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Pittsburgh public broadcasting firm cuts 17 jobs, salaries

September 25, 2015

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The public broadcasting company in Pittsburgh, WQED Multimedia, is cutting 17 jobs and executive salaries in order to reduce millions of dollars in long-term debt.

The restructuring announced Thursday will see 14 full-time employees and one part-timer lose their jobs. Two more full-timers were offered the choice of part-time jobs or severance pay.

The cuts include award-winning on-air talent Michael Bartley and Tonia Caruso and two of the company’s four vice presidents.

“Today was very raw and very real,” president and chief executive officer Deborah Acklin said. “They are absolutely very talented people, gifted people, good people and we fought for every job.”

Acklin, who earns nearly $260,000, said executives, eight of whom make more than $100,000, will take voluntary pay cuts of 8 to 9 percent.

WQED is the parent of WQED-TV, the city’s Public Broadcasting Service station; WQED-FM, a classical radio station; a sister classical station in Johnstown, WQEJ-FM; and various subentities that create or promote the company’s locally produced and national programming.

WQED is the first community-supported television station in the nation in 1954 and just the fifth public television station in the country. The station is well-known as the flagship that first aired “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and has become identified with kitschy documentaries by Rick Sebak that feature Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania history, culture and trivia.

The company had 60 full-time employees before the cuts were announced.

The company will announce a new television schedule next month and its board, also on Thursday, approved a $12.3 million budget for 2016, down nearly 7 percent from this year’s $13.3 million.

The cuts are part of a plan to erase $5 million in debt over 15 years by developing a sustainable revenue base over the next three years.

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