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TMCNet:  WHTM cuts jobs, pay, worker says

[February 03, 2009]

WHTM cuts jobs, pay, worker says

(Patriot-News, The (Harrisburg, PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 31--WHTM-TV, Harrisburg's ABC affiliate, has laid off 11 employees and asked all staffers to take a 3.9 percent pay cut, according to an employee.

The cuts were announced Jan. 23 at the local station and came as part of similar moves at all nine television stations owned by Allbritton Communications, said the worker, who asked not to be identified because the employee was not authorized to speak for the company.

Calls to WHTM president and general manager Joe Lewin and Allbritton, based in Arlington, Va., were not returned Friday.

The cuts touched most departments -- producers, engineers, photographers and sales representatives -- but no on-air personnel were let go, the employee said. The station employed 120 people before the layoffs.

The station is suspending employer matches to 401(k) plans, and five other positions are being eliminated by attrition, the worker said.

The local broadcasting business has had a wave of cuts as the recession has escalated. Here is a look at the midstate.

--Public broadcasting station WITF eliminated five positions from its TV and radio operations in November and assigned nonunion staff a seven-day furlough. Senior executives took six-month pay cuts ranging from 5 percent to 10 percent.

--Clear Channel Communications, which owns six radio stations in the midstate market, cut 14 jobs here as part of a 9 percent company-wide layoff, including WRVV-FM morning news anchor Deena Joseph and Rob Wilbur, an assistant program director at WHP-AM, according to the Northeast Radio Watch Web site.

--WGAL-TV, the local NBC affiliate, eliminated about 10 positions over the past year. Most of the Lancaster-based station's cuts have come through attrition, general manager Paul Quinn said, and some staffers have had their hours reduced.

--WHP-TV, the local CBS affiliate, cut six positions last summer, after its operations were taken over by Newport Television.

--And WPMT, the York-based Fox affiliate, laid off two people in November.

In most cases, station executives attributed the cuts to declining advertising revenues.

"Advertising is a fixed percentage of gross sales, and if gross sales are down, advertising is going to be down," WGAL's Quinn said. "Our pie has shrunk considerably, especially with the automotive industry, which used to be about one-third of our business."

Despite the staffing cuts, none of the midstate's television stations has made major cuts to its local news programming. This month, WHP added a 10 p.m. newscast on its sister station, WLYH-TV, general manager Holly Steuart said.

"It's a difficult time ... but we're still very optimistic about the future," she said.

To see more of The Patriot-News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.patriot-news.com.

Copyright (c) 2009, The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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