TV People Changes

Some exits at local TV operations…

END OF HIS ERA: OMW has confirmed a tip we received Tuesday about Time Warner Cable’s management locally.

Vin Zachariah has resigned as head of Time Warner Cable’s Northeast Ohio division for “personal reasons”.

He took over the local arm of the cable giant in September 2009, taking over for long-time TWC NEO boss Steven Fry.

We’re told that Doug Whiting, the company’s Midwest Regional Vice President for Customer Operations, will step in on an interim basis until a permanent replacement is selected…

SOME LAYOFFS: As hinted here on Tuesday, one local TV operation has indeed laid off three off-air staffers.

The station is Western Reserve PBS (WNEO/45-WEAO/49), where three staffers are gone due to economic conditions.

Western Reserve Public Media president/CEO Trina Cutter confirms the layoffs in a statement released to OMW. The statement will be reprinted in full at the bottom of this item:

One is a production assistant position; the other two are master control and traffic positions. Staff members will be asked to multitask to pick up some of the work of the three employees, while outsourcing also will help cover the tasks. It pains us to have had to make the reductions, but it was necessary for us to modify our budget to meet expenses.

OMW hears that one of those let go was a long-time station staffer, who had been with the Kent-based public TV operation (formerly known as “PBS 45 & 49”) for 29 years. (NOTE: We have removed the staffer’s name.)

Cutter tells OMW that the cuts were needed to shore up the station’s finances:

If we were to continue on course without modification, we would end up with a deficit budget in FY11. In this economic environment, it’s challenging to find more corporate support for general operations, plus we have experienced a decrease in support from foundations and cuts in State of Ohio funding.

Cutter does note that membership revenue, the “single largest source” for Western Reserve Public Media, is “holding steady”.

But about the production side of the house, the station’s top boss notes:

Like most PBS (and even many commercial) stations, we cannot maintain a fully staffed, full-time production crew — and, in fact, we never have. Throughout the organization’s history, the majority of the crews for our productions — including pledge — have been outsourced on a per-project basis. “NewsNite” and “NEOtropolis” were designed this way. It’s not news that more and more businesses and organizations are focusing on an “outsourcing” model. It is a national trend that began before the economic downturn.

“Survival of the fittest”, Cutter calls it, noting that unlike certain competitors, Western Reserve doesn’t have money from a county “sin tax” to fund arts organizations.

OMW hears that the move to Kent State’s new studio means “NewsNite” is produced with help from students at KSU, and that “NEOtropolis” is produced at the station’s hub at Main and Market in Akron by “a mix of freelance professionals and some temp staff from the station”.

Cutter’s statement is below:

———–

We did lay off three employees (Monday). One is a production assistant position; the other two are master control and traffic positions. Staff members will be asked to multitask to pick up some of the work of the three employees, while outsourcing also will help cover the tasks. It pains us to have had to make the reductions, but it was necessary for us to modify our budget to meet expenses.

If we were to continue on course without modification, we would end up with a deficit budget in FY11. In this economic environment, it’s challenging to find more corporate support for general operations, plus we have experienced a decrease in support from foundations and cuts in State of Ohio funding. The good news is that membership revenue, the organization’s single largest source of revenue, is holding steady. We are grateful to our members for their continued loyal support.

Like most PBS (and even many commercial) stations, we cannot maintain a fully staffed, full-time production crew — and, in fact, we never have. Throughout the organization’s history, the majority of the crews for our productions — including pledge — have been outsourced on a per-project basis. “NewsNite” and “NEOtropolis” were designed this way. It’s not news that more and more businesses and organizations are focusing on an “outsourcing” model. It is a national trend that began before the economic downturn.

It’s a “survival of the fittest” economic world right now. As long as Western Reserve Public Media stays fiscally and operationally “fit,” we will continue to thrive. And unlike many nonprofit organizations, Western Reserve Public Media does not have an endowment that we can draw on in difficult times; the advantage of a sin tax like arts organizations in Cuyahoga County; or a board that focuses on fund-raising for the station. We may be a nonprofit organization, but we operate very much like a small business that must expediently maneuver through, adapt to and meet challenges in the environment.

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One Response to TV People Changes

  1. Chris says:

    As a production assistant at a small station myself, it saddens me to read this. Good luck to those who have been let go in finding new employment.

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