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CBS May Close 4 Bureaus to Curb News-Gathering Costs

April 03, 1991|JANE HALL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — In an effort to cut its news-gathering costs, CBS is considering closing either its Dallas or Atlanta bureau, along with foreign bureaus in Rome, Beijing and Johannesburg, CBS sources said Tuesday.

The proposed cutbacks, which were due to be presented on Tuesday to CBS Inc. Chairman Laurence Tisch, are part of a companywide cost-cutting plan in which more than 400 employees are expected to be laid off over the next several months.

CBS News is targeting a 10% cut in its annual budget of $350 million and is expected to lay off about 100 of its 1,050 employees. Some of the layoffs could begin as early as the end of this week.

All three broadcast networks are facing cutbacks due to the recession and the costs of covering the Persian Gulf War. But CBS appears to be suffering the worst: Besides running third in the prime-time ratings, it is anticipating huge losses from its multiyear Major League Baseball contract. According to executives at CBS, the network's overall financial loss this year could reach $300 million.

The Atlanta and Dallas bureaus of CBS News each employ about 15 people, including several correspondents, producers and camera crews. According to sources, the plan in either city would be to keep a correspondent and producer on staff while shutting down the bureau facilities and laying off other employees. The correspondents would work out of their homes or in office space at local CBS affiliates.

ABC shut down its Dallas bureau last year while keeping a correspondent there working out of his home. Closing either Dallas or Atlanta would leave CBS News with five bureaus across the United States. ABC and NBC each have nine domestic bureaus, although NBC is closing its San Francisco bureau June 1.

The Johannesburg bureau employs about 15 people, including correspondents, staff and crew. The Rome bureau includes about 10 people, while Beijing is said to employ between five and 10 people. John Sheahan, the Beijing correspondent, already has been notified that his contract is not being renewed.

Network executives hope to keep a camera person on staff in Beijing. In Rome and Johannesburg, sources said, correspondents might be asked to work out of their homes while other employees there are laid off.

In addition to the cutbacks in its bureaus, CBS News is said to be considering layoffs on several news programs that would total about 45 employees, with "CBS This Morning" likely to take the heaviest hit. There also may be some trimming in the Washington bureau.

CBS executives could not be reached for comment on the proposed cutbacks, and a spokeswoman for CBS Inc. said that the network would have no comment on plans for layoffs in any of its divisions.

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