Citing the lingering recession in California and declining advertising revenues, KTLA-TV Channel 5, the top-rated independent television station in Los Angeles, laid off 12 employees this week and told six others that their jobs would be eliminated by the end of the year.
Similar cutbacks, including the planned layoffs of 21 full- and part-time employees, were announced by KDOC-TV, Orange County's only commercial television station.
At KTLA, Greg Nathanson, general manager at the Tribune Broadcasting-owned station, explained that revenues had slipped in Los Angeles for the second consecutive year and that he did not see the situation improving in the immediate future.
"It's completely recession-driven and we're probably the last station to go through these layoffs," he said. "The hope was that we could tread water, maintain our ratings and get through the recession, but it's lasting longer than we anticipated.
"Our ratings are higher than they have ever been," Nathanson continued, "but the revenue pie is smaller. Because business is slow for many industries in this area, the available advertising dollars have shrunk and some of that is now going to cable. So we have more competitors and there is less total money to go around."
The pink slips at KTLA were handed out in every department, but no on-air personalities were affected and only one news employee was laid off. Hardest hit were the station's advertising and promotional departments, where the cutbacks cost longtime publicist and station spokesman Ed Harrison his job.
Nathanson added, however, that the station might expand the news department in the coming months as it prepares to debut a 9 a.m. magazine spinoff from its morning news program.
In Orange County, meanwhile, KDOC-TV Channel 56 said it is going to eliminate its local news operation, shut down its production studio and fold its afternoon music video program at the end of the month, due in part to a downturn in advertising revenues. The move will result in layoffs for 11 full-time and 10 part-time employees.
Wally George's nationally syndicated talk show, "Hot Seat," will continue to air on KDOC on Saturday nights but will be taped at another studio.