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50 Employees Fired in KABC-TV Budget Move

Times Staff Writer

As many as 50 employees of Los Angeles television station KABC-TV have been fired, apparently as part of a series of budget-cutting moves at ABC-owned stations nationwide by the network’s new owners, Capital Cities Communications.

Employees at the Los Angeles station said as many as 80 to 100 people may be let go from the staff of 350 before the wave of firings is completed.

“It was like a funeral,” said Channel 7 art director Al Medoro, who lost his job Friday after 23 years with the station. “People were so depressed they just sat there. It’s still hard to believe.”

Station sources said the cutbacks were accompanied by firings at other ABC-run stations around the country, including New York, Chicago and San Francisco. In San Francisco, where 23 employees were dropped, station Vice President Len Spagnoletti said: “It has not been a good day. No fun at all.”

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At KABC-TV, neither Vice President and General Manager John Severino nor other officials could be reached for comment. But one staff member said a high-ranking station executive told several employees: “This is the worst day of my life.” Officials at New York-based ABC News also were unavailable for comment.

No estimate was available of the number of employees nationwide who were terminated in the most recent wave of staff cuts. However, Capital Cities, which bought ABC last year for more than $3.5 billion, had dismissed more than 300 employees earlier. Most of those employees worked for the network itself.

Station sources said rumors about impending layoffs at KABC-TV had been heard for weeks. “There was a lot of speculation that they were planning to lay us off around Valentine’s Day,” one employee said. “But I guess the potential bad press of a St. Valentine’s Day Massacre stalled them for awhile.”

While the staff waited for definitive news, station management already began cutting back on budgets. “Everything was questioned,” a staffer said. “They even sent out a memo telling everybody to turn off their TV sets and electric typewriters before they left for the day so the station would save more money.”

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On Friday morning, the station’s executives began calling employees into private conferences to notify them of the firings. Medoro said the station’s graphic arts department was cut from 17 to six people. Other staffers said the creative services department was cut from 14 to 7 employees. And the news department laid off as many as 15 staffers, including veteran news reporter Inez Pedroza.

According to Medoro, most fired employees were given two weeks’ notice and some were told that the station would provide job counseling.

“The younger people can go out and hustle up new jobs,” one staffer said. “The people who are really hurting are the older employees who hadn’t been around long enough to qualify for pensions or retirement.”

Such was the case for Medoro, who was seven months short of a full pension. “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said. “I haven’t prepared a resume in years.”

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