Management at WPRI, the local CBS affiliate, has told newsroom staff that there will be no layoffs at the station in the short-term. But the station, in a recent staff meeting, did announce a voluntary furlough program and would not rule out job-cutting later in the year.
The station, owned by LIN TV in East Providence, has shed some news staff in the last year. But the station has fared better in that regard than its chief competitors, ratings leader WJAR (NBC affiliate) and third-place station WLNE (ABC affiliate).
Indeed, WPRI management - which has long struggled to catch up to WJAR - sees an opportunity to take on the top dog during tough times.
There had been some nail-biting in the WPRI newsroom in recent weeks after LIN suggested, in a regulatory filing last month, that it would be pursuing more layoffs and cost-cutting measures in the midst of a brutal economic climate for local television.
Local television relies heavily on automotive advertising and that sector has been particularly hard-hit in the downturn. CBS Television Distribution filed a $5 million lawsuit against WLNE's ownership last week for failure to pay for syndicated programming like Dr. Phil and Entertainment Tonight.
A WPRI source says the voluntary furlough program allows employees to take one to 14 unpaid days.