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BET pinkslips 50 in consolidation move

P'gramming, PR, marketing, admin are hardest hit

NEW YORK — Black Entertainment Television has laid off approximately 50 staffers in the cable net’s Washington, D.C., New York and Los Angeles offices.

BET officials wouldn’t confirm the number, but chief operating officer Debra Lee said the cuts represent less than 15% of the 450-member workforce. The cabler, which Viacom acquired for $3 billion last November, is trying to eliminate staffing redundancies.

“We saw areas where we could cut back. When you’re part of a bigger family, there are some things you don’t have to do by yourself anymore,” said Lee, who emphasized that the cuts weren’t mandated by Viacom.

Lee said that the programming, public relations, marketing and administration departments were the hardest hit. There are no further cuts planned, and sources said some departments are even adding employees.

In an internal memo to staffers, Lee assured them that BET’s plan “calls for severance packages, benefits extensions, outplacement service and other assistance, including opportunities to pursue positions elsewhere among Viacom companies.”

(Jill Goldsmith in New York contributed to this report.)

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