Thirteen staffers at PBS Channel 8 (KAET-TV) were given pink slips yesterday in a cost-cutting move expected to affect local programming.
According to this morning's broadcast on National Public Radio's local affiliate, KJZZ (91.5 FM), the employees include a local production manager and several workers for the public affairs show Horizon. This latest bad-news-for-the-news-media story comes a day after the East Valley Tribune announced it was eliminating another day of publication -- now it will come out only three days -- and laying off 13 employees.
New Times columnist Sarah Fenske reported back in November that PBS Channel 8 (KAET-TV) was on shaky ground. The station laid off a half-dozen workers last year and could not raise enough money to move from Tempe to Arizona State University's downtown Phoenix campus.
Virgil Renzulli, the ASU official who oversees Channel 8, told ASU's school newspaper in October that it was a tough decision to do layoffs, but that it would save money starting in 2010:
He said the station was disappointed it had to lay off employees.
"We feel terrible," Renzulli said. "We didn't feel there was any choice."
Renzulli told NPR the latest cuts were recommended by two outside consultants. The station had been running a deficit in recent years and both consultants deemed it "overstaffed," Renzulli said.
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According to Fenske's article, the new layoffs were practically preordained:
[Renzulli] ...recently told the station's advisory board that a consultant was hired last spring to diagnose problems. The consultant recommended layoffs. But when it came time to make the cuts, station management failed to act before the end of the fiscal year.
"If you don't make the cuts by June 30, they roll over," Renzulli told the board. "Those cuts weren't made in time."
Maybe ignoring that last pledge drive wasn't such a good idea...