Summertime hasn't been too hot for employees at television stations. Layoffs have been rampant the past few weeks, and are expected to continue amidst a dim economic forecast.
Mid-June saw a 7.5% staff reduction across the Newport Television stations, which meant about 162 casualties among the 56 outlets. Then WRCB Chattanooga, owned by Sarkes Tarzian, eliminated 10 jobs. “We're reorganizing our maintenance and production departments in recognition of the fact that so much broadcasting equipment has become computerized,” president and general manager Tom Tolar explains.
Next was Tribune's KTLA, which laid off eight. “We're reconfiguring how we do things,” says KTLA VP of Programming and Marketing John Moczulski. “We're evaluating what our goals are and what the jobs are.”
Six were axed last week at Raycom's Cleveland duopoly, WOIO and WUAB, and eight at NBC Local Media's KNTV San Jose (including four on-air positions). Media General's WFLA Tampa will reportedly be 10 jobs lighter by the end of the year.
Earlier in the month, Meredith Corp. clipped 120 jobs, mostly on the publishing side. Media General has cut 11% since January 2007, Barrington Broadcasting vowed to make do with 8% fewer employees, Young Broadcasting is cutting 11%, and CBS trimmed some 120 at its O&Os in late March.
“Virtually every group is rethinking and reengineering what they do to create content in the multiplatform world. The infrastructure has to change when you're doing business in different ways,” says Frank N. Magid TV President Steve Ridge.
While many would classify the layoffs as cutting into bone, insiders say the reductions are far from over—especially with the economic picture remaining dark. “People are realizing this is not going to be the year everyone thought it was going to be,” says SmithGeiger Senior VP Mark Toney. “I think almost everyone's vulnerable to it.”
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.