EXCLUSIVE: Once again Sesame Workshop is handing out pink slips. Around 30 employees at the producers of Sesame Street were let go today. This comes just more than a year after a dozen employees were shown the door at the non-profit last May. “We at Sesame Workshop are not immune to the challenges of today’s economic environment. After careful review, we have concluded that we must operate, and achieve our strategic priorities with fewer resources. Therefore, we have reluctantly determined that we must reduce our workforce by approximately 10%,” said CEO H. Melvin Ming in a note sent to staff this afternoon. Among those who have been let go are former Newsweek Inc CEO and Nickelodeon executive Tom Ascheim, who joined the company in March 2012 as EVP of the Sesame Learning program. Sesame Learning will be absorbed into other divisions of the company, Ming said today. The CEO also announced that the Corporate Strategy and the Business Systems Programming groups will be dissolved as of July 1st. Sesame Workshop’s Global Education department will also be melded into other units.
UPDATED: Sesame Street producer Sesame Workshop made it official on its blog this morning as a lawsuit was being filed in New York federal court charging Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash with sexual abuse of a minor, according to the Associated Press. The suit — which alleges that Cecil Singleton, then 15 and now an adult, was persuaded by Clash to meet for sexual encounters — marks the second accuser to come forward and allege an underage relationship with the multiple Emmy winner, who has been on the PBS series since 1982. Earlier this month, an unidentified man said he had a sexual relationship with Clash beginning when the man was 16. Clash took a leave of absence after those allegations were made public, but his accuser the next day took back his story, claiming the relationship was adult and consensual, and Clash said he was “relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest”. Here’s Sesame Workshop’s statement today announcing Clash’s departure:
The unidentified man who said longtime Sesame Street puppeteer Kevin Clash had a sexual relationship with him while he was underage has taken back his story. Through a release from his Pennsylvania law firm, the man said today that his relationship with Clash, was both adult and consensual. The revelation comes a day after Clash, who has voiced and operated Sesame Street‘s signature monster Elmo for 27 years, was granted a leave of absence by the show’s producer Sesame Workshop when the allegations came to light. Sesame Workshop said it was approached by a 23-year-old man in June who alleged that he had a relationship with Clash beginning when he was 16. The company met with the accuser twice and also met with Clash, who denied the accusation. “We also conducted a thorough investigation and found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated,” the company said yesterday. Sesame Workshop said it granted the leave so Clash could “protect his reputation” against what he described as “false and defamatory” accusations. Today, Clash issued a statement saying he is “relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest.” There was no indication of when Clash would return to the show, his home since 1984.
The U.S. has halted funding for a Pakistani version of Sesame Street amid allegations of financial mismanagement by a local organization that co-developed the project. U.S. Embassy spokesman Robert Raines said the U.S. Agency for International Development terminated funding for the program but declined to provide further details, the Associated Press reports. The show was jointly developed by the Rafi Peer Theater Workshop in Pakistan and Sesame Workshop, creator of the American series. The show, which included Elmo and several new Pakistani characters, was aimed at improving education in the country and increasing tolerance. The Pakistan Today newspaper reported there were “severe” financial irregularities at Rafi Peer, citing unnamed sources close to the project, according to the AP. The show’s stars include 6-year-old Rani, who loves cricket and Pakistani music, and her 5-year-old sidekick Munna. Other characters include a singing donkey named Baily and Haseen O Jameel, a crocodile who lives at the bottom of a well. Rafi Peer is seeking alternative funding to continue the project.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Related: Pink Slips at Sesame Workshop
EXCLUSIVE: About a dozen people were laid off today at Sesame Workshop, producers of Sesame Street. The job cuts were at the company’s main New York offices as it “shifted some resources to better align with our strategic priorities and new opportunities,” a company spokesperson told Deadline. So far the big cuts have been in the Digital Media department. In 2009, Sesame Workshop laid off more than 60 of its then 355 employees as the company was hit hard by a fall-off in donations and licensing revenue from the bad economy. H. Melvin Ming took over as Sesame Workshop president and CEO when Gary Knell moved on to become CEO of NPR. Ming had been COO. Sesame Street first debuted in 1969. The nonprofit Sesame Workshop produces programming for more than 150 countries worldwide.