ABC News President David Westin on Anchor Salaries, and Possible Cuts at the Executive Level


On Tuesday afternoon, ABC News executives informed their staff that the division will be undergoing a major transformation. Mass buyouts will be offered. And several hundred staff members (up to perhaps one-quarter of the 1200 to 1400 total individuals in the division) are expected to lose their jobs.

In the wake of grim news in the TV news business, one question inevitably rises–will there be any reduction in the network anchors’ sky-high salaries?

In a telephone interview with Mr. Westin on Tuesday afternoon, we raised the issue of anchor salaries and whether or not the top contracts were sustainable moving forward.

“I’m never going to talk about any individuals’ salaries, because it wouldn’t be fair,” said Mr. Westin. “But I can tell you without reservation, we’ve been addressing that for a few years now, quietly behind the scenes. The economic reality has effected everyone’s compensation.”

The Observer has heard plenty of speculation in recent weeks that George Stephanopoulos got a big bump in pay when he agreed to leave This Week to become the lead anchor on Good Morning America. Did Mr. Stephanopoulos, in fact, get a significant raise at a time when many of his colleagues were on the verge of losing their jobs?

“I don’t want to talk about individual people’s salaries,” said Mr. Westin. “I’ll talk about job positions. Different positions pay different amounts of money. I think the relevant comparison is, what does that position pay as opposed to what it used to pay?”

“But believe me if you did a comparison–and I’m afraid we’re not going to give you this–but if you did a comparison position by position of all our on air talent and executive producers, you would see reductions pretty much across the board,” he added. “But that’s been done quietly and in the background over a period of years.”

Finally, we were curious about the degree to which the looming cuts would impact ABC News executives. In the weeks to come, would ABC News executives be subjected to the same hardships as the rank and file?

“There’s not any part of the organization that will not be revised,” said Mr. Westin. “I don’t want to go into details, but nobody is exempt here.”