TV, radio weather recession
By EMILY ANDERSON
A bad economy and the evolution of how people get their news has delivered a one-two punch to media outlets nationwide.
Although the hard times of newspaper companies have often been more widely reported, television and radio are not immune to the challenges.
Profits fell 45 percent for NBC Universal, 33 percent for Disney’s broadcasting sector (which includes ABC), and 14 percent for CBS Corporation from the first quarter of last year to the first quarter of this year. Those conglomerates own television affiliates but manage other media and entertainment services as well.
Six people were laid off at Fox affiliate KDVR 31 recently, reported the Denver Post. In June, the New York Daily News reported two sister stations in New York laid off 20 people.
The Fox affiliate in Los Angeles laid off about 25 percent of its staff, reported the Los Angeles Times, with the layoffs taking effect in September. Layoffs in Alabama, Kansas, Ohio, Oregon and other states also have taken place.
Locally, numbers have fluctuated at nearly all media outlets. Some stations lost an employee and hired another. KJCT lost Mike Daniels when he moved to California in May but hired Megan Terlecky this spring. Peter Schaller left KREX for Florida in May. The station hired Kevin Stanfield shortly afterward.
No one has been laid off this year at local television stations, but there were casualties last year, including a layoff of three employees at KREX, said General Manager Ron Tillery.
Despite paying $3 million to build and move into a new station to replace the one that burned down last year, the local CBS affiliate did manage to replace a few positions this year left open when employees left voluntarily.
“We plan to maintain staffing at current levels through the end of the year unless conditions worsen,” Tillery said.
The recession’s effect on staffing has varied from station to station, according to their human resources departments.
The number of employees at KREX and its three affiliate stations on the Western Slope has decreased from 50 or 51 a year ago to 40. KJCT has remained at 45 full-time employees for the past year. KKCO has increased from 53 to 58 over the past year.
KKCO had the highest daily viewership from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. in May, followed by KREX and KJCT. KKCO also has the highest-rated early evening newscast, followed by KJCT and KREX, and the highest night-news ratings, followed by KREX, Fox News 9 and KJCT.
That assessment of viewership comes from general information the stations could provide about Nielsen ratings. The stations cannot release specific viewership numbers per their contracts with Nielsen Media Research. Nielsen releases only television show ratings for free.
At radio station company MBC Grand, General Manager Jim Terlouw said some people left their jobs voluntarily, and instead of the company filling them, employees divided those responsibilities. The company has also laid off its news director, effective at the end of this month. The news then will be read by MBC Grand disc jockeys. The station group laid off three other people in June.
“Last year was this all-time super high record year. This year isn’t as good a year,” Terlouw said. “There’s a lot more scrutiny to where the money goes.”
Newspapers are not immune to the recession or the changing face of media, either. The Daily Sentinel employed 236 people last July and now employs 217 people. The Grand Junction Free Press laid off five employees Dec. 29 and three more Feb. 2, including a Fence Post staff member. One of those employees was retained after another employee left the paper. The paper now employees 12 people.
Advertisement sales at KREX this year have been 7 to 15 percent below 2008 numbers, according to Tillery. National ads and local “mom and pop” shops are advertising less, he said. Larger local businesses, however, are “handling very well.”
Given the tough economy, KKCO General Sales Manager Brad McCloud said he’s tagged along on more sales calls with his staff and encouraged businesses to advertise in order to set themselves apart.
“I wouldn’t tell you the phone is ringing off the hook, but I’m seeing less traditional TV advertisers calling to inquire and look for creative ways to bring customers through the door,” McCloud said.
McCloud mentioned NBC also hosted the 2009 Super Bowl and will follow up with the 2010 Winter Olympics — both large draws for advertising dollars.
When asked about KJCT 8’s profits, General Manager Kristy Santiago replied, “I don’t really want to discuss that with you.”