Did CBS News’ top earners do enough to prevent layoffs?

HuffPost and New York magazine contributor Yashar Ali took to Twitter calling out CBS News executives and top tier talent for not making “sacrifices” to save jobs.

Ali noted that at least some other news executives at other networks have taken pay cuts and also linked to a 2016 story about Katie Couric taking a $1 million reduction in pay to save jobs within the news division.

Ali also noted that he couldn’t find any announcements that CBS News president Susan Zirinsky or other news execs have taken pay cuts.

However, it’s possible that some or all of them have taken pay cuts but it was not announced.

Ali continue by writing that most top on air talent at networks have contracts that would prevent non-voluntary salary reductions, but continued by asking “have any of them given up to save jobs? Doesn’t seem like it…”

Again, however, it’s not necessarily as clear cut as that because any staffer could have volunteered to take a voluntary pay cut but asked it not be announced.

In fact, the article Ali links to points out that Couric asked that there be “no public or private acknowledgment” of her pay cut — and it didn’t become widely known until about seven years after the fact.

Big name talent also frequently have deals that would require the network pay out the entire or most of the value remaining on their contracts if they are let go without cause, so these types of situations could not result in significant savings unless the soon to be unemployed staffer volunteered to take a reduction.

The matter is no doubt a sticky situation — on one hand you’re asking some of the top earners in an organization to reduce their income under the theory that the can afford to make such sacrifices and still have a health income.

In theory, that then means that staffers earning less money and therefore have less financial security don’t have to take as big of a cut (or any).

All that said, the ViacomCBS merger in late 2019 was billed as bringing $750 million in cost savings by reducing headcount and duplicative operations.

CBS acknowledged that these layoffs were both planned cuts as a result of the merger and ones related to the downturn coronavirus has triggered, so the broader issue of massive corporate mergers and their affect on staff also comes into play.