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CBS reduces news staffs at affiliate stations

The CBS local news in major U.S. markets is getting a face lift.The New York-based broadcast and radio company said it has made a series of high-profile layoffs at stations it owns in cities that include Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Boston.The cuts include well-known local anchors and reporters whose faces adorned billboards around their respective cities. Many earned seven-fi
/ Source: The Associated Press

The CBS local news in major U.S. markets is getting a face lift.

The New York-based broadcast and radio company said it has made a series of high-profile layoffs at stations it owns in cities that include Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Boston.

The cuts include well-known local anchors and reporters whose faces adorned billboards around their respective cities. Many earned seven-figure salaries, making them among the highest-paid employees.

With CBS trailing its rivals in the ratings and revenue growth slowing, the changes are a logical consequence of the rapidly changing media landscape, analysts say.

“CBS may be giving up the face of the station, but that’s easy to do when the face of the station isn’t doing anything for them,” said Terry Heaton, head of the broadcast consulting firm Audience Research and Development.

CBS News, which is run separately from the company-owned local stations, also confirmed job reductions Wednesday, saying it would shed about 1 percent of its 1,500 employees. The company’s evening newscast with Katie Couric ranks last among the network news shows.

“We are trying to do our best to manage changes in technology and newsgathering, and trying to determine how to utilize our staff as best we can,” CBS News spokeswoman Sandy Genelius said.

The cuts come amid a rash of cost-reducing moves at media companies around the country as they cope with a decline in advertising revenue. Ad spending is shifting to the Internet, where consumers get their news and information from a variety of far-flung sources.

In February, CBS reported a 15 percent drop in fourth-quarter profit, as revenue fell 3 percent. Earnings from television fell 6 percent and revenue dropped 4 percent.

Heaton said local news programs are still profitable in most cities, but that earnings have been declining in recent years.

At CBS local stations, the highest-profile cut came in Chicago, where WBBM-TV fired anchor Diann Burns, who earned about $2 million a year. Burns, whose contract ran into the fall, made her last appearance on the air Monday, said a CBS employee familiar with the situation, but who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose details.

WBBM also dispatched lead sportscaster Mark Malone and about 15 other people who worked both on and off the air.

The CBS source said staff reductions at the affected stations amount to no more than 1 percent of total staff at any one station.

Mike Nelson, vice president of communications at CBS Television Stations, said he could not comment on personnel decisions.

In Los Angeles, longtime anchors Ann Martin and Harold Greene will leave CBS stations KCAL-TV and KCBS-TV when their contracts expire in May. Others, including reporters Jennifer Sabih and Jennifer Davis, were laid off Monday.

WCBS-TV in New York laid off correspondents Andrew Kirtzman and Scott Weinberger, along with about 10 employees. KPIX-TV in San Francisco got rid of five well-known reporters. Boston’s WBZ-TV shed nearly 20.

CBS shares fell 12 cents to $22.74 in afternoon trading.