Public radio is feeling the recession in a big way, recently with layoffs at Chicago Public Radio and now at National Public Radio.
Confronted by an uncertain economy and a sharp decline in current and projected revenues from corporate underwriting, NPR announced it will reduce its workforce by 7 percent and cut expenses.
Staff and expense reductions will be made in reporting, editorial and production areas; station services; digital media; research; communications and administrative support. A total of 64 filled positions have been eliminated out of NPR's staff of 889; also, 21 open positions will not be filled and travel and discretionary expenses have been cut. Of the 64 eliminated positions, six were in engineering, Radio World has confirmed.
A significant number of the personnel cuts result from the upcoming cancellation of two NPR produced programs "Day to Day" and "News & Notes." The programs, broadcast on NPR member stations, will remain on the air through March 20.
The network said difficult moves come despite the pubcaster reaching near-record audience levels on-air and online, with 26.4 million people listening to NPR programs each week and 8 million people visiting NPR.org each month.
"The difficult decision to cancel two programs and eliminate the jobs of valued NPR employees was made after an exhaustive review of our entire organization, and with the greatest reluctance," stated Dennis Haarsager, NPR's interim president and CEO. "With all of NPR's revenue sources under pressure, these actions were necessary to responsibly stabilize our finances and put NPR on a realistic path."
In July, NPR projected a "relatively manageable" $2 million deficit for fiscal year 2009. It said that with the rapid downturn in the economy, corporate sponsorships — its second-largest source of funding after fees paid by stations — have declined and projections have dropped "precipitously," raising the projected deficit to $23 million, and prompting the need for cuts.
Separately, in what was believed to be the first major downsizing at a public radio station in this recession, Chicago Public Radio laid off 11 staffers last week. The cuts, spread out among WBEZ(FM), WBEW(FM), chicagopublicradio.org, and Vocalo.org, a site where listeners upload their own material for possible on-air use, represent around 9 percent of the CPR budget.
An article on www.wbez.org cited management as saying the move was in response to a projected $1.5 million revenue shortfall.