The news was grim for public television station WTTW-Channel 11 as it prepares for a new fiscal year starting July 1. WTTW president and CEO Dan Schmidt said on Friday that the station will eliminate 12 percent of its current work force -- or between 25 and 30 positions -- in anticipation of reduced income from various sources in the coming fiscal year.
To reduce the staff head count, the station intends first to offer early retirement packages. The number of actual layoffs will be determined by how many employees accept the retirement packages. Those not eligible for early retirement will get up to six months severance and access to company-provided outplacement services.
Schmidt also said executive compensation at the station would be reduced an additional 5 percent, bringing a two-year reduction in top management salaries to 10 percent. A company-wide salary freeze initiated in 2009 will remain in effect through 2011. WTTW also will close its employee cafeteria and seek production efficiencies by maximizing use of new technology.
And even though contributions have exceeded goals in recent pledge drives at sibling fine arts radio station WFMT-FM (98.7), WTTW's Schmidt said $200,000 in expense reductions are also slated for the radio station because ad sales have been soft there over the past year.
Schmidt cited a softness in corporate underwriting and a $1.25 million cutback in state funding as two key reasons for the urgent need to reduce costs at the city's public television station. Altogether, the station expects to cut operating costs by $3 million in the upcoming fiscal year. The station still expects to generate $52 million in revenue in the next fiscal year. "As difficult as it is in the near term to take these steps, we must have a sound financial base to sustain ourselves as a vital community resource," said Schmidt.