RSNs owner Sinclair sets up emergency fund for freelancers
Sinclair Broadcast Group, the US television station owner, has established a multimillion-dollar emergency fund to offer financial support to over 1,000 freelancers across its Fox Regional Sports Networks and Marquee Sports Network in response to the shutdown of live sports production.
Earlier this week, it was reported freelancers at Sinclair-owned Fox Sport Detroit had been left in the dark over their current employment status after the coronavirus pandemic indefinitely halted the production of live sports, leaving them without work.
There are more than 100 freelancers who work for FSD, with 35 to 40 needed to produce each game.
Sinclair owns and operates 23 regional sports network brands, 20 of which were acquired last year from The Walt Disney Company. It relies on nearly 1,000 freelancers to produce live content for its sports channels.
The announcement by Sinclair means all eligible freelancers will be able to receive an immediate $2,500 interest-free advance beginning on 3 April.
The advance is for freelancers who have worked regularly on a RSN's games in a home market last year. The advance can be made up in small deductions once games return.
Chris Ripley, Sinclair chief executive, said: “This is an unprecedented time for the world and the media, but few in our industry are feeling the impacts of the coronavirus more than those who work in sports. Across the nation, these nearly 1,000 freelancers work tirelessly season after season to bring fans the best in live sport.
“As we face this extraordinary event, we are hoping that this fund will provide integral assistance to our key team members.”
To give the company added liquidity, Sinclair and its RSN arm Diamond Sports Group dipped into their revolving credit lines for $900 million, some of which has gone towards establishing the fund.
According to a statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday, Sinclair drew about $648 million from its revolving credit facility and Diamond Sports Holdings drew about $225 million from its revolver on 17 March.
Jeff Krolik, Sinclair president of local sports, said: “Clearly we are in unchartered waters but hopefully the ability to immediately draw from this fund will make a real difference for our dedicated production community. We expect that the postponement of games is indeed just that—a postponement—and that ultimately the games will be played.”
The announcement comes as other sports broadcast companies announce financial assistance for their freelancers.
Earlier this month, CBS Sports announced it would compensate all freelancers who were scheduled to work on college basketball's NCAA Division Men’s Basketball Tournament and four PGA Tour golf events, which were all called off.
Turner Sports, responsible for broadcasts on TBS, TNT, AT&T SportsNet and TruTV, is providing the same relief for freelancers who planned to work on the college basketball showpiece, also known as March Madness.