WQED-FM trims staff, local programming

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Citing an increased challenge to finance 24/7 classical music on a public radio station, WQED Multimedia announced Wednesday it will be trimming locally hosted FM 89.3 weekday broadcasts and letting go two staff members.

"People who work at nonprofits are extraordinary," said Deb Acklin, president and CEO of WQED Multimedia. "There is real heart behind their work, and they choose to do this work knowing they're not going to get big raises and stock options and all the rest of that stuff. So it's a hard thing to say goodbye."

She said one of the unnamed staff members took a buyout, the other was laid off. Ms. Acklin said that before any decisions were made, a seven-month study -- as part of the overall company strategic plan -- was done to consider options. It also surveyed 1,600 people -- both WQED members and nonmembers -- and concluded listeners were adamant about maintaining a round-the-clock classical presence.

"We condensed a couple of back-office jobs, but we preserved the on-air experience," she said, adding that all of the on-air talent perform additional duties at the station.

"We wanted to guarantee a future for WQED-FM and if that meant we had to make some financial adjustments, we were willing to make them, as painful as that process is," Ms. Acklin said.

Changes beginning March 1 will clip at least two hours off the daily shows hosted by artistic director Jim Cunningham, Anna Singer and Ted Sohier.

Mr. Cunningham's "Morning Show" runs 6-11 a.m.; shortly it will end at 9 a.m. "Mid-day Classics" with Ms. Singer runs 11 a.m.-4 p.m. and will lose its last two hours. "Commuter Classics" with Mr. Sohier also will lose two hours at the back end and begin airing from 4-7 p.m.

Programming from Classical 24, a round-the-clock live streaming service with a lineup of national hosts, will fill in those gaps from 9-11 a.m., 2-4 p.m. and 7 p.m.-6 a.m. The service is produced by American Public Radio and distributed by Public Radio International. Some of its content, such as the late night Bob Christiansen show, already is in WQED-FM's lineup.

Mr. Cunningham, the station's senior executive producer, could not be reached for comment.

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