Corporate Power/Consolidation

Tribune Co. profitability continues to deteriorate

Ann Saphir, Crain's

Tribune Co.’s financial picture deteriorated even more this year as declining advertising sales continued to hammer the newspaper industry, the Chicago media conglomerate’s bankruptcy filings show.

The company is much less profitable than before its filing in December and is burning through cash, financial statements for the first five months of the year show. Tribune’s revenue declined about 23% in the first half of 2009, according to an estimate by Chicago-based Morningstar Inc. analyst Tom Corbett, who reviewed the company’s financials.

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Newspapers in Washington get key 40% tax break

Associated Press

As newspapers across the country struggle through a brutal economic climate, papers in Washington state are getting a tax break.

A new law that gives newspaper printers and publishers a 40 percent cut in Washington's main business tax took effect this week, providing some much-needed relief to the business after a year in which The Seattle Post-Intelligencer printed its final edition and other papers suffered drastic cutbacks.

"It's not a bailout, because it's not enough money," said House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, the Democrat who sponsored the measure. "But it is our way of saying to the newspapers that we do believe you're incredibly important to our state and our democracy."

The Society of Professional Journalists and the National Conference of State Legislatures was not aware of any other state that has granted a similar tax break to the newspaper industry.

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Radio after Clear Channel

Jerry Del Colliano, Inside Music Media

Clear Channel is done.

The next six to nine months will constitute what I believe will be their swan song as a consolidated radio company. None of us can take any joy in this.

The economy isn’t helping. It’s killing over-leveraged radio owners on their debt repayment. Some stations are actually making money, but not enough to pay down huge corporate debt – the debt that was purchased when they put together their radio clusters.

This piece is about what radio will be like after Clear Channel is broken up.

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Portland newspaper guild to vote on concessions for Blethen sale

David Hench, Portland Press Herald

Leaders of the largest union at the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram have agreed to contract concessions that could pave the way for the sale of Blethen Maine Newspapers to an investment group led by Bangor native Richard Connor.

The Portland Newspaper Guild announced to members Friday in a hastily called meeting that Connor has secured the financing to make the purchase, and that a package of wage concessions and other changes would be voted on next Friday.

There is some urgency in the union vote, guild leaders said, because a 2 percent wage increase for members is scheduled to take effect June 1. Friday's vote will determine whether that wage increase is suspended and whether to put in place a new contract that will meet the demands of those financing the purchase.

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Dems seek financial rescue of minority-owned broadcasters

Silla Brush, The Hill

High-ranking House Democrats are urging the Treasury Department to prop up minority-owned broadcasters suffering from a lack of capital and lost advertising revenue amid the economic slump.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) is leading an effort to convince Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to take “decisive action” by extending credit to this sector of the broadcasting industry.

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Limbaugh's living large while radio boss Clear Channel implodes

Eric Boehlert, Media Matters

Even for a pancaked industry like radio broadcasting, which has become somewhat numb to years' worth of mass layoffs triggered by hyper, corporate consolidation, and more recently by an over-the-cliff advertising recession, last week's HR wave of mutilation unleashed by industry giant Clear Channel Communications must have felt like a pile-on.

Drowning under massive debt and desperate to cut more costs, Clear Channel took an ax to its payroll -- again -- and hacked hundreds of radio pros out the door. Program directors, morning show hosts, production pros, news anchors -- all of them tossed over the side. A "bloodbath," one newspaper called it. (In Albany, New York, the entire on-air staff at a Clear Channel music station was sacked; same with a radio outpost in Exeter, New Hampshire.)

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The Cost of downloading all that video

Saul Hansell, Bits/New York Times

In an article in today’s New York Times, I wrote about the controversy over the now-abandoned plan by Time Warner Cable to impose additional fees on customers who upload and download more than a set quota.

AT&T continues to test a similar plan, and many cable and phone company executives still argue that usage is growing so fast, mainly driven by video that they need to start charging heavy users to cover the additional cost of the bandwidth they consume.

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Time Warner drops Internet metering plan

Matt Hamblen, Computerworld

Time Warner Cable's decision to back off from a usage-based pricing change for high-speed Internet subscribers in four cities demonstrates how politically fraught the governance of Internet access and pricing can be.

Time Warner's new CEO, Glenn Britt, issued a statement yesterday saying the company had shelved the pricing trials in Rochester, N.Y., Austin and San Antonio, Texas, and Gressnboro, N.C. Those trials, which started only two weeks earlier, charged subscribers for the amount of bandwidth they used. Time Warner calls it a "consumption-based" model.

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Globe union reveals management demands include salary cut

Joe Strupp, Editor and Publisher, Editor and Publisher

The New York Times Co., which has threatened to shut down The Boston Globe, is seeking union concessions that may include pay cuts reaching 20%, the removal of seniority rules and lifetime job guarantees, and millions in cuts to company contributions for retirement and health plans.

The Globe reported today that the paper's proposal was explained by union leaders at a Wednesday night meeting of the Boston Newspaper Guild, which represents some 700 editorial, newsroom, and business office workers, about half the Globe's union staff.

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Playing with fire: Times Co. threatens to shut down Boston Globe over labor dispute

Robert Gavin and Robert Weisman, Globe Staff

The New York Times Co. has threatened to shut the Boston Globe unless the newspaper's unions swiftly agree to $20 million in concessions, union leaders said.

Executives from the Times Co. and Globe made the demands Thursday morning in an approximately 90- minute meeting with leaders of the newspaper's 13 unions, union officials said. The possible concessions include pay cuts, the end of pension contributions by the company and the elimination of lifetime job guarantees now enjoyed by some veteran employees, said Daniel Totten, president of the Boston Newspaper Guild, the Globe's biggest union, which represents more than 700 editorial, advertising and business office employees.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey