Layoffs and Cutbacks at ‘PBS NewsHour’

June 12th, 2013

— The “PBS NewsHour,” the signature nightly newscast on public television, is planning its first significant round of layoffs in nearly two decades.

Facing a multimillion-dollar shortfall in the program’s budget, the show’s producer, MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, will close its two offices outside of the Washington, D.C., area — in Denver and San Francisco — and lay off most of the employees there. The company, which is based in Arlington, Va., will also eliminate several of what it calls “noncritical production positions” at its main offices.

The cutbacks were described in an internal memorandum on Monday from Linda Winslow, the executive producer of the “NewsHour,” and Bo Jones, the chief executive of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. They said the reorganization would “improve the long-term sustainability of the ‘NewsHour.’”

While a spokeswoman for the “NewsHour” declined to comment on the program’s budget, employees who were not authorized to speak publicly said earlier this year that the production company was facing a shortfall of up to $ 7 million, a quarter of its $ 28 million overall budget.

Along with the layoffs, some other savings will be achieved by leaving positions unfilled and by streamlining technical operations.

Ms. Winslow and Mr. Jones said in their memo that the cutbacks are a result of, among other things, “a steady drop in corporate revenue” and newfound flexibility in television production “presented by new technologies.”

The shuttering of the offices in Denver and San Francisco will end an era for the “NewsHour,” which long ago also had offices in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and elsewhere. Some positions were eliminated when the New York office was closed in 1995.

To make up for the loss of reporting staff outside the Washington area, “along with sending our own teams in the field, we anticipate building new relationships with a variety of locally based freelance video journalists around the country,” Ms. Winslow and Mr. Jones wrote. “Under no circumstances do we intend to abandon the mini-documentary reports that have become so critical to our broadcast. The ‘NewsHour’ remains committed to delivering the same kind of in-depth reporting our viewers and supporters expect from us.”

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