N.C. putting heat on noncompetes

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North Carolina State Sen. Robert Rucho (R-Charlotte and Mecklenburg counties)
has introduced legislation that would restrict noncompete clauses in that
state's broadcasting industry.

'My concern,' he said, 'is that most of these individuals become indentured
servants to the broadcasting industry. Broadcasters use their licenses to take
advantage of the public airwaves to make a very good profit. There has to be a
different standard' than in other businesses.

Rucho said his bill specifically targets restrictive clauses when the talent
has been terminated but still can't work in the market. 'It doesn't wipe out the
noncompete,' he added, but it would require compensation to be paid while the
former employee sits out.

Rucho rejected broadcaster arguments based on use of trade secrets. Many
producers and salespeople not covered by such clauses, he said, know many more
secrets.

Broadcasters opposed the bill. The North Carolina Association of Broadcasters
will lobby against it, and several individual station executives have contacted
the senator.

Lee Armstrong, vice president and general manager of Cox Broadcasting
Corp.-owned WSOC-TV Charlotte, said, 'Our concern is that broadcasters make a
huge investment' in anchors and reporters, including marketing and research.

'It can run hundreds of thousands of dollars,' Armstrong added. 'To have no
protection against that person walking across the street for the same job is not
fair.'

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