National Public Radio fired 84 employes yesterday.
Since March, NPR has cut its work force by 30 percent after attempts to fund a radical budget increase collapsed, leaving a deficit of almost $7 million.
Last October, the NPR payroll had 372 people, but grew to 459 by March of this year under expansion plans undertaken by former NPR president Frank Mankiewicz, who resigned earlier this month. Until yesterday, there had been 47 firings and eight resignations. Yesterday's numbers included 66 new firings, five resignations and 13 pending firings.
"I am personally and deeply saddened by this move and regret to see NPR lose outstanding and dedicated professionals. However, given the network's current fiscal crisis and the greatly restricted fiscal year 1984 funds, the board and management believe there is no other recourse at this time," said Ronald Bornstein, the acting chief operating officer.
Most seriously affected by yesterday's cuts were the news and information division, which lost 17 employes, including five reporters, and the performing arts division, which lost 17 employes following a 79 percent budget cut.
The firings included Frank Fitzmaurice, the executive producer of "Morning Edition," who joined NPR in 1976.
"When they asked me who should be in the pool of RIFs for 'Morning Edition,' I only gave them one name, mine. I felt it was the proper thing to do," said Fitzmaurice, whose programs have won numerous awards.
The news unit will close its bureau in Salt Lake City.
"You can't reduce your staff without having to affect the quality," said Barbara Cohen, the outgoing vice president of news and information. "The situation is very fluid, and if you talk to me next week I bet they will all be back. And if we could have $110,000, we could save some jobs."
The firings take effect in 20 days except for a 40-day period for the reporters.
Cohen, who is moving to NBC, will be replaced by Robert Siegel, currently a senior editor based in London, who will become the acting director of news and information on June 2.
Earlier this week the 17-member NPR board approved a $17.65 million budget for fiscal 1984, down from $26.6 million for fiscal 1983. NPR officials have steadily raised their estimates of the deficit from $2.8 million to $5.8 million and now to $7 million, after calculations of interest charges on a possible three-year bank loan to deal with the deficit.
The firings came at a time when the management has received offers of financial assistance from the staff, some of the member stations, and some businesses and foundations.
In the past three weeks, said Jane Couch, vice president for development, three foundations that had not granted money to NPR previously have given a total of $200,000. "I can't give you the foundation names," said Couch, adding that "in the last three days we have received $4,974 in checks from 130 people. We had one funder upgrade a contribution. We are receiving tremendous support."
Earlier this week management-level employes of the news department offered to take a 10 percent wage cut for the remainder of fiscal 1983 and in 1984 in order to save positions.
"Bornstein, in effect, said, 'We are taking a look at that,' " said Washington bureau chief John McChesney.
Jack Taub, the president of a telecommunications firm that formed a joint venture with NPR last year to send computerized data through the NPR satellite, offered to lend or guarantee a $1 million loan to Mankiewicz a few months ago. The project has received approval from the Federal Communications Commission and now awaits registration approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission. Taub said his offer was still good. "I have not talked directly to the new management, but I am not going to back away from my word."
Though some employes complained that the management seemed to be standing still on the outside offers, Jane Couch said, "I have had Ron Bornstein's full cooperation. We have had funders in here and he has made himself available on fairly short notice."
The committee set up by the NPR board to study fund-raising possibilities is meeting next week for two days in Dallas. They will consider a proposal by four member stations to do immediate on-the-air fund-raising.
Some NPR employes have questioned the participation of Henry Goldberg, who worked in the Nixon White House's Office of Telecommunications, and who has been retained as a lawyer for the new management. At that time the administration strongly criticized public broadcasting, pressured funding sources not to support anti-administration programming, and strove to decentralize control of public broadcasting. "Minimally it's a poor choice, given his history," said one employe.
The staff reductions and the new budget for news and information of $4.5 million would keep at their current lengths the two award-winning news shows, "All Things Considered," and "Morning Edition," as well as the weekend version of "All Things Considered."
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, a union representing many NPR employes, met with Bornstein to ask for guarantees that the AFTRA members riffed would have right of first refusal on jobs that might be restored, and also asked that any money from union members' salary concessions be applied to programming.