The NewsGuild-CWA, NABET-CWA, the United Church of Christ Media Justice Ministry and Common Cause again challenged Standard General’s continuing efforts to take over local news broadcaster TEGNA in a Monday filing before the Federal Communications Commission.
Announcing a June petition urging the FCC to reject the takeover attempt, NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss said, “Local news is being murdered by Wall Street. The attempted takeover of TEGNA is just the latest example. Standard General and Apollo don’t care about journalism. They care about money. Our union — thousands of journalists and media workers — is aggressively fighting to save the news industry, local journalism jobs and our democracy.
“We call on the FCC to reject this takeover attempt because it will further erode local news and raise consumer prices at the worst possible time,” Schleuss said.
In its lengthy July 7 response to the June challenge, Standard General argued that the acquisition would create a diverse news company with a person of color and a woman at the top.
In Wednesday’s response, the Guild and others praised the diversity in leadership, but pointed out that true diversity requires much more than two figureheads at the top of a company.
“A single owner controlling numerous stations throughout the country, producing news often far from the local communities those stations serve and likely reducing the number of journalists (who could be women, people of color, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ community to name a few) would not produce diversity,” the groups said in a filing to the Federal Communications Commission.
The groups pointed out that Standard General can only take over TEGNA through a series of complex transactions that will result in a pile of debt. And that debt will be paid off through severe job cuts.
Standard General’s “business model of laying off reporters and reducing local news coverage creates a race to the bottom approach,” the groups wrote.
“As the largest union of journalists in North America, it’s imperative that we fight for jobs,” NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss said. “We are living through a period of hedge fund ownership of local news and their cuts are destroying our democracy.”
The groups also pointed to the lack of transparency in the deal and noted that Standard General hasn’t disclosed all the agreements it has made with financers.
“It is very likely those agreements show just how many jobs Standard General plans to cut in TEGNA,” Schleuss said.
Yosef Getachew, Common Cause Media and Democracy program director, said, “Standard General and Apollo have failed to show how this merger is anything more than the continued hijacking of our local newsrooms by hedge funds and private equity firms. If approved, this transaction would lead to the further erosion of local media with more reporter layoffs, consolidated newsrooms and a loss in local news coverage.”
The FCC is reviewing Standard General’s attempt to take over TEGNA and will issue a decision in the coming weeks.