BMInt has recently learned that Brian Bell has lost his job at WGBH. We are very saddened that we will no longer be able to hear his distinctive voice that has charmed the airwaves for so long. Brian began working for WGBH 26 years ago, in 1985. Since 1991 he has produced the broadcasts of the Boston Symphony Orchestra; he has also contributed tremendous quantities of extremely high-quality programming to the station both on the air and on the Classical New England website. His interviews with major performers, conductors and music personalities are legendary. His command of the history of the BSO is beyond anyone else’s. He continues to sound as young and enthusiastic as he did at the beginning of his broadcast career.
After failing to negotiate a contract with AEEF-CWA Local 1300 in March of 2010, we understand that WGBH imposed work rules based on the Foundation’s last, best offer that allow the station to “separate from employment” certain employees “without cause.” Brian Bell may be but one conspicuous example of such a termination. Managing Director of Classical Services Ben Roe explained, “We are grateful to Brian Bell for his 26 years of dedicated service to WGBH. We all have benefited from his vital role in producing our broadcasts of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Brian’s breadth of knowledge has enriched the experience for listeners and we wish him all the best.”
Clarification: BMInt may have given the impression that we knew the terms under which Brian Bell lost his job. Because no one would tell us, we did not know the whys or wherefores when we published this article and we are sorry if readers inferred that we did. We were incorrect when we stated that certain employees were currently working without a contract.
According to Vice President for Community Relations at WGBH, Jeanne Hopkins “Brian Bell’s departure is related to budget considerations. As you can imagine, producing live concerts is an expensive undertaking, and we, like everyone else, have to work within limited resources.” She also wanted BMInt to correct our misstatement that local AEEF/CWA LOCAL 1300 was working without a contract.* According to the union’s secretary, John MacGibbon, “After more than a year without a contract one was ratified in May of 2012 retroactive to March 15th, 2011.” That contract apparently includes some of the same language found in the expiring final, best offer imposition:
D. Artistic Discretion
Reporters, News Anchorpersons, Correspondents, TV Directors, TV Announcers, Radio Producer/Announcers, Radio Board Operator/Announcers, Radio Reporter/Announcers, World Editor/Reporters, World Radio Studio Directors, World Reporters, and World Senior Radio Producer/Hosts may be separated from employment without cause, provided that they are given a minimum of four weeks written notice (or pay in lieu thereof) and severance pay owed, described below.
When asked whether Brian was offered the chance to take a pay cut or asked whether he would undertake increased responsibilities, Kirkpatrick said she was not privy to the discussions. So BMInt stands by its statement that management has the right to fire certain employees without cause. In Brian’s case though, we have learned from union spokesman John MacGibbon that Brian’s termination was in the form of a layoff. “We were notified that Brian would be laid off, and we made an official request for information. That request is still pending.”
*For the record, on March 15, 2011, Jeanne Hopkins wrote to me, “As WGBH confirmed with the AEEF/CWA today, we are at an impasse, and we are implementing our best and final offer, effective today.”
The new contract is here.