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FamilyNet staff reduction among steps toward financial viability

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–The Southern Baptist North American Mission Board has announced a staff reduction and other measures to strengthen the financial viability of its FamilyNet broadcasting network.

According to Randy Singer, special assistant to the president of NAMB, 19 FamilyNet staff members at the network’s studios in Fort Worth, Texas, were notified Sept. 9 that their positions have been eliminated. Reductions also are being made in the network’s use of freelance and temporary staff.

Responsibilities of the affected positions will be re-assigned to remaining staff, transferred to NAMB staff in Alpharetta, Ga., or eliminated altogether. Affected staff will be provided with a severance package based on prior responsibilities and length of service, Singer said.

FamilyNet is a 24-hour television network airing more than 50 hours of original, values-based programs weekly to a potential audience of more than 32 million households. It is a nonprofit subsidiary of NAMB, an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention.

NAMB announced a reorganization of the network nearly two years ago intended to allow FamilyNet to be more independent of NAMB’s organizational structure and more accountable for its own success. Board officials committed to a $9 million subsidy of the broadcasting system toward the network being self-sustaining within three years.

“Under [FamilyNet chief executive officer] Bob Sutton’s dedicated leadership, the FamilyNet staff has made dramatic advances this past year in programming and increasing cable subscribing homes, but the projected advertising revenues have not kept up with expenses,” Singer said. “NAMB cannot provide additional help to FamilyNet beyond the amounts specified in the three-year business plan at a time when NAMB is unable to fill missionary positions in the field. As a result, it was necessary to reduce expenses for FamilyNet for the remainder of 2004 and into 2005, resulting in a sound financial basis from which to expand. These difficult changes will help FamilyNet be in the black financially next year for the first time in its history.”

In the last year, FamilyNet has added a new lineup of worldview programming, including a daily news broadcast strengthened by an alliance with FOX News through NewsEdge, their news service. FamilyNet News covered the Southern Baptist Convention and both national political conventions, and FamilyNet has agreements to carry programming originated by Focus on the Family and Janet Parshall. The network regularly announces additions to the list of cities where cable outlets carry FamilyNet, most recently Charlotte, N.C., Nashville, Tenn., Jacksonville, Fla. and Houston, Texas.

“The financial cuts we have implemented will result in a very lean network, but one that will be able to live within its revenues and have the opportunity to expand both distribution and programming as revenues grow,” Singer said.

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