Dark Days of Local Television Turn 1

Publish date:
Updated on

What an annus horribilis it’s been.

It’s fitting that the broadcast day started with word of lots and lots of layoffs at Media General–130, in total. That, on the heels of previous layoffs at MG, along with the suspension of matching 401(k)s and the new F-word–furloughs.

Remember, it was exactly a year ago that the really dark days of local television kicked off–it was March 31st that CBS announced layoffs in the triple figures at its owned stations nationwide. There were 30 let go at WBZ Boston and 17 more at WBBM Chicago, among many others.

Granted, there had been station layoffs previous to that. But March 31 really seemed to usher in an era of serious downsizing (or “rightsizing”, in callous modern corporate-speak). Once CBS had taken the plunge, it seemed to open the door for lots of other station groups–Raycom, Young, Tribune, heck, everybody–to cut heavily as well. It also kicked off an era where lots and lots of talent–perhaps the part of the business most in need of a little market correction–were included in the layoffs.

Meredith broadcasting prez Paul Karpowicz told me this almost exactly a year ago: “All public companies are under tremendous strain to meet the expectations of their board and their shareholders in tough times. What CBS went through is what a lot of broadcasters will look at this year.”