Saying it is confronted by an uncertain economy and a sharp decline in current and projected revenues from corporate underwriting, National Public Radio (NPR) announced that it will reduce its workforce by 7% and cut expenses. A significant portion of the headcount reduction will come from the upcoming cancellation of two NPR-produced programs – “Day to Day” and “News & Notes,” which will cease production on March 20, 2009.
NPR said the difficult moves come despite the network 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,” said 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,” he added.
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 against NPR’s current staff of 889, 21 open positions will not be filled and travel and discretionary expenses have been cut across the organization.
“It’s crucial to realize that these programming changes are being driven by a loss in revenue, not relevance. With near-record audience levels, now more than ever people are relying on NPR to better understand the extraordinary events occurring in the world,” said Ellen Weiss, NPR’s Senior Vice President for News.
In July, NPR projected a relatively manageable $2 million deficit for fiscal year 2009. With the rapid downturn in the US economy this fall, corporate sponsorships – NPR’s second-largest source of funding after fees paid to NPR by stations – have declined and projections have dropped precipitously, raising the projected deficit to $23 million, and prompting the need for significant and immediate reductions in expenses. To help NPR align its budget, the Board of Directors has authorized NPR to draw down its operating reserves by a maximum of 30 percent in FY09 (10/1/08-9/30/09). Legal restrictions severely limit expenditure of the NPR endowment, which includes the 2003 bequest made by Joan B. Kroc.