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Shop steward: Yle lay-offs "just the start"

The Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle) announced on Thursday that it plans to cut more than a third of current staff in its production unit. That will free up resources to spend more on outside acquisitions, which is a key goal of a parliamentary report published earlier this year. Employee representatives say that these lay-offs are only the beginning of an extended period of change for the company.

Ylen pääluottamusmies Pike Epstein.
Yle's Head Shop Steward Pike Epstein Image: Yle

Yleisradio faces a big shake-up following the announcement on Thursday of plans to cut some 161 jobs from the company's production unit. That represents a 35 percent reduction to the 461-person unit which employs camera operators, video editors, set designers and wardrobe staff for the company's own productions.

The plan is an attempt to meet the goals of a parliamentary working group which reported in the summer with two key recommendations: a budget freeze and an order to buy in more services and production from outside the company.

Reconciling those two goals is a tricky balancing act, and yesterday Yle's managers announced how they plan to achieve it: cutting back on staff directly employed by the company.

Purchasing duty

"We have a sizeable duty to commission programmes from outside, and so that there's space to do that, our own capacity has to reduce," said Yle Director General Lauri Kivinen.

In addition to that, the firm wants to shift more of its budget from old to new media to meet the challenge of a changing media environment. Some 20 percent of Yle's resources will over the next five years be directed towards new ways of delivering content. Some programmes will be cancelled, but the firm will focus on some key areas.

"Children's and young people's programmes, news and drama will see a lot of investment in the near future," said Kivinen.

"Different working groups have sat and considered what kind of Yle Finland wants," said Epstein. "We have to put those groups' decisions into effect. And of course our environment, technology and the media sector change so fast that if you don't manage to change in a big way, then you fall behind."

"Unbelievable"

Shop Steward Pike Epstein says that it's a big cut--and she expects other departments to face similar cutbacks soon.

"There was a funereal atmosphere in the auditorium (when the plan was announced), pretty grim expressions," said Epstein. "It's a very big cut. This is just the start, next there will be new waves elsewhere in the company."

"This is unbelievable," continued Epstein. "Yle's operations can't be cut back this much."

Yle's headcount is currently around 3,000. That's a big reduction from 1990, when the company employed some 4,800 people.

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