Media job layoffs Continue in Economy Slump

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May 9, 2003

U.S. Department of the Treasury LogoU.S media layoffs — since the summer of 2000 — have now reached 70,000.

Apparently the bleeding hasn’t stopped. Media companies continue to cut jobs in a weak American economy. U.S media layoffs—since the summer of 2000— have now reached 70,000, reports I Want Media, a Web site that reports on such media statistics.

The most recent layoffs include 70 staff members at Showtime, the cable network, representing about ten percent of Showtime’s workforce. The cable channel didn’t offer details of the cuts, but analysts say it was the result of dramatic cable industry consolidation and demands by
Showtime’s parent company, Viacom, to increase cash flow. Most of the layoffs came in the areas of affiliate relations, marketing, creative services and programming.

There were also reports that HBO recently laid off about 20 affiliate sales employees. Again, media consolidation was blamed. “We have restructured our organization to reflect the ongoing changes in the industry,” said Eric Kessler, HBO's president of sales and marketing.

Last month, Boston’s WGBH-TV reduced its work force by about 75 people. Approximately 25 employees were laid off, while the rest departed under buyouts, attrition and the conclusion of short-term contracts.

WGBH told the Boston Globe that the cuts were the result of the economy, which has caused a reduction in funding from corporations, foundations, state and federal government, PBS, and its own endowment. The uncertainty caused by the war in Iraq also had an impact on funders who are reluctant to make commitments, the station said.

“What we're experiencing is not any one thing but a whole lot of small things that all add up to a very harsh economic climate,” said Henry Becton Jr., WGBH president, who asked every department to cut its budget. “We are tightening our belt across the board in order to weather this economic downturn.”

Even Harris Corporation, which had hoped to profit from the sluggish DTV transition, has not been immune. Last week the company that manufactures television and radio transmitters--as well as other consumer-related products like DSL equipment--announced “cost reduction actions aimed at reducing corporate overhead expenses and increasing operating income in its commercial businesses.”

These actions include approximately 230 total positions being eliminated from its corporate headquarters in Melbourne, Fla., and among the Broadcast Communications Division in Quincy, Ill., Mason, Ohio, and Sunnyvale, Calif.

Howard L. Lance, president and chief executive officer of Harris, said he was “pleased with the company's solid financial performance,” yet, “our commercial division results have been lagging. [The] actions being implemented in the Broadcast Communications Division will reduce costs and improve profitability at its current level of business and position it for growth as the transition to digital technology regains momentum.”

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