Adam Fondren, Deseret News
FILE - Sen. Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, speaks at a press conference in the Capitol rotunda in Salt Lake City on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Senate narrowly passed a bill Tuesday that would restrict the use of noncompete contracts in Utah broadcast media.

"The support from journalists has been overwhelming," said Sen. Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, the Senate sponsor of HB241. He said it "makes sense" to place restrictions on noncompete contracts to curb abuses in the broadcast industry.

Noncompete contracts prevent employees from going to work for a competitor or start a similar business for a prescribed period of time.

Utah's major television stations oppose the bill. They contend that they put many thousands of dollars into developing and promoting anchors and reporters who viewers have come to trust as credible sources of news.

Deseret Management Corp., which owns Bonneville International Corp., KSL, Deseret Digital Media and the Deseret News, uses noncompete agreements in some cases in its TV and radio properties.

HB241 would prohibit broadcasters from using noncompete contracts for employees who make less than $47,500 per year. Employees who earn more than that could enter into those agreement with certain restrictions, including limiting a contract to four years and the noncompete agreement to one year.

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If an employee is fired for just cause or quits, the noncompete clause would be enforced. If the employer fires an employee without cause or doesn't renew the contract, it would not be enforced.

"I find that current law is really working quite well," said Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, who voted against the measure.

Lawmakers two years ago passed a law limiting noncompete clauses to one year in all industries.

The Senate passed the bill 16-12 with an amendment, sending it back to the House for final approval.