March 18 2013 12:00 AM

WKAR reporter one of several layoffs at MSU Broadcasting Services

Courtesy Photo
Wednesday, Aug. 17 — Rob South, a news reporter with WKAR Radio, was let go Monday in a round of budget cuts at MSU’s public television and radio organization, which may be as much as $800,000 in debt, according to sources.

Sources also said as many as 10 WKAR employees were laid off. South was apparently the only one in the news operation.

MSU declined to say today how many layoffs occurred Monday or give details on the station’s financial situation.

WKAR is part of Michigan State University’s Broadcasting Services, which joined MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences July 1 in a reorganization move.

“I’m optimistic about (WKAR’s) future, I’m optimistic about my future,” said South, who worked for WKAR full time for seven years. “I don’t have any hard feelings.”

South, 45, graduated from MSU in 1996 with a degree in telecommunications and worked for WKAR as a student. “My relationship with the station goes back quite a ways.” He will stay with the station until Sept. 30, he said.

MSU Broadcasting Services, which includes WKAR-TV and WKAR Radio, issued several layoff notices Monday, said Kirsten Khire, communications manager for CAS.

Khire said the layoffs are meant to “obviously improve the financial (standing) of MSU Broadcasting Services,” citing “very significant challenges.” She does not have details about who was laid off or how many, but said it was “several layoffs to face sizable budgetary challenges.” Khire said the layoffs were “across the organization of Broadcasting Services,” which could include WKAR’s radio and TV operations, Interactive Video Services, Radio Reading Services and WKAR Station Enterprises.

South said he understands “they have a tough budget situation to look at. I was one of the people they let go to help solve that budget problem.”

However, it is unclear how bad Broadcasting Services’ budget situation is. Rumors have surfaced that the budget deficit is at least $500,000. South and Khire declined to comment on budget specifics. Khire referred budget questions to Gary Reid, a longtime academic specialist in the communication college who was named acting director of Broadcasting Services on July 15. Reid, who is general manager of the student station The Impact (WDBM-FDM) at MSU, was not immediately available for comment.
Reid replaced DeAnne Hamilton, who ran WKAR for eight years. An MSU press release issued July 1 said she has been placed in charge of several projects, including one in the Residential College of Arts and Humanities.

As for joining CAS and how that will play into funding WKAR and other services: “We don’t know all of the answers to how that will evolve,” Khire said.

MSU Broadcasting Services joined MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences on July 1 to “be a melding of academic mission of university with goals of broadcasting services,” Khire said. WKAR is a public broadcasting station, which means at least a portion of its funding comes from donations.

“It’s a very, very, very difficult time,” Khire said. “We’re trying to ask for public support and understanding.”