CBS Plans to Cut Work Force at Broadcast Unit : Hundreds of Jobs Will Be Slashed in Bid to Trim Costs, Boost Productivity

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Times Staff Writer

CBS officials said Tuesday that the network will cut hundreds of jobs at its 8,100-employee broadcast group this year in an attempt to reduce costs and increase productivity.

The staff reductions will be made throughout the broadcast unit but may be felt most heavily in such support operations as publicity, personnel, research and finance, the network said.

“When inflation is lower, consumer product advertisers are reluctant to increase prices and expand their advertising budgets,” said George F. Schweitzer, a vice president of the broadcast unit. “That’s a reality we’ve got to recognize.”


Schweitzer said recommendations of the cutbacks will be made by June, with the changes being implemented throughout 1986 by layoffs and leaving vacant jobs unfilled.

Decline in Earnings

The broadcast group’s pretax operating earnings declined 12% last year to $360.6 million from $408.6 million in 1984. Adding to the financial pressures facing the network is the debt that it took on in last year’s effort to repulse a takeover attempt by broadcast entrepreneur Ted Turner.

The announcement comes as ABC continues to undergo a major round of cost cutting in the aftermath of its purchase by Capital Cities Communications. ABC News laid off 70 employees last month, and network affiliate stations around the country have let dozens go.

Some analysts expect that NBC will feel the cost cutter’s knife as well this fall, after General Electric completes the acquisition of RCA Corp., NBC’s parent. However, NBC may feel less pressure to reduce overhead in light of its leadership in the ratings, according to analyst Fred Anschel of the Dean Witter Reynolds brokerage in New York.

The overall CBS work force is down from a peak of 8,500 two years ago, Schweitzer said.

As they consider staff reductions, CBS units are also evaluating various other possible cost-reduction measures, such as a proposal to sell and then lease back the expensive broadcast operations trucks that are used to produce sport events.

The quality of CBS’ programs will not be affected by the cuts, Schweitzer said, noting that the network has ordered a record 31 entertainment pilots as possible 1986-87 series.


CBS cut about 120 positions from its news division last fall, and CBS News is not expected to undergo further personnel reductions, the network said. However, the money-losing “Nightwatch” late-night news program may be discontinued, officials said.

In addition, CBS might make cuts in its program practices department, the unit that checks scripts to ensure that they meet network standards.

“There are clearly some shows, like ‘Bob Newhart’ and ‘Murder She Wrote,’ where the chances of there being any problem with language or violence or taste isn’t likely,” Schweitzer said. “Maybe we can tighten up there.”