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Financially troubled KCET axes 22 workers in 'reorganization'

April 19, 2013|By Scott Collins
  • KCETLink Chief Executive Al Jerome says the station is facing "challenging" times.
KCETLink Chief Executive Al Jerome says the station is facing "challenging"… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

Times are tough for KCET-TV.

The former PBS outlet announced Friday that it would lay off 22 employees, or nearly one-fifth of its staff, as it completes a merger with the Bay Area satellite provider Link Media.

Now called KCETLink, the Burbank-based nonprofit entity is scrambling to reposition itself as a "transmedia" company that provides content to mobile devices and other platforms as well as televisions. The company has hired a well known PR firm, Rogers & Cowan, to help manage its image during the transition. 

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The harsh belt-tightening has been dictated by poor financial results. According to the most recent audited statements, KCET lost $7.4 million during the fiscal year ending June 2012 and had only about $80,000 cash on hand. The station finished the previous year with $1.5 million in cash in the bank.

"These are challenging and transformational times that require us to make difficult financial and operational decisions for the continued health of the organization in order to create a public media organization that can grow in the 21st century," Al Jerome, KCETLink's chief executive, wrote in a statement.

KCET left PBS in a storm of controversy in 2010 after battling the network over dues and other issues. Since then, the station has struggled to regain its footing as pledges and ratings have plummeted.

Among those let go, sources said, was Bret Marcus, a longtime KCET executive who, among other things, helped oversee the newsmagazine "SoCal Connected." A KCET spokeswoman declined to confirm Marcus' departure, but if true, it likely means the end of the acclaimed program.

But one thing will not change. The spokeswoman said the station did not plan any salary rollbacks for Jerome or other top executives.

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Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT

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