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Public station WQED cutting staff in face of financial woes

| Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, 4:50 p.m.

Pittsburgh public television and radio station WQED is laying off some workers, cutting some full-time employees to part time and chopping vacant positions as part of a reorganization starting Wednesday, the station said.

“Nonprofit organizations must adapt to change in the face of declining state and federal support and the lingering effects of the recession,” said Senior Director of Corporate Communications George Hazimanolis in a statement Tuesday. “The reorganization will bring expenses in line with projected revenue in the coming fiscal year.

“This minor reorganization is necessary for WQED to continue its educational mission to the community and allow the company to reinvest for future growth,” his statement said. He did not return phone or email messages.

Staff at WQED, which was founded in 1954 as the nation's first community-supported broadcaster and introduced programs such as “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood,” learned about the reorganization Tuesday, just before the public broadcaster's next fiscal year begins Wednesday.

CEO Deborah Acklin and Board Chair Debra Caplan could not be reached for comment. Acklin made about $245,000 in 2011, according to the station's IRS filings.

WQED-TV produces numerous Rick Sebak-hosted documentaries on local history and Americana, such as, “It's Pittsburgh and a Lot of Other Stuff.” Longtime WQED personality Chris Moore hosts programs including “Horizons,” formerly “Black Horizons,” a long-running program exploring Pittsburgh's ethnic and minority communities, and “4802,” a weekly news discussion panel.

In all, three full-time employees and one part-time employee were laid off; five full-time employees were reduced to part-time, and four unfilled jobs were eliminated.

In WQED's filings with the IRS for 2012, the most recent year available, the station reported having 184 employees. Its annual reports showed membership revenue dipped slightly from $4.96 million in 2012 to $4.92 million in 2013, and government funding decreased from $3.25 million in 2012 to $1.86 million in 2013. Foundation support went up only slightly in those two years.

The station's statement noted that federal support for public broadcasting remains uncertain, and funding for technology upgrades has been eliminated, as has state operating support.

Hazimanolis said viewers and listeners would not notice any difference in the WQED-TV and WQED-FM television and radio broadcasts, known for Pittsburgh-centered documentaries and classical music.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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