KHON's union cuts are tip of television industry iceberg
OH, to be a fly on the wall at tonight's meeting of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union Local 1260.
It's a meeting of all of Unit 6, which includes unionized employees at KHON and other workers, but KHON is likely to be a focal point of discussions.
At issue are the job cuts planned by the station's new owner, Montecito Broadcast Group LLC, as well as extended severance packages being offered to the union members at the station.
Joe MacNamara, KHON's new president and general manager, is still meeting with employees and has not announced specific layoffs, but he said yesterday that no on-air staff will be cut. "No full-time reporters or videographers (will be laid off) at this point, no reporters or anchors."
However, the issue for the electrical workers union is the television industry's increasing use of automation, such as the type coming to KHON. Such deployments will result in job cuts.
Montecito is awaiting arrival of a system for KHON that will eliminate the jobs of several people who are now needed to put newscasts and live broadcasts on the air.
The new equipment is among a line of products manufactured by the Grass Valley division of France-based Thomson Multimedia -- a line that has been expanded, according to a statement released last week.
There are 270 Grass Valley high-definition switchers in use around the world. The equipment serves as a control-room hub that mixes video, audio and graphics for broadcasts of live, multicamera events.
"The majority of the film-based commercials seen during this year's Super Bowl, for example, were prepared for broadcast by Grass Valley post-production equipment," the statement continued.
In September, Grass Valley announced that ABC-owned and -operated stations KABC in Los Angeles and KGO in San Francisco, as well as Meredith Broadcasting Group's WSHM in Springfield, Mass., had purchased "Ignite" integrated production systems.
The system links the newsroom to the control room and lets stations "produce and broadcast live newscasts and other programs with only one or two operators," the statement said.
Grass Valley President Marc Valentin was quoted as saying, "The Grass Valley Ignite system is helping a wide range of broadcasters cost-effectively improve their operations and get more content on the air."
At the time, Grass Valley officials said more than 15 other television group owners expressed "strong interest" in deploying the systems, and some of those are heading for television stations around the country.
KHON's MacNamara said his company is "not looking to reduce staff just to reduce staff."
"It all has to do with equipment that is more efficient and more effective."
For example, he said, older graphics software can take awhile to render images. "If you buy more efficient and effective software, it cuts the time from two hours to 20 minutes."
Software upgrades will increase efficiencies and likely cause staff cuts in other departments as well, he said. "But it's not because we want to operate with less staff."
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org