In a corporate move to reorganize its Central Coast television stations, Cowles California Media Company on Wednesday laid off approximately a dozen employees from its two Santa Maria stations.

The action will take effect Jan. 13, and move the anchor desk of local evening news at both KCOY and KKFX to the company's KION headquarters in Salinas.

Kevin Harlan, general manager of the two stations, said the move was purely a business decision in tough economic times.

"We did lay off people yesterday. The economics of the television business have changed," said Harlan, who has been with the company for about three years. "We continue to pick up market share, but the market is getting smaller."

Cowles California Media Company owns CBS and Fox affiliate stations in both Santa Maria and Santa Cruz, T23 Telemundo and the Central Coast CW (NION-TV), also both in the Monterey Bay area.

The company is a division of The Cowles Company, based in Spokane, Wash. which runs three NBC affiliates.

Calls to Cowles California Media Company were met with a busy signal Thursday.

Harlan wouldn't comment on which employees were laid off, but according to multiple sources all of the stations' photographers, much of the production staff and some senior management were among those let go.

Meteorologist Jim Byrne and weekend sports anchor Kevin Roose have also been laid off.

Harlan said despite the layoffs, local news will continue to be covered, and compared the reorganization to watching national news, which covers the country but is anchored in New York.

"The good news is, we'll have more reporters on the street for our evening newscast, but they'll be anchored out of our Monterey (County) station," he said.

Current sports editor Dave Alley reportedly will be assigned to general news stories.

The stations will still air local news broadcasts at 5, 6 and 11 p.m. on KCOY, and 7 and 10 p.m. on Fox 11. Harlan said the 10 p.m. Fox 11 news is being expanded from 30 minutes to a one-hour broadcast.

The company's morning newscast, anchored by Tony Cipolla and Cassandra Jones, will still be hosted locally from 6 to 7 a.m. on KCOY - a reduction of an hour - and 7 to 8 a.m. on Fox 11.

"What we're trying to do is economize but still give the community the news it needs," Harlan said. "We will cover sports; we will just not have a dedicated sports segment."

The move signals the end of an era at KCOY. The station was founded in 1964 by a group of Santa Maria residents seeking local television news production, including former city Mayor Ed Zuchelli.

Both stations are actively involved in community activities including holiday food and toy drives. KCOY also broadcasts many local events including the Elks Rodeo Parade and Christmas Parade of Lights. Harlan said that community involvement would continue.



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