Senate Committee Hears Testimony on Bartolotta’s Bill to Prohibit Broadcast Non-Competes

HARRISBURG – The Senate Labor and Industry Committee, chaired by Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46), held a hearing today that focused on Bartolotta’s bill to prohibit non-compete provisions in contracts of broadcast employees when a separating event occurs.

Senate Bill 320 would allow individuals to seek the best opportunities locally, rather than being forced out of their geographic area to further their career. The legislation would not alter the agreed to, contractual requirements between employers and broadcast employees while the contract is in effect. It also would not prohibit contractual requirements to protect confidential information or trade secrets should the employee take a job with a new employer.

“This issue hits close to home as my daughter is a television anchor with CBS in New Orleans and has shared concerns with me about limitations she has faced. As several states either outright prohibit or limit non-competes for broadcast employees, I thought it would be appropriate to consider the implications faced by Pennsylvanians,” Bartolotta said.

Panelists at the hearing represented both sides of the issue, with employees arguing that non-compete clauses artificially restrict an employee’s mobility and entrepreneurship. They pleaded for a level playing field for hardworking Pennsylvanians and explained that contrary to popular belief, many more people are subject to non-competes than simply the on-air talent.

“I have spoken to young professionals starting their career in TV or radio making as little as $11 an hour who have had to pass up opportunities to earn more money because of these clauses. I know so many others who have built their careers in the industry only to lose their job and be prevented from finding employment in the same city,” said Mary Cavallaro, chief broadcast executive for the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Testimony shared at the hearing also highlighted that non-competes result in wage and salary stagnation, even in cases when the employee was not the one driving the separating event.

“Should the company decide, for whatever reason, that the services of those employees are no longer needed, they must leave those air waves and may be banned from seeking other employment at another station in that market or even in the surrounding markets for as much as a year later. This is wrong, unprofessional and un-American!” said Stoney Richards, radio host for Y108 (WDSY-FM) in Pittsburgh.

However, employers had a much different perspective and stated that broadcast non-competes are necessary to protect business interests.

“There will be a dramatic change in broadcast station investment branding and marketing should Senate Bill 320 become law. And existing and future station staff may not benefit with this change from the non-compete prohibition,” said Joe Conti, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters.

A supporting fact sheet Conti submitted to the committee stated that broadcast television and radio are among the few industries where employees (the on-air talent) function as the face and brand of the business. Station assets give the on-air talent recognition and celebrity that the individual could not personally afford or achieve. Because of that, the handout asserted that stations deserve to protect the image and brand they have funded and nurtured.

“I appreciate the time all of the panelists dedicated to offering perspective on the bill so that members could learn more about this important issue which the General Assembly had not previously considered. They provided an informative discussion that will be beneficial as the bill moves through the legislative process,” Bartolotta said.

Watch the full hearing here.

 

CONTACT: Eric Kratz, 717-787-1463