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Layoffs continue at Bay Area KQED after 9 acquisitions

A month after revealing that it was making a staff buyout offer, the Bay Area’s KQED is preparing for layoffs that could include as many as 25 employees this week. Only nine employees accepted voluntary severance offers, said KQED CEO Michael Isip.

KQED currently employs 387 people, 15 of whom are on limited-term contracts, and has a total workforce of 525 when including temporary workers and interns. The public broadcaster, an affiliate of NPR and PBS that serves the San Francisco Bay Area, reported $90.4 million in revenue against $100.9 million in expenses for 2023.

A new shortage is expected in 2024.

The broader public radio industry faces similar challenges, with declining listenership and changes in the way audiences consume news. NPR has seen a 30% decline in weekly listenership since 2020, and KQED’s weekly listenership has declined 26% since June 2021.

After moving to a new $94 million facility in 2021, the organization laid off twenty employees in 2020 to address a $7.1 million budget deficit.

The nine employees who accepted the buyout will terminate their employment on June 14.

Isip noted: “Unless we did something, the deficit would continue to grow. We’ve been able to tap into our reserves to fill the gap and buy us some time, and that’s just not a sustainable approach… The people of KQED are what make this organization so special. And when you lose colleagues, it not only affects your daily work, but also general morale.”

In California, LAist (KPCC) announced a buyout plan on May 10. Santa Monica’s KCRW, which also serves the Los Angeles market, has reduced its workforce through buyouts and programming cuts to make up the difference from a $3 million budget shortfall in January.

Additionally, Boston’s WBUR, Chicago Public Radio, WAMU in Washington DC, New York Public Radio and CapRadio in Sacramento have also experienced acquisitions and layoffs in the past year.