NPR buyouts: A 10-percent staff cut to reduce deficit

NPR buyouts: The public radio network is offering voluntary buyouts in order to reduce costs. NPR employees must have at least three years experience to qualify for the buyout.

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
The headquarters for NPR in Washington. NPR says it's offering across-the-board buyouts in hopes of cutting its staff by 10 percent. The organization is trying to erase a $6.1 million deficit.

NPR is cutting about 10 percent of its workforce through voluntary buyouts to cover a more than $6 million deficit, according to the organization. The public radio broadcasting entity also said Friday that it has appointed Paul G. Haaga Jr. as acting president and CEO to replace the outgoing Gary Knell.

Mr. Haaga has served on the NPR board since 2011, and said in a statement that it was “one of the most rewarding and exciting phases of my career.”

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead one of the world’s leading providers of news, music and cultural programming on an interim basis and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Board and senior leadership team to help this great organization build on its success,” he added.

Haaga takes over for Mr. Knell, who’s departing for National Geographic Society. NPR’s search committee will be co-chaired by board members Florence Rogers and John Wotowicz.

Whoever gets the job will have some tough times ahead; NPR also announced its budget for 2014, which included expenses of $183 million and revenue of just $178.1 million. The organization admitted to an operating cash deficit of $6.1 million, which it hopes to eliminate through voluntary staff buyouts.

The staff will be reduced by about 10 percent. A spokesperson for NPR declined to state how many people the cuts would effect, saying it would depend “on a number of factors/variables.”

NPR reports that it has 840 full- and part-time staff now. According to Knell, some of the details of the buyout plan include:

— Those eligible must have been continuously employed by NPR for at least three years (he added that some employees with that much experience will be excluded from the offer).

— Those who accept the offer and are approved will receive "2 days pay per month of service" up to a maximum of 300 days.

Haaga begins on September 30.

The Associated Press reports that  NPR distributes news, information and music programming to 975 public radio stations, reaching 27 million listeners a week. It also has focused heavily in recent years on expanding its digital presence.

In April, NPR moved to a new $201 million headquarters with all digital equipment in Washington. The organization consolidated its staff in one building north of the U.S. Capitol after being spread across several sites for years.

In late 2008, NPR announced it was laying off 7 percent of its staff, the first time it had downsized in 12 years, after experiencing sharp declines in funding, especially from corporate sponsors. The layoffs affected 64 full-time staff, of which half came from news and programming.

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