Golf Channel’s Lax COVID-19 Testing Resulted in ‘Multiple Infections,’ Below-the-Line Union Says

Dave McNary
·2-min read

The Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees has accused the Golf Channel of not providing regular COVID-19 testing for crews responsible for broadcasting portions of the PGA and LPGA Tour, leading to “multiple infections.”

The below-the-line union said while players and caddies have received rapid COVID tests prior to events, Golf Channel’s behind-the-scenes workforce is not afforded this same benefit. The union said the lack of testing has led to multiple infections among broadcast crews whose work requires substantial travel between locations and whose craft does not always allow for social distancing.

“With crews constantly traveling and coming into contact with players, other crew members, and event volunteers, broadcast workers are concerned that without regular testing protocols it’s a matter of time before a Golf Channel show turns into a spreader event,” said Justin Conway, who represents Golf Channel workers with IATSE.

A Golf Channel spokesperson denied the claims.

“Golf Channel’s tournament productions are following all recommended guidelines to keep employees safe with protocols in concert with partner-specific and local governance rules at each event’s location,” a rep said.

IATSE said other major television networks covering golf and sports events have instituted testing for crews while Golf Channel management has been uncooperative in response to calls for tests to be made widely available for broadcast crew members.

In 2018, more than 300 broadcast technicians represented by IATSE striked for 11 days over contract issues. In January 2020, before the pandemic essentially shut down the industry for months, that contract was up for renewal, and safety provisions were a key issue for crew members in those negotiations.

Golf Channel is an affiliate of NBCUniversal, which is member of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. IATSE and other Hollywood unions finalized an agreement for COVID-19 procedures in September. IATSE said those new rules include mandatory recurring testing.

“These techs bounce between networks and tournaments frequently; in some cases more often than workers who produce scripted motion pictures and television shows under the NBCUniversal umbrella. We believe it’s resulted in a situation where Golf Channel broadcast technicians are being treated as second class citizens,” Conway said.

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