The Golf Channel on NBC is defending its Ryder Cup coverage after a veteran crew member questioned the golf experience of the network's team deployed at the event in Scotland this week.
“Our team is in full force here at Gleneagles in Scotland with more than 200 of the most talented production staff in all of golf,” Golf Channel on NBC said in a statement to Golf.com. “The vast majority of our freelance technical crew who traveled to the Ryder Cup were members of our 2013 Emmy-nominated engineering team for golf remote productions.”
According to the source, who requested anonymity, NBC had to scramble to arrange a team for this weekend's event at Gleneagles after many of its most experienced golf hands refused to travel to Scotland in a dispute over hourly pay.
However, the Golf Channel on NBC maintains that all of the network's 200-plus crew members in Scotland have golf experience. One NBC staffer on the ground at Gleneagles told Golf.com that most of the regular crew is on-site and that "only three or four" regulars are absent.
“We look forward to continuing to produce our unprecedented 85 hours of live coverage of this week’s Ryder Cup, one of the most dramatic events in all of sports,” the network’s statement said. “And already, Golf Channel is off to its most-watched Ryder Cup week ever with record audiences for Live From the Ryder Cup."
Details of the pay dispute were shared with Golf.com by a source who has decades of experience covering golf for major networks, but who decided not to join NBC’s Ryder Cup team because of the terms on offer.
“There is an industry standard for a specialized sport — which both Fox and CBS pay — but NBC wanted to give us $10-$20 per hour less than that,” the crew member said. Another point of contention involved compensation for time spent traveling to and from Scotland, as well as time riding shuttles to and from the course.
Negotiations between NBC and the National Association of Broadcasting Employees (NABET), the union representing NBC's usual golf video crew, reached a stalemate this summer. Golf.com has obtained an email from NABET executives to NBC Labor Relations that suggests crew members feared retaliation for not taking the Ryder Cup job.
“We are currently investigating allegations in which NBC personnel stated they ‘are angry with the crew’ and that ’the offer of no repercussions is now off the table because the crew has made this a money issue’,” the email states.
The veteran says NBC compromised slightly on travel pay, prompting some crew members to accept the Ryder Cup job, and that to fill the remaining positions the network approached video engineers with no golf experience, offering them more than what was offered to the usual crew. One member of the CBS golf crew confirmed to Golf.com that he was offered a rate higher than was offered the NBC team.
The Golf Channel on NBC disputed that claim and said the “entire crew is receiving exactly what they receive for a U.S. event.”
NBC has televised the Ryder Cup since 1991, and this year announced an extension of its contract with the PGA of America through 2030.