NPR plans to layoff about 10% of its current staff due to the soft ad market and a drop in revenue from corporate sponsors, as well as uncertainties in the global economy overall.
In a memo to staff, NPR CEO John Lansing wrote that “our financial outlook has darkened considerably in recent weeks. At a time when we are doing some of our most ambitious and essential work, the global economy remains uncertain.”
NPR had announced a hiring freeze last year as part of a plan to cut costs amid a $20 million falloff in sponsorship revenue. But for fiscal year 2023, that shortfall is now projected to be at least $30 million, Lansing wrote.
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“The cuts we have already made to our budget will not be enough,” Lansing wrote.
NPR’s David Folkenflik, who first reported on the layoffs, wrote that the layoffs impact at least 100 people. NPR also is cutting many of its open positions.
NPR is the latest media outlet to announce layoffs, with The Washington Post, Gannett, NBC News and CNN also trimming staffs recently.
“Unlike the challenges we faced during the worst of the pandemic, we project increasing costs and no sign of a quick revenue rebound,” Lansing wrote. “We must make adjustments to what we control, and that is our spending.”
Lansing said that they do not have a precise figure on the percentage of filled positions that will be cut, as it will depend in part on how many open positions are eliminated. He said that NPR is having internal conversations and bargaining with unions, including SAG-AFTRA and NABET, which cover portions of the workforce.
“Guided by our strategic priorities, we must support NPR’s mission and future with the resources we have,” Lansing wrote. “As we reduce the number of roles at NPR, some work will need to change or stop entirely. Figuring out what work that is will take some additional time.” He wrote that he hoped to have the final decisions on the job cuts by the week of March 20.
He told Folkenflik that the cuts will not be evenly spread across the company. “I don’t anticipate that it would be like a haircut across every division, because that’s just not management,” Lansing said. “Management is about committing to strategy, making tough decisions.”
He also wrote that they will “support our [diversity, equity and inclusion] priorities, and not disproportionately impact people of color or any other historically marginalized group.”
Lansing’s complete memo is below:
As we are discussing in the all-staff meeting right now, our financial outlook has darkened considerably over recent weeks. At a time when we are doing some of our most ambitious and essential work, the global economy remains uncertain. As a result, the ad industry has weakened and we are grappling with a sharp decline in our revenues from corporate sponsors. We had created a plan to address a $20M sponsorship revenue falloff for FY23 but we are now projecting at least a $30M shortfall. The cuts we have already made to our budget will not be enough.
Unlike the financial challenges we faced during the worst of the pandemic, we project increasing costs and no sign of a quick revenue rebound. We must make adjustments to what we control, and that is our spending.
We have reached a point where we can no longer protect all jobs. We fought hard to avoid this. We have already cut $14M in expenses, including freezing the majority of vacant jobs, suspending paid internships and fellowships, and restricting non-essential travel.
As we have cut expenses, we have redoubled efforts to build the runway to increase revenues for public media, with new licensing deals, major gifts and grants, and the groundbreaking work of the NPR Network.
To address the growing deficit, we need to further reduce our spending. With approximately 65% of our budget supporting personnel costs, we will need to eliminate many of the vacant positions that have been frozen. We will also need to reduce filled positions by approximately 10%. The final percentage will primarily rely on how many of the open roles, going forward, we are able to eliminate. To work out this process, we will be having conversations internally and bargaining with our unions.
When we say we are eliminating filled positions, we are talking about our colleagues – people whose skills, spirit, and talents help make NPR what it is today. This will be a major loss.
NPR’s Distribution division, which manages the Public Radio Satellite System, is separately funded, not impacted by sponsorships, and will not be included in this process.
Guided by our strategic priorities, we must support NPR’s mission and future with the resources we have. As we reduce the number of roles at NPR, some work will need to change or stop entirely. Figuring out what work that is will take some additional time. I have directed the Executive Committee to move forward on this thinking with me as quickly but as carefully as possible, to provide everyone with the clarity they deserve. I hope to have final decisions about the position reductions by the week of March 20.
We will work with our unions as we always have, and I know those conversations will be helpful. SAG-AFTRA and NABET have been essential partners over the years in how NPR has navigated many challenges.
I recognize that all of this is deeply unsettling, and I know that this introduces an uncomfortable period of uncertainty. We will move as swiftly as possible to provide clarity about the reductions needed, working in consultation with our unions.
As we move through the coming weeks, we will keep the lines of communication open. We will go through this process as we have with other major organizational developments in recent years, with as much compassion, respect and dignity as we can. We will support our DEI priorities, and not disproportionately impact people of color or any other historically marginalized group. We will be open about our work to support the future of our organization and our remarkable employees.
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