AFTRA Mounts Campaign to”Keep New York Radio Live”

Entertainment Unions Take On Big Business

Volume CII, No. 10October, 2002

Calling for the preservation of live radio in New York, the announcers and disc jockeys who broadcast on Clear Channel radio stations in New York City boycotted the company-sponsored round-robin softball tournament in Central Park on Aug. 13. The announcers and DJs, who are represented by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), took the action to protest the company’s insistence on importing recorded announcements to replace live broadcasters.

Clear Channel is the largest group owner of radio stations in the country; it owns New York stations WKTU-FM, WWPR-FM, WLTW-FM, WAXQ-FM and WHTZ-FM. AFTRA’s contract with WKTU expired in December 2000, the WWPR contract expired in June 2001 and announcers at WLTW have been working without a contract since March 2002. The other stations have current contracts.

Negotiations between Clear Channel and AFTRA have stalled over a company proposal that would give it the unrestricted right to “voice-track” programs into the New York market. Voice-tracking is a method of replacing live, on-site announcers with canned announcements recorded from another location. The union has announced a campaign, “Keep New York Radio Live,” aimed at pressuring Clear Channel to abandon the proposal.

The elimination of local programming, resulting in sharp reduction of local staff, is one consequence of the rapid concentration that has been occurring in radio stations’ ownership. For a discussion of this trend, and its implication for musicians, see the President’s Report in the July/August Allegro.