NPR will lay off about 10% of its staff to address a growing budget shortfall, CEO John Lansing told employees Wednesday.
Lansing said in an all-staff memo that NPR’s “financial outlook has darkened considerably” in recent weeks.
“At a time when we are doing some of our most ambitious and essential work, the global economy remains uncertain,” Lansing wrote. “As a result, the ad industry has weakened and we are grappling with a sharp decline in our revenues from corporate sponsors.”
In addition to the layoffs, NPR will eliminate many of the positions that it had previously frozen, Lansing said. The final number of layoffs will be determined by how many open positions NPR is able to eliminate.
“This will be a major loss,” he wrote.
NPR aimed to avoid reducing staff by making cuts in November to address a projected $20 million budget shortfall for fiscal year 2023. However, the projected amount has ballooned to at least $30 million, Lansing wrote.
NPR has already cut about $14 million in expenses by freezing hiring of most vacant positions, suspending fellowship and paid internship programs, and restricting nonessential travel.
“We have reached a point where we can no longer protect all jobs,” Lansing wrote. “We fought hard to avoid this.” But about 65% of the network’s expenses cover personnel, he said.
Lansing told NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik, who first reported the news, that the cuts will not be spread evenly throughout the organization, “because that’s just not management.”
NPR will consult on the layoffs with the labor unions that represent its employees, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians. Lansing added that the layoffs will “not disproportionately impact people of color or any other historically marginalized group.”
“Unlike the financial challenges we faced during the worst of the pandemic, we project increasing costs and no sign of a quick revenue rebound,” Lansing wrote. “We must make adjustments to what we control, and that is our spending.”
NPR’s Distribution division, which manages the Public Radio Satellite System, will not be included in the layoffs because it is separately funded and is not impacted by sponsorship income, Lansing wrote.
“As we reduce the number of roles at NPR, some work will need to change or stop entirely,” Lansing said. “Figuring out what work that is will take some additional time.”
Lansing said he expects to make a final decision about which positions will be reduced by the week of March 20.