Influential public radio outlet KCRW Los Angeles is reducing staff by almost 20% with buyout offers accepted by 24 employees as the organization faces financial uncertainty brought on by the pandemic.
The Los Angeles Times reports that those who have accepted buyouts include DJs Liza Richardson, Mario Cotto and Mathieu Schreyer, as well as “Morning Becomes Eclectic” producer Mary Chellamy. Six members of the programming staff, including longtime producer Frances Anderton, have also accepted the offer, the Times says.
According to We Make KCRW, the Twitter account run by station employees, 17 of those who took the buyout were SAG-AFTRA union members and the savings from all the buyouts would equal $1 million. “Only one manager took a buyout,” a post read. “We hope in the coming months that, if the station needs to make more cuts, management will shoulder its fair share of the burden.”
In July, union-represented employees and station management reached a tentative agreement on their first union contract. On Aug. 14, the employee account tweeted “KCRW management has come to the table to present voluntary buyout options to staff as a first step to address a budget shortfall. Thanks to our recent union contract, we have a seat at that table and we have a say in this process.”
The voluntary staff reduction was announced via an email from President Jennifer Ferro, who said of the exiting staffers, “Each one has made an indelible mark here. Some have been here for more than 20 years and I’m sure the decision to do this was as hard for them as it is for us to say goodbye.” Some of those who accepted the buyouts would be leaving as early as this week, she said.
KCRW joins other public media groups that have reduced staff through buyouts, job cuts and eliminating unfilled positions following losses of underwriting and the difficulties with fund raising during a pandemic.
As Inside Radio reported in June, KPBS San Diego (89.5) cut a number of positions and scaled back on others. Also in June, Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) let go of 28 employees and discontinued the national production of “Live From Here,” the successor to “A Prairie Home Companion,” and the podcast “The Hilarious World of Depression.” This followed fourteen employees of MPR and parent company American Public Media accepting voluntary buyouts in May.
WBEZ Chicago (91.5), which is operated by Chicago Public Media, cut a dozen positions in June and is no longer producing the national program “Sound Opinions.” (The show continues as an independently-produced show and podcast and still airs on WBEZ and nearly 150 additional public radio stations.) WBUR-FM Boston (90.9) laid off 28 employees and passed off production of the “Modern Love” podcast to the New York Times and ended the production of “Kind World,” a morning feature and podcast.