Boston’s WBUR Reducing Staff 14% Through Layoffs and Buyouts


Boston NPR affiliate WBUR has announced a workforce reduction of up to 14% through a mix of layoffs and voluntary buyouts. The announcement came in an email to staff from WBUR CEO Margaret Low, as part of a broad initiative to stabilize the station’s finances.

Low, who will take a 10% pay cut as part of the process, communicated to the staff that the financial strain from a sustained budget deficit necessitated these tough measures. The decision is in response to a $4 million deficit – which represents about 10% of WBUR’s annual budget.

The staff reduction strategy includes the elimination of nine vacant positions and the layoff of seven employees by the end of June, three of whom are part-time.

WBUR initially offered voluntary buyouts in March, which have been opted for by 24 employees, including several senior managers. Low discussed a 40% decline in sponsorship income since 2019 in that buyout offer.

To manage costs without substantially affecting content, the station will make modest programming changes. This includes ending local on-air news updates earlier in the evening and shifting The Common, WBUR’s daily podcast, to a weekly format. No entire shows will be discontinued.

Looking to the future, Low shared that WBUR’s spring fundraising season had been promising, with revenue doubling from the previous year, which could be a positive indicator for the station’s future financial health. She also noted the station’s ongoing efforts to innovate in fundraising and audience engagement, including the introduction of a membership model for a new podcast, which offers perks like ad-free listening and bonus content.

WBUR’s financial challenges and reduction in force are not unique in the public radio landscape. Similar financial difficulties have led to buyout programs at KCRW in Los Angeles and now KQED in the Bay Area. Additionally, Chicago Public Radio, WAMU in Washington DC, New York Public Radio, and CapRadio in Sacramento have also experienced layoffs, reflecting broader economic pressures within the industry.


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