that spectrum is devoted to high-definition pictures, five or six signals can be squeezed onto one frequency.
Under the terms of the plan, broadcasters would pay an annual fee based on 5 percent of the gross revenue generated from any subscriber-based channel for which they receive compensation from a third party.
The commission decided that home-shopping channels would be exempt from the fee, since so many of them are already seen oover-the-air TV.
The fee idea has been pushed by many prominent Republicans, who suggested that the proceeds could be used to permanently subsidize PBS and other government-funded programs. Broadcasters balked, of course, and the Clinton administration took the view that such a fee would jeopardize the concept of free over-the-air telecasts.
- The FCC on Thursday also advocated a new set of equal employment rules for the broadcast and cable industries. The commission said its new proposal will be less likely to be overturned than previous rules, because they make it clear that no racial preferences are to be used in hiring. The new plan also stipulates that a broadcaster would not be asked to compare the demographic makeup of its workforce with that of the general population in a certain area.
What the FCC has in mind is a number of outreach requirement proposals, including a plan that would give broadcasters a fixed, minimum of sources they would draw from to fill vacancies.
Chairman William Kennard, an African-American, has been a staunch supporter of diversity in broadcast media. "Now is not the time to retreat on this issue...or hide behind some fiction about living in a color blind society," he said.