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NPR To Offer Voluntary Buyouts In Bid To Balance Budget

Filed by KOSU News in Business.
September 13, 2013

Saying that the goal is to balance its budget in fiscal year 2015, NPR announced late Friday morning that it will soon offer “a voluntary buyout plan across the organization that reduces staffing levels by approximately 10 percent.”

The organization now has 840 full- and part-time employees. The recent recession hit NPR and most other media outlets as contributors/advertisers scaled back their spending. NPR’s financial future has also been complicated by discussions on Capitol Hill about scaling back or eliminating federal support for public broadcasting.

In a message to the staff, CEO Gary Knell and Kit Jensen (who chairs NPR’s board of directors) said:

“As you know, NPR is working toward achieving a balanced budget in FY 2015. To this end, the board has approved a FY 2014 budget that is rooted in a long-term strategic roadmap that eliminates NPR’s operating deficit within the next two years while giving NPR the flexibility to make strategic investments in high quality journalism, programming, digital innovation, and revenue-building initiatives. The budget we approved includes operating and investment revenues of $178.1 million, expenses of $183 million, and an operating cash deficit of $6.1 million, or 3 percent of revenues.

“The strategy and budget NPR management put forward addresses the deficit in a thoughtful way and makes continual investment in the highest quality of programming. The cornerstones of NPR’s FY14 strategy rest on exceptional content, audience engagement and growth, strong collaborations in the public radio network, and a sustainable financial business model.

“As part of the strategy to eliminate the deficit and lower ongoing expenses, NPR will offer a voluntary buyout plan across the organization that reduces staffing levels by approximately 10 percent. Next week, Chief Administrative Officer Joyce Slocum will provide information about this process to staff. The strategy also includes investments in our digital future and revenue generating initiatives such as branded events.”

Also in the message, NPR staff learned that:

“The board has appointed Paul Haaga, our vice chair, to serve as the acting president & CEO, effective Sept. 30. Paul will work closely with members of the board and the senior management team to guide the organization as we search for a permanent chief executive. Gary Knell will remain close to NPR over the coming months and will serve as an advisor to Paul through Dec. 31.”

Knell announced last month that he’s leaving NPR to become president and CEO at the National Geographic Society.

We’ll have more about this later. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik is working the story. [Copyright 2013 NPR]

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