Updated Dec 19, 2022 - Economy

CWA urges C-SPAN to remove Allan Block from its board

Allan Block (right) and his wife Susan Allan Block at The Andy Warhol Museum's Annual NYC Dinner at Indochine on November 12, 2018 in New York, New York. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) on Monday sent a letter to leaders at C-SPAN urging the non-profit TV service to remove Allan Block, the millionaire owner of the parent company to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade, from its board — arguing Block is tarnishing C-SPAN's reputation.

Why it matters: The CWA, which represents thousands of media workers — including those at both of Block's newspapers — argues Block's attempt to manipulate the Toledo Blade's coverage of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection and his family's recent handling of union issues at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, has become a liability for C-SPAN.

Catch up quick: Block has been on C-SPAN's board for over three decades, joining in 1991. He is the chairman of the board of Block Communications Inc., a more than century- old, privately-held family business based in Toledo, Ohio.

  • Block Communications also owns various local news TV stations and internet companies. Block's twin brother John Robinson Block is the vice chairman Block Communications Inc. and serves as the publisher and editor-in-chief of both the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade.

Details: The letter, which was obtained by Axios Monday, calls on C-SPAN's leadership team to remove Block from its 12-member board.

  • It's signed by 20 of CWA's top leaders — including NewsGuild president Jon Schleuss.
  • "C-SPAN has earned that reputation through decades of dedication to high standards by remaining neutral," the letter reads. "You and the board uphold those standards and have acted swiftly before to remove anything that could damage C-SPAN’s brand."
  • It also cites stalled union talks and the removal of health care for dozens of workers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — which recently resulted in a strike — as evidence that the Block family "doesn't care about journalism," Schleuss told Axios.
  • The letter links out to a video of Block slapping a reporter's camera with a fast food bag when asked about the health care cuts. Block's wife Susan also appears in the video, calling reports of the cuts "a lie."

Between the lines: CWA will also begin circulating a petition to push C-SPAN to remove Block.

  • C-SPAN did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Block did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The big picture: News unions have become much more active in the past year, as workers spar with management over pandemic-era changes to remote work policies and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

  • Declines in the ad market have forced media companies, especially at the local level, to implement cost-cutting measures ahead of 2023.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional reporting.

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