Chicago Public Media announced it has laid off 12 employees and ended its production agreement with Sound Opinions due to financial pressures from the pandemic.
The organization is facing a 20% revenue decline in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The deficit is four times larger than the public broadcaster experienced during the 2008 financial crisis, according to a Tuesday statement about the layoffs.
CPM participated in the federal government’s Payroll Protection Program and received emergency funding from CPB. “These steps, along with the generosity of members and donors, have gone a long way toward helping us lower our deficit, but they alone don’t fully address the historic challenges facing us,” the statement said. “Therefore, we find ourselves in the unfortunate position of having to make additional reductions.”
In addition to the layoffs, WBEZ also announced that it has agreed to end its partnership with the long-running music program Sound Opinions, according to an announcement Tuesday. Four of the 12 layoffs were from the Sound Opinions team, according to a spokesperson.
The program’s owners and hosts, Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot, will continue to produce new episodes of the show as an independent company. The last episode produced by WBEZ will air Aug. 28.
WBEZ has produced and distributed the hourlong weekly show since 2005.
“We have always been incredibly proud to be part of the WBEZ family, and will forever be grateful for the station’s help in bringing us to an ever-expanding audience in public radio, a platform that is more vital and necessary now than ever,” DeRogatis said in the announcement. “We are excited to continue that relationship with public radio locally and nationally, while growing independently and expanding further into the podcast world.”
PRX will distribute new episodes of the program to the nearly 150 stations that now carry it, including WBEZ.
“It’s been an honor to work with Jim and Greg and the Sound Opinions staff during these past 15 years and we’re grateful for their tremendous contributions to WBEZ and to music journalism and criticism in general,” Steve Edwards, WBEZ’s chief content officer and interim CEO, said in the announcement. “While our production relationship is coming to an end, we look forward to continuing to air Sound Opinions on WBEZ and we wish them all the best as they start their next chapter.”