WBUR turns to buyouts to cut costs

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CEO Margaret Low announced the “first phase” Tuesday of a cost-cutting plan to reduce expenses at Boston’s WBUR by about 10%.

In a letter to staff posted on the station’s website, Low announced a voluntary buyout program. The station is looking to begin fiscal year 2025 with a budget about $4 million lower than the current budget of more than $45 million, she said.  WBUR begins fiscal year 2025 July 1. 

“This Voluntary Program reflects our desire to be humane during a challenging time,” Low said in the letter.

The last day for the staff that participate in the buyout will be May 10. Pay and health benefits will continue for one week for every year of service to WBUR or Boston University, the station’s licensee. Participants will also receive a lump sum equal to four weeks of pay and a payout for accrued vacation days. 

Despite the potential savings from the buyout program, Low expects that WBUR will need to make additional spending cuts. 

“We anticipate that we’ll still need to freeze some open roles and do layoffs, but we’re hoping to eliminate as few jobs as possible,” she wrote. “This Voluntary Program should help with that goal.”

The station won’t announce further cuts until after management has “clarity” on the number of staff taking the buyout, she said.

Low announced the station’s budgetary challenges March 6. Since then, more than 1,000 people have donated to the station, she wrote.  

“This includes everyone from first-time donors to very generous members of both our boards,” she wrote. “It won’t close the gap. We didn’t expect it to. But we have raised awareness, grown our Sustainer rolls and helped people understand our economics and the vital importance of supporting WBUR. We want to keep this new momentum going.”

In her previous announcement, Low said on-air underwriting revenue has fallen 40%, or about $7 million, over the last five years.

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