Ty Carver’s “Open Mike” opinion piece, Local TV Faces ‘The Great Resignation’ on TVNewsCheck on Oct. 8 started quite the debate. Here I respond specifically to some of Carver’s observations in his op-ed.
Ty Carver’s “Open Mike” opinion piece, Local TV Faces ‘The Great Resignation’ on TVNewsCheck on Oct. 8 started quite the debate. I invite you to click on his article and read some of the comments from TVNewsCheck readers.
In addition, Carver’s much longer original article published on LinkedIn also got quite the response.
Carver is the CEO of a media management/executive recruiting firm.
Carver’s articles address the shortfalls of broadcast companies retention and recruitment when it comes to station staffing, especially news staff. However, there are many direct parallels when it comes to the retention and recruitment of local TV marketing staff, many of which I’ve written about in my almost eight years as Market Share columnist.
At the bottom of this article, I’ll link you to many of those articles.
Here, though, I want to respond specifically to some of Carver’s observations in his TVNewsCheck op-ed piece.
One of Carver’s contentions is that personal services contracts, or non-competes, are “suffocating.”
In almost every position I’ve held, even when I was a first-time writer/producer, I worked under a personal services contract.
Usually, the personal services contract is for a set period of time, anywhere from two to five years. And that contract spells out what the salary will be in each of those years.
For the employee, the advantage is having some security, knowing the station has made a commitment, to the point of stating the salary for each and every year. However, it’s up to the station to pony up with money to entice the employee to make that commitment and sign the contract.
All of that should be negotiated before accepting the job.
What the station gets in return is preventing that employee from walking across the street to a competing station in the same market, which, in my opinion, is the primary goal of a personal services contract.
Having a key employee defect to the competition is devastating for many reasons, not the least of which is what it can do to the morale of the remaining staff.
If a station is willing to bring in a new employee from out of town, pay for their move and train them, it needs to protect that investment. Stations should have a reasonable expectation to reap the benefits of that investment over time via a personal services contract.
I believe the fundamental issue underlying all of this discussion is the lack of insight by many broadcast companies in establishing a key employee retention program, which would identify key employees and retain their services at the location where they are and offer a path to further promotion at wherever location that might be. Assistant news directors in one market will have opportunities to become news directors where they are or in another market, should they choose. Retention of key employees is paramount in local TV in every category.
Failure to do so across the company can lead to mass migration, or the great resignation, as Carver calls it.
The irony is that the money that a broadcast company might have invested in a key, proven employee is now being spent to find a replacement. Money to advertise, hire, move and train that replacement, who by the way is an unproven commodity no matter how much due diligence is done to vet them. And it will take months for the new hire to be productive. Meanwhile, the product’s unstable, the staff is stressed and in the end, there’s a realization that the money spent to replace that key employee should have been used to retain them.
The roadblock to an effective retention program is often in the corporate budget, and the struggle between the local TV station general manager and the corporate office to maintain that budget.
Woe to the GM who goes over budget in department salaries.
If the corporate office could compare the dollars spent to hire new personnel vs. retaining key employees, they might slow the drain of employees overall. Until then, broadcast companies will continue to poach employees from each other.
If you know of a broadcast company that has a retention program, formal or not, please let me know.
Here are a sampling of some of the comments made to Carver’s pieces on TVNewsCheck and LinkedIn:
“We just evaluated our Producer’s pay per market and they sent everyone a budget to increase the pay. It helps but there are still really wide gaps in what we are paying people versus the cost of living.”
“People are tired of crazy hours, increased responsibilities, and low pay. This as media companies brag about increased profits. PAY PEOPLE WHAT THEY ARE WORTH.”
“We are losing someone soon and I know that means the burden will likely be placed on me and my coworkers.”
“Our station has such a high turnover of reporters and anchors that the station has stopped bothering to update its news team web page. I see a couple of negatives; low pay for newly-hired reporters and a desire to move on to bigger, more lucrative markets on the part of long-time news people who see little future in their current positions. Stations need to do more to inspire loyalty and enthusiasm into their news staff by offering better salary compensation and more opportunities for advancement.”
Here are some Market Share columns that address recruitment in marketing:
WVTM, Hearst’s NBC affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama, has an opening for a strong, take-charge producer who knows how to create memorable newscasts. The right candidate will have a track record of being creative, aggressive, have the ability to make decisions and communicate the plan in a clear, concise manner. Candidates must have a proven track record of winning the big story, breaking news and weather. Candidates must be fast and calm under pressure and able to play well in a room of same-minded pros. Click here for more specifics and how to apply.