Some on-camera meteorologists also let go
* New (11/24) commentary: Weather Channel Cuts Earn Mixed Reviews *
NBC Universal made the first of potentially several rounds of staffing cuts at The Weather Channel (TWC) on Wednesday, axing the entire staff of the "Forecast Earth" environmental program during the middle of NBC's "Green Week," as well as several on-camera meteorologists. The layoffs totaled about 10 percent of the workforce, and are among the first major changes made since NBC completed its purchase of the venerable weather network in September.
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The layoffs affected about 80 people, but left the long-term leadership of the network unclear, according to a source who requested anonymity due to the continuing uncertainty at the station.
Among the meteorologists who was let go was Dave Schwartz, a Weather Channel veteran and a viewer staple due to his lively on camera presentations. USA Today reported that meteorologists Cheryl Lemke and Eboni Deon were also let go.
The timing of the Forecast Earth cancellation was ironic, since it came in the middle of NBC's "Green Week," during which the network has been touting its environmental coverage across all of its platforms. Forecast Earth normally aired on weekends, but its presumed last episode was shown on a weekday due to the environmentally-oriented week.
Forecast Earth was hosted by former CNN anchor Natalie Allen, with contributions from climate expert Heidi Cullen. It was the sole program on TWC that focused on global climate change, which raises the question of whether the station will still report on the subject. Cullen's future role at the network is not known.
NBC released the following statement in response to questions about the firings:
The economic realities of recent months have created challenges for everyone in our business. In addition, when NBC Universal purchased the Weather Channel earlier this year, we expected that there would be cost synergies as part of a company reorganization. While it is always difficult to lose valued employees, we are doing our best to minimize the impact, and remain committed to providing the highest quality content that our viewers have come to expect from the Weather Channel.