WBEZ announced the layoffs of 12 employees and the termination of its production agreement with the weekly rock music talk show Sound Opinions, reported Robert Feder who had been covering the media beat in Chicago since 1980. The cuts came after WBEZ faced a 20% revenue decline in the wake of the COVID-19 shutdown.
Sound Opinions is hosted by Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot. The show is described on the WBEZ website as: Take two nationally respected rock critics, the latest music news, personal commentary, and exclusive interviews and performances, add a huge pile of records old and new, and the result is Sound Opinions.
On June 16, 2020, Greg Kot tweeted: “We at @soundopinions appreciate the messages of support we’ve gotten about today’s announcement. To be clear, while WBEZ will no longer produce the show, SO will continue independently and be heard on WBEZ & 150 stations in the U.S. as well as the podcast.”
Robert Feder posted the test of Chicago Public Media’s (CPC) statement on his website:
“The economic impact of COVID-19 has placed enormous pressure on the finances of many organizations, including Chicago Public Media. As a result, we are facing an overall revenue decline of 20 percent in the coming fiscal year, leaving a deficit four times larger than the deficit experienced during the 2008 financial crisis.
“Since then, we have worked proactively and collaboratively to implement a number of cost-savings measures, including a freeze on hiring for new positions, executive compensation reductions, a salary freeze, a temporary suspension of 403b company match, and a voluntary separation option, among many others.
“We also received PPP funding under the CARES Act and modest funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting from the recent emergency Congressional appropriation, both of which provided support for us in the immediate term and enabled us to avoid layoffs or furloughs for any staff members during these past few months.
“These steps, along with the generosity of members and donors, have gone a long way toward helping us lower our deficit, but they alone don’t fully address the historic challenges facing us. Therefore, we find ourselves in the unfortunate position of having to make additional reductions.
“Today we announced layoffs of 12 members of the Chicago Public Media team. In addition, we are also ending WBEZ’s production of Sound Opinions on August 28. Going forward, Sound Opinions will continue as an independent public radio show and podcast. It will continue to air on WBEZ, as well as on nearly 150 other public radio stations, with distribution via PRX.
“While these decisions are extremely difficult ones, we have worked hard to preserve the local journalism and programming investments that are so critical to our mission and to our community. As a result, we have not made any layoffs to our newsroom, programming or Vocalo teams. We remain committed to navigating these unprecedented challenges as responsibly as possible so that we may continue serving Chicagoans with the essential journalism and programming they need.”