Boston’s WBUR reduces staff by 14% through layoffs and buyouts

Boston NPR affiliate WBUR announced a layoff of up to 14% through layoffs and voluntary buyouts. WBUR CEO Margaret Low announced the news in an email to employees as part of a broader effort to stabilize the station’s finances.

Low, who will take a 10% pay cut as part of the process, told employees the drastic measures were necessary because of financial constraints caused by ongoing budget deficits. The decision was made in response to a $4 million deficit — about 10 percent of WBUR’s annual budget.

The layoff strategy includes eliminating nine vacant positions and laying off seven employees, three of whom are part-time, by the end of June.

WBUR initially offered voluntary buyouts in March, and 24 employees, including several senior executives, have chosen to do so. In his takeover bid, Low discussed a 40% drop in sponsorship revenue since 2019.

To manage costs without significantly impacting content, stations will make modest programming changes.This includes ending local broadcast news updates earlier in the evening and moving Common, WBUR’s daily podcast, changes to a weekly format. All programs will not be stopped.

Looking ahead, Low said WBUR had a promising spring fundraising season, with revenue doubling from the previous year, which could be a positive indicator of the station’s future financial health. She also noted that the station is working to innovate in fundraising and audience engagement, including introducing a membership model for new podcasts and offering perks such as ad-free listening and bonus content.

WBUR’s financial challenges and staff reductions are not unique in public broadcasting. Similar financial difficulties led to planned acquisitions of KCRW in Los Angeles and KQED in the Bay Area. Additionally, Chicago Public Radio, Washington, D.C.’s WAMU, New York Public Radio and Sacramento’s CapRadio also experienced layoffs, reflecting broader economic pressures in the industry.

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