Regarding Non-Competes for the On-Air Talent


I’m not sure why Patrick Anderson weaves together the hoopla about Sinclair Broadcasting’s recent promotional script with the idea of banning non-compete agreements in journalists’ contracts.  That he strives to do so gives the impression of an ulterior motive to construct a narrative, as does the monolithic presentation of non-competes:

Used in a number of industries, non-compete clauses prevent employees from taking a job with a competing company for a set period of time, often one year, after they end their employment, even if it was the station that decided to part ways. …

Former WJAR investigative reporter Jim Taricani called non-competes unfair in written testimony supporting the bill.

“Prohibiting an employee from finding work to support themselves and their families is an outrageous condition of employment,” Taricani wrote. “Unlike non-compete clauses used for employees who work for companies where they may have knowledge of company ‘secrets’ or ‘confidential product research,’ ‘on-air’ talent in broadcasting have no such knowledge of any confidential information.”

The reasons for non-competes vary from industry to industry.  In some cases, knowledge of sensitive information is the thing being protected.  When I worked for a carpentry temp agency, non-competes were a way of preventing contractors from using the company as a trial service.  In the case of journalism, building up contacts and expertise is a critical part of the job, and people who appear on camera are intrinsically part of a station’s brand.

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I’m not, therefore, endorsing non-competes, but these aren’t crazy points to make.  WPRI and WJAR have invested in Tim White and Parker Gavigan, respectively, to develop contacts and credibility for investigative reports; if WJAR were to hire White away, WPRI would lose one of its key faces and would have to scramble to rebuild its brand on a very important line of products.

Of course, that should encourage the company to make sure that its star employees are happy, but that balance should be subject to negotiation.  For newcomers, a non-compete agreement could be something of a box, but further along in a career, an employee may offer a non-compete as a way to get more money out of the employer.  If new employees don’t like the box, they don’t have to take the job.

The speed with which people turn to government to enforce whatever they think is in their best interest at any given time is disturbing to behold.

  • guest

    “people who appear on camera are intrinsically part of a station’s brand”, so why does Sinclair force employees to taint their brand with propaganda? Forcing “journaists” to debase themselves for their employer is unethical, preventing them quitting is UN-American!

  • Merle The Monster

    Justin Katz , tool of radical conservatives, writes this; “The speed with which people turn to government to enforce whatever they think is in their best interest at any given time is disturbing to behold.”

    What’s truly disturbing is the fact that he thinks that his fellow citizens should not seek relief by petitioning their legally constituted government or at least wait awhile before seeking to try to right a wrong. Blacks should have continued to go to inferior schools, endured intimidation when trying to vote, receive no justice in the courts and waited until the whites carrying out the discrimination magically desisted.
    His billionaire sponsors are exempt from Katz’s condemnation and keep pushing government in the direction that profits their interests any time they wish. Imagine the Koch brothers being told they should probably wait until more people came around to their thinking before secretly injecting huge sums of money into our political process.

    • Christopher C. Reed

      Be afraid..there’s a Koch under every bed.

      • Merle The Monster

        Very funny. But they are behind the funding for think tanks like the one Katz works for, so for them things do go better with Koch. Not true for the rest of us.

        • Mike678

          Yes–the incredible danger of being exposed to thoughts different to the one you hold true. You’ll note that I don’t rail against Soros; he has the right to fund organizations that promote his agenda. Think about it–if you can.

          • Merle The Monster

            The danger is in public policy being made at the local level but influenced by distant well financed organizations whose goals and funding may not be popular with local residents. Information about funding sources is vital for people to know so they can evaluate what may be behind the articulated thoughts such as personal gain and conflicts of interest. Katz sites conflict of interest repeatedly in regards to union membership in the way he views the thoughts and words of private citizens and journalists with which he disagrees.

          • Mike678

            Try again Merle. To hold your view, you must think people are not able to evaluate ideas and see pros and cons…that they are easily manipulated. Perhaps you think people see things as you do, but surprisingly, many people can think clearly.

            No, your objection is similar to the snowflakes that want to limit free speech…to control the message so that only what they believe sees the light of day. Self interest, power—the reasons and excuses are myriad. The founding fathers knew better. Too bad you don’t.

  • Jamie Allman

    I think you need to call for some reinforcements on the Sinclair issue. I’ve got some free time if you need some help.