Why Do On-Air People on TV and Radio Have Contract Employment?
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Thread: Why Do On-Air People on TV and Radio Have Contract Employment?

  1. #1

    Why Do On-Air People on TV and Radio Have Contract Employment?

    I have always wondered about this. Most non-union and non-executive employees are employed on an "at will" basis. This means the employee and his/her employer have an unwritten contract that the employee will perform work and be paid for that work by the employer. In most states it also means the employee can be fired, or quit, with sufficient notice to the other party.

    What makes on-air broadcast employees different that they have written contracts? I realize the importance of the non-compete clause but it would seem to me that the non-compete could be signed without the remainder of the contract.
    Illegitimi non carborundum

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by landtuna View Post
    I have always wondered about this. Most non-union and non-executive employees are employed on an "at will" basis. This means the employee and his/her employer have an unwritten contract that the employee will perform work and be paid for that work by the employer. In most states it also means the employee can be fired, or quit, with sufficient notice to the other party.

    What makes on-air broadcast employees different that they have written contracts? I realize the importance of the non-compete clause but it would seem to me that the non-compete could be signed without the remainder of the contract.
    Broadcast contracts, whether for a manager or on-air talent, spell out many things beyond a non-compete.

    They often specify incentive bonus packages, such as rating or billing based payments. They may include the details of stock options or grants. Additional benefits, such as life insurance or travel upgrades can be in the package. Specific "morals" clauses are a fairly general inclusion, as are certain other terms for dismissal by the employer. Frequency and significance of regular performance reviews are sometimes in there. Accrual of vacation days and sick days are pretty standard, as management and talent may get extra days bases on length of service. Talent may have specific dates excluded for vacations (like the traditional "sweeps" dates). Obligations and/or compensation for endorsements, remotes and promotional appearances can be in there for talent. Obligations for community involvement may be required of management. Requirements for valid driver licensing and insurability are usual. Holding of trade secrets and confidentiality are common core requirements.

    Each case may be different; there may be a standard contract with specific riders, too. My last contract was about 30 pages long!
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  3. #3
    A lot of this depends on market size and company, but most on-air radio talent, especially those who work for hourly wage don't have contracts. Their work rules are covered under employee handbooks that cover vacation and sick time, benefits, harassment policy, payola policy, and anything else the company can thing of. Employees are expected to sign that they've read the handbook and will comply with the work rules. One might consider it an contract, since it's signed, but it's not negotiable or customized.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBigA View Post
    A lot of this depends on market size and company, but most on-air radio talent, especially those who work for hourly wage don't have contracts. Their work rules are covered under employee handbooks that cover vacation and sick time, benefits, harassment policy, payola policy, and anything else the company can thing of. Employees are expected to sign that they've read the handbook and will comply with the work rules. One might consider it an contract, since it's signed, but it's not negotiable or customized.
    Good point. The probability is that in any PPM market with any competitive radio station, the key people will have contracts. Very key people in smaller markets may, as well, particularly if bonus agreements are in place. Otherwise, a sign-off on a policy statement works.
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  5. #5
    I worked for years "at will" as a full time employee and was subject to virtually everything stated by both of you. That is why I don't see the need for everything to be spelled out in a contract (other than the period of time that a contract would state). Maybe the dates are the only thing significantly different? In my independent contracting days it was just a handshake agreement "to finish the work".
    Illegitimi non carborundum

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by landtuna View Post
    I worked for years "at will" as a full time employee and was subject to virtually everything stated by both of you. That is why I don't see the need for everything to be spelled out in a contract (other than the period of time that a contract would state). Maybe the dates are the only thing significantly different?
    Hard to generalize. Certainly the dates are important. If we're talking about a big morning show, the station might build its marketing plan around those personalities. They create station imaging, jingles, and advertising with their names included with the station ID. If the personalities are "at will," they can leave with just a couple weeks notice, and that can cause some problems. When Imus announced he was leaving WABC, some of the stories said he paid his staff, not the station. Howard Stern had a similar arrangement. That kind of thing has to be spelled out in a contract. There are all kinds of things for talent. Who owns the talent's personal web and social media accounts? How is that handled when the talent leaves? Can the radio talent also do TV work? We've seen situations where the talent uses their personal Twitter account to make controversial statements. That wouldn't apply to the off-air staff. Sometimes the company doesn't plan for things like that, and they're stuck in an embarrassing situation. The list goes on.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by DavidEduardo View Post


    Broadcast contracts, whether for a manager or on-air talent, spell out many things beyond a non-compete.

    They often specify incentive bonus packages, such as rating or billing based payments. They may include the details of stock options or grants. Additional benefits, such as life insurance or travel upgrades can be in the package. Specific "morals" clauses are a fairly general inclusion, as are certain other terms for dismissal by the employer. Frequency and significance of regular performance reviews are sometimes in there. Accrual of vacation days and sick days are pretty standard, as management and talent may get extra days bases on length of service. Talent may have specific dates excluded for vacations (like the traditional "sweeps" dates). Obligations and/or compensation for endorsements, remotes and promotional appearances can be in there for talent. Obligations for community involvement may be required of management. Requirements for valid driver licensing and insurability are usual. Holding of trade secrets and confidentiality are common core requirements.

    Each case may be different; there may be a standard contract with specific riders, too. My last contract was about 30 pages long!
    * And just to toss in a couple more: For radio: The expectation for how the talent interacts within social media, blogs, etc., outside and inside of their company persona.

    * For TV news anchors and reporters: Appearance and dress. For example: Clothing color limits. Amount of skin showing (legs, cleavage, etc), Hair color limits. Hair style limits. Policy for consideration of changing hairstyle or facial features, etc.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Kelly A View Post
    * For TV news anchors and reporters: Appearance and dress. For example: Clothing color limits. Amount of skin showing (legs, cleavage, etc), Hair color limits. Hair style limits. Policy for consideration of changing hairstyle or facial features, etc.
    Tattoos. Yes, that's come up. For both women and men.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by TheBigA View Post
    Hard to generalize. Certainly the dates are important. If we're talking about a big morning show, the station might build its marketing plan around those personalities. They create station imaging, jingles, and advertising with their names included with the station ID. If the personalities are "at will," they can leave with just a couple weeks notice, and that can cause some problems. When Imus announced he was leaving WABC, some of the stories said he paid his staff, not the station. Howard Stern had a similar arrangement. That kind of thing has to be spelled out in a contract. There are all kinds of things for talent. Who owns the talent's personal web and social media accounts? How is that handled when the talent leaves? Can the radio talent also do TV work? We've seen situations where the talent uses their personal Twitter account to make controversial statements. That wouldn't apply to the off-air staff. Sometimes the company doesn't plan for things like that, and they're stuck in an embarrassing situation. The list goes on.
    Good points. Thanks.
    Illegitimi non carborundum

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Kelly A View Post
    * And just to toss in a couple more: For radio: The expectation for how the talent interacts within social media, blogs, etc., outside and inside of their company persona.
    That is a good point too. I have noticed here in Phoenix the Fox affiliate has their morning crew very heavily invested in all manner of social media and they plug it constantly on-air.
    Illegitimi non carborundum

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