It’s not often major news organizations publicly lobby the Utah Legislature.
But when they do, well, some interesting things can happen.
UtahPolicy.com is being told that behind the scenes local TV and radio reporters and producers are being told to back off on HB241 – a post-employment non-compete bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, aimed specifically at the news media.
It is fairly common practice for TV (and sometimes radio) to have their on-air anchors, reporters, and producers to sign non-compete agreements. The terms can vary, but usually say the employee can’t quit and go to work for a locally-competing TV or radio station for a certain amount of time – usually one year.
The four major TV stations in Utah – ABC4, KUTV 2, KSL 5, and Fox 13 – all had bosses come to the Feb. 8 public standing committee hearing on HB241 to testify against the bill.
Two on-air TV big shots – weathermen Kevin Eubank at Channel 5 and Sterling Poulson at Channel 2 – both testified against HB241.
As did Keith McMullin, president, and CEO of Deseret Management Corp., owner of several media entities.
That’s all well and good.
News stations have the right to lobby and express their views as anyone else.
But now UtahPolicy.com is being told by several sources – who don’t want their names used – that some non-stars at the stations – regular reporters and producers – are being told not to express their views in favor of the bill behind the scenes to lawmakers.
Several of those testifying against HB241 said it was a matter of freedom of the press and could be challenged under 1st Amendment constitutional rights in court.
And they don’t like being singled out – only news media noncompetes are in the bill.
But, sources tell UtahPolicy.com, where are such concerns about reporters’ and producers’ right to speak freely in favor of the bill?
Said one GOP leader: “Where is freedom of speech and the press now?”