National Public Radio said today that it is being forced to do something it hasn't had to do in 25 years: hand out layoff notices.
According to a Washington Post report, NPR will let go 64 of its 889 employees, or 7 percent of its workforce, to close a $23 million shortfall. It will also eliminate two daily programs that were meant to expand its "core" audience. "Day to Day," was targeted at younger listeners and "News & Notes," which was intended to attract African-American listeners. All departments, including reporters and producers, will be affected.
NPR reportedly projects annual revenue to fall 8 percent, to $145 million, this year. The Post's report notes:
Underwriting -- the public broadcasting equivalent of advertising -- accounted for about a third of NPR's annual budget, and is the most seriously impaired. In particular, the decline of support from companies in the entertainment, automotive and financial fields prompted NPR to cut its projected underwriting revenue from $47 million to $33 million this year... At the same time, some of the stations that carry NPR's programming are themselves in trouble, threatening NPR's fees from its member stations.
NPR told the Post that there was a modest cutback in 1996 but that the last cutback comparable to this one was in 1983, when a financial crisis at NPR forced it to layoff 27 percent of its workforce.
Ironically, the hosts of NPR's Planet Money podcast discussed the topic of layoffs last week and suggested that, although they're rough on the people impacted, layoffs might actually be good for the economy. The hosts were clearly squeamish about the suggestion, pointing to economists who say that layoffs are a cruel part of a healthy economic revitalization cycle.