Web-wide hiring freeze chills ABC

It’s going to be a cold, cold winter at the Alphabet web: ABC has slapped down a network-wide hiring freeze, according to company sources.

The freeze comes on the heels of the network’s voluntary buyout offer last month to its non-union personnel, a little more than half of its 5,000 employees.

The parameters of the freeze for the news division are outlined in a memo dated Dec. 16 and sent to ABC News department heads by ABC News director of administration Winifred Rowe.

“Please be advised that as of Monday, Dec. 14, 1992, there is a job freeze,” the memo states. “You may fill no position unless it has been posted and a salary for the candidate has been approved. If that has not already happened you may not offer any position to any candidate.”

The memo further advised department heads, “Any open position that you expect to refill, but for which we have not received an approved salary, is no longer open for filling. For a position to be replaced, we must now have it approved by (outgoing ABC TV Network Group prez) John Sias or (his successor) Bob Iger.”

An ABC spokeswoman declined to comment on the report or on any aspect of the hiring freeze.

Inside the company, staffers noted that ABC’s weekly job postings haven’t listed any network positions since Dec. 14.

The hiring freeze is part of an overall blueprint to downsize the web in the face of flat revenue projections for 1993 despite the prime time success ABC has enjoyed so far this season, including a surprise win in the November sweeps.

Web insiders say parent company Capital Cities/ABC is looking to eventually reduce staff by as much as 15% through buyouts, attrition and layoffs.

According to ABC sources, the memo that went out on the buyouts made clear that there would be personnel cuts beyond the buyouts.

“ABC has got a hiring freeze on, even though in some areas they’re already cut pretty close to the bone,” said Paine Webber media maven Chris Dixon. “I think you’ll see the biggest cuts in middle management in the program development areas.”

News of the downsizing of the web’s work force has played well on Wall Street. Since word began to get out in mid-December, CapCities’ stock has increased almost 10%, closing Dec. 31 at $ 507.75. The cuts also have helped fuel speculation that the company may be targeting a major acquisition, merger or even a sale.

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