As the union at KYW News Radio 1060 called for a federal mediator for contract talks with Entercom Communications Inc., the all-news radio station laid off its head of digital news who also was past president of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, sources have confirmed.
KYW told Melony Roy, hired as a desk assistant in 2006, that her position was eliminated Thursday, a day after the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or SAG-AFTRA, disclosed that it was seeking a mediator. Negotiations starting in August have stalled. The contract expired in October over such issues as the company’s desire to make its digital employees nonunion. Roy had no comment Monday.
The company confirmed that Roy is no longer with KYW but said that had nothing to do with the contract negotiations.
“It was the boy crying wolf, and then there was the wolf,” said Stephen Leshinski, the Philadelphia-area SAG-AFTRA executive director, referring to Roy. Leshinski doesn’t believe that that layoff was retribution. But he said that it “confirms our fears that as Entercom develops their digital strategy, it will impact the KYW staff and open up more outsourcing.”
Entercom has told Wall Street that it will cut costs as it also pays down its $1.7 billion in debt, much of it from buying 117 former CBS radio stations. Entercom also now finds itself dealing with unions in about 50 of its new stations, over such issues as staffing for websites and social media platforms. Some of Entercom’s prized stations have all-news formats, such as KYW, which are popular with listeners but expensive to run when compared with music stations. Other Entercom news stations include 1010 Wins and WCBS Newsradio, both in New York, and WBBM Newsradio in Chicago.
With the CBS deal, Entercom bought six radio stations in Philadelphia -- 96.5, WOGL, B101, WIP, WPHT, in addition to KYW -- and is expected to relocate its Bala Cynwyd corporate headquarters and its local stations into offices in western Center City on the Schuylkill River later this year, which could allow it to consolidate staff. The company has not confirmed the relocation but it has been reported in The Inquirer and other publications and discussed at Entercom stations. SAG-AFTRA also represents employees at all-sports WIP.
An Entercom spokesperson said on Monday that "we prefer to negotiate directly with SAG-AFTRA and our employees, not publicly, and do not intend to comment further.” She added that Entercom has "been negotiating with SAG-AFTRA in good faith to reach fair agreements.”
The sticking points in the SAG-AFTRA talks at KYW are over union jurisdiction for digital employees and severance, the union says. Entercom would like to reduce severance payments by 50 percent to 90 percent, by capping the number of weeks that an employee qualifies for severance to 26 weeks and ceasing severance payments if a KYW employee lands a job at another radio station.
So far, Entercom’s deal for CBS Radio has been anything but upbeat. Entercom’s stock is down more than 50 percent since it first announced the CBS Radio deal in early 2017 as it has had to clean up the mess at the United States Traffic Network, which couldn’t pay its bills. Entercom also has reformatted radio stations in many markets, hired new executives, and launched a national radio network to stitch together its sports stations for advertisers. Entercom reported a 4 percent growth in revenues in the fourth quarter after months of revenue declines.
CEO David Field has said he expects 3 percent revenue growth in the current quarter. He has said that radio stations are terribly undervalued and reach a huge audience -- which marketers will eventually realize.
Roy, a Camden native who lives in Philadelphia and celebrated her 37th birthday on Tuesday, rose through the KYW ranks, according to her bio on the KYW website, which was available on Monday but not on Tuesday. “In addition to creating much of the interactive content on KYW’s social media platforms, Roy informs listeners through her on-air reports covering social media trends, breaking news, and interactive media’s influence on their daily lives,” according to the now-unavailable bio.