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WJLA Paying Remaining Employees To Buy Cars

WJLA-7, the Rosslyn-based television station owned by struggling Allbritton Communications, said today that it would give its employees $2,000 to buy a new car and $1,000 to buy a used car.

This comes less than two months after WJLA laid off 26 employees, citing the economic downturn. The station also said it would cut the pay of remaining staffers by 3.9 percent and then freeze it. In addition, company contributions to retirement accounts would be suspended.

Late last month, Allbritton had its corporate credit rating lowered from "B" to "B-" by Standard & Poor's, which said the company's outlook is "negative" over concerns the company will be unable to meet its debt covenants.

"The ratings downgrade reflects our concern about the company's ability to maintain an appropriate cushion of compliance with its total leverage covenant, based on our expectation that weak ad demand will significantly undermine Allbritton's operating performance in 2009," Standard & Poor's credit analyst Deborah Kinzer said in a release.

Part of Allbritton's motivation to help its employees buy cars is to aid one of the station's biggest advertisers: local car dealers.

“Our friends in the auto industry were among the first to feel the downturn of the economy. The auto industry is hurting right now and we want to do our part to help promote a recovery,” Allbritton President Fred Ryan said in a release. “We have had a long relationship with our local auto dealers and we believe the recovery of our country’s economy depends on a healthy auto industry.”

In addition to WJLA, Allbritton owns Politico and NewsChannel8, as well as several television stations outside of the Washington area.

-- Frank Ahrens
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By Frank Ahrens  |  March 11, 2009; 5:58 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Allbritton, WJLA, auto dealers  
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