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All-classical music station WQED reduces its staff

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Changes

Beginning March 1, WQED will cut six hours of local programming, focusing live shows around peak morning and evening commute times.

• Jim Cunningham's “QED Morning Show” from 6 to 11 a.m. will end at 9 a.m. “Mid-day Classics” with Anna Singer will air from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., cutting its last two hours. “Commuter Classics” with Ted Sohier also loses two hours, airing from 4 to 7 p.m.

• Programming from Classical 24, a national, nonstop, live-streaming service produced by American Public Radio and distributed by Public Radio International, will fill in the gaps.

Source: WQED-FM

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By Megan Harris
Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 11:30 p.m.
 

Pittsburgh's only all-classical music station WQED-FM announced two staff cuts and reduced air time for local radio hosts as its parent company, WQED Multimedia, tries to rebound from years of inconsistent funding.

President and CEO Deborah Acklin said on Thursday that station staffers are recommitting themselves to a 24/7 schedule helmed by local hosts.

One staff member took a buyout; the other was laid off, Acklin said.

The station did not identify the staff members or specify whether they were on-air talent.

Both left after months of discussions and the completion of a 1,600-person survey sent to paying members and nonmembers who Acklin said “made it very clear they want us to preserve the all-classical format.”

“Costs are increasing as they always do. Revenue is flat,” she said. “We decided to keep the station, keep the format and buck the odds. We're providing a service no one else in town provides.”

WQED laid off nine staff members in 2009, about a year before Acklin succeeded former President and CEO George L. Miles Jr., who served for 16 years.

The years leading up to Miles' retirement were some of the worst for nonprofits nationwide, said Peggy Outon, founding executive director of the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University.

In recession-torn 2008, “the bottom fell out,” Outon said.

Acklin said the nonprofit lost about $2 million from the state that year.

Both she and Miles took salary cuts worth a combined $200,000 in compensation and benefits, according to tax documents that nonprofits must file annually with the IRS.

Miles left in 2009. He made $271,040 in base pay and benefits, records show. Two years later, Acklin's base pay and benefits were $250,886, records show.

Outon said Acklin's six-figure salary is worth it.

“One of the things that cripples nonprofits is sacrificing too much on the side of the staff,” she said. “I do not believe in excessive compensation, but you have to pay for talent if you want to remain competitive.

“The key,” she said, “is making sure they earn it.”

Acklin compared the company's four content areas — television, radio, education and interactive — to a net. When one area lags financially, the others can supplement.

“Every (fundraising) year is completely different,” she said. “Orchestras in various communities are struggling. Certainly classical stations are going off the air in droves ... but guaranteeing a future for us is absolutely first and foremost in my mind.”

Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at 412-388-5815 or mharris@tribweb.com.

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