WGAE Members Say News Quality Declining


The Writers Guild of America East issued a poll of its members Wednesday that alleges TV news quality is on the decline. They blame the decline on recycling of news, workers doing two and three jobs, and a shift away from hard news to softer, entertainment-oriented fare.

The report essentially WGAE research combined with an anecdotal poll of the union's members, also concluded that "union contracts...provide essential protection for professional journalists."

Not surprising. The backdrop to the report is ongoing, protracted, contentious and so-far fruitless negotiations with ABC and CBS over new contracts, the old contracts having expired more than two years ago.

The union wants the government to step in. The report recommends 1) FCC hearings specifically about news quality--the issue has come up in FCC media ownership hearings, though not as the focus; 2) news quality-- as determined by a standards-setting commission--as a public interest requirement for TV statoin licnese renewal; requiring government-issued video or audio news releases to be made public and archived online; and 4) fines for noncompliance with news public interest requirements.

The Radio-Television News Directors Association had no comment, calling it a labor issue.