Joseph Calbreath speaks out on KMTR “blood bath”

Joseph Calbreath, now formerly of KMTR, speaks out on the recent sale of the TV station to Fisher Communications, calling the layoffs a “blood bath.”  Fisher, which will be owned by another company later this year, will own or be affiliated with three of the area’s four TV stations — KVAL, FOX and now KMTR. Fox is locally owned but has a “news share” with KVAL. Any thoughts on how that might affect local news coverage?

KEZI is the lone station that won’t be in some way affiliated with Sinclair Broadcast Group of Maryland if the Federal Communictions Commission approves the sale of Fisher this fall. Prominent anchors Matt Templeman and Renee McCullough were among the layoffs, the R-G reports. And Calbreath, who has signed no agreements not to speak about the sale because he was already set to retire, weighed in on the loss of 50 employees on his Facebook page.

Status Update

By Joseph Calbreath

Hi Everyone, Some of you probably have been reading about what has been going on at my former employer KMTR. Little did I know a couple of months ago when I picked the date of my retirement that it would coincided with the transfer of ownership that would result in 31 of my friends loosing their jobs in a blood bath type fashion. Obviously I will not be going back to do any filling in as was planned before the purge. Since I was never an employee of Fisher Broadcasting and am no longer interested in working in the TV News business, I can speak freely. If you have read the stories in the newspaper you read that no-one is able to comment on what just happened to them. It is a normal ploy by companies to hold severance packages and threat of negative reviews to future employers to keep people being fired to keep quiet. Many who has been let go from a big company for no reason based on their work has seen this.

Anyway I have some thoughts about what is happening that I thought I would share. First off, when I started in this business this sale would be illegal. No company could own two broadcast TV stations in the same market. In fact it was very restrictive to own any combination of news organizations including print, radio, TV or cable. The lobbyist in Washington have done a good job of changing the laws over the last 30 years and now almost anything goes. The FCC is a joke in my opinion. They go berserk if you slip and say a four letter word by accident or have a wardrobe malfunction, but could care less if big communications companies eliminate any competition in their attempt to dominate the information we receive. As of today, Fisher controls three of the four news programs broadcasted in our market. Later this year an even bigger company Sinclare will own them. Sinclare (spelling?)owner are very similar to the owners of FOX news in my opinion, which is not very fair and balanced no matter what they say . The only other voice we will have is KEZI the ABC affiliate. They also are the last locally own TV station in our area, but for how long?

Business wise, it probably makes good sense to eliminate people who are familiar and popular as quick as possible. Matt and Renee are liked and respected in this area and are familiar identifiable faces everywhere they go. How many years have the anchors on the other channels been here? How recognizable are they in the community? Most of our other anchors have been on the air longer than the other stations as well. Getting rid of these popular familiar faces will reduce the competition Also bringing in new people that nobody knows is much cheeper. After all these companies only care about their bottom lines. This move will help reduce the salaries at all the stations. It’s the same thing that busting a union up does at other companies. Unions usually bring everyones salary up even those who aren’t in the union.

Anyway get ready to see a lot of new faces two weeks from last Monday when everyone but the morning crew are gone. Since this page is in my name and has nothing to do with my former employer, I will start changing the information I share here. I now for the first time in 30 year can have an opinion about things. I plan on sharing more information about myself and what I am up to. I still would like to be a resource for people who have questions about things that I know about. I have been asked it I would still be putting out a weather forecast. I plan on still looking at the weather each day but have no plans on publishing what I think. If anyone has any opinions about this please let me know. Thank you all for letting me vent a bit. It defiantly has ease my frustration of what my friends are going through. I never watched local news because I got everything I needed to know about what was going on in our community at work each day. I still won’t watch local news but will continue to read the newspaper and get my news one day later than before.

Update: Mark Metzger of Fox says that:

KLSR and KEVU are owned by Patricia Smullin who is a long-time resident of Medford, Oregon. Her company was established in 1932 and is the longest, continuous independent broadcast group in the west and one of two oldest in the country. Her father was a Broadcast Pioneer that founded the very first VHF TV station in Oregon and first radio station in Grants Pass.  Patricia has owned our stations for 20+ years.  She is very involved with the University of Oregon and is a graduate of Oregon State.  We are not owned by an out-of-state broadcasting company.  Many of us have been at FOX over 20 years.  I do not think you can get much more local than being at a company who brought TV to our state.  We are 100% “Oregon” and proud of it!

EW has asked Metzger to clarify the news coverage arrangement between Fox and KVAL.

Update two:

Metzger says:

We formed a “News Share” partnership with KVAL back in late 1991. Except for a short hiatus, it has been in existence ever since. We partnered with them in order to have our “own” news, as well as offer the community a local news at an earlier time, 10PM. It was cost prohibitive for us to get into the news business back then, so we commissioned KVAL to do it for us. I believe we were one of the first markets in the country to do this, now they are quite commonplace. Over time, we both realized it was a win-win situation for the community, for KVAL and for us, so we decided to continue the arrangement versus doing a news on our own.

The KMTR-KVAL merger does shed new light on this arrangement and we will continue to have discussions with KVAL on how this will all pan out. Obviously, we are now in a unique transition and I will research on how other markets are handling this. TV stations in the same market are buying TV stations in the same market all over the country right now. Some of the public might think it is unique to just us here in Eugene, but it is not. We will see more and more of this over the next couple years. It is pretty much the same thing Radio went through about 15 years ago.