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The new owners of KTVX-Channel 4 and KUCW-Ch. 30 are making significant cuts to the staff of the Salt Lake TV stations.

Brian Jones, co-COO and executive vice president of Nexstar Broadcasting Group, didn't provide specifics about which staff members or how many were laid off, except to confirm that he will be hiring a new station manager to replace Matt Jaquint.

"This is a reduction in force we're making here," he said. "We're going to operate the station at the highest level, and we will move forward."

Industry sources indicate at least 15 staffers are losing their jobs. "That's probably a good guess," said Dan Metcalf, KTVX's now-former film critic and executive producer of online media. "I was No. 5 this morning, and there were others behind me."

Also on Tuesday, longtime reporter Chris Vanocur's KTVX Twitter account was shut down. He didn't return calls by the Tribune's deadline.

Nexstar, which recently acquired the Utah stations (along with eight others) from Newport Television, is known for cost-cutting. It's regular procedure for the company, which owns 58 stations and manages 23 others, to centralize business functions at regional hubs. "That is absolutely correct," Jones said. "We have established certain ways to run operations in similarly sized markets. And we're putting together our budget for 2013."

The KTVX/KUCW accounting, research and traffic (program and commercial scheduling) departments are being eliminated; those functions will be handled at other Nexstar sites.

"They always have a strategic plan in mind," said Steve Carlston, president and general manager of KNBC in Los Angeles (and a former general manager at both KUTV-Channel 2 and KSTU-Channel 13). "They have a plan."

Ironically, Nexstar managed KUTV when Channel 2 went through several rounds of layoffs in the past few years. That station has since been sold to Sinclair Broadcasting.

The timing of the layoffs — some coming this week before Christmas; others effective in January — left employees stunned.

"I said, 'I'd like you to tell me what to tell my wife and kids the week before Christmas now that I don't have a job,'" Metcalf said.

KTVX has struggled in the ratings for years and has cemented a position in fourth place in the late news ratings. In the recently completed November sweeps, Channel 4 averaged a 4.3 rating, trailing Channel 2 (12.7), KSL-Channel 5 (6.8) and KSTU-Channel 13 (5.9).