More job cuts for News Corp and ABC in South Australia

Redundancies are looming at the ABC in Adelaide and a new round of job cuts is underway at News Corp’s local operations.

Jun 10, 2020, updated Jun 10, 2020
Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

News Corp, publisher of The Advertiser, Sunday Mail and Messenger titles in Adelaide, has confirmed it will be cutting jobs nationally as part of a broad restructure, but will not say how many of these jobs will be lost locally.

However, InDaily understands the new redundancy round underway at the Murdoch news empire’s Waymouth Street offices will cost as many as 15 positions.

ABC management told staff this week that 250 jobs would go from the organisation across the country in response to a $41 million funding shortfall.

The national broadcaster won’t comment on likely cuts in South Australia but unions are expecting job losses here.

News Corp has stopped printing Messenger newspapers as part of a national process that saw more than 100 titles move to digital-only and 14 mastheads closed completely. That decision is understood to have cost five jobs in South Australia.

This week, the company foreshadowed a restructure which will centralise reporting and production in some areas, which is set to cost 15 jobs in South Australia.

InDaily understands a number of senior editorial staff have accepted redundancies or scaled-back roles in recent weeks, on top of voluntary redundancies that have been negotiated with a number of editorial staff over the past months.

The company is now looking for more local redundancies as it restructures newsrooms by centralising some editorial and production roles.

When asked about local job cuts, a News Corp Australian spokesperson said the company was “reshaping our operations to meet the needs of customers and clients”.

“We will be much more focused on digital, growing digital subscriptions and simplifying our structures to be less complex for advertisers to leverage,” the spokesperson said.

“At a local level our focus is on developing our successful community news coverage approach which now makes up 50 per cent of our fast-growing subscription business. At a state and national level, we are going to better coordinate and harness our considerable journalist talent across Australia. Consequently, we’re establishing a new specialist sports newsroom, a group of senior and specialist national news reporters, the NewsWire news service and a production centre of excellence to streamline production processes to bring together our most senior and talented production staff.

“These initiatives to reposition News Corp Australia for growth will involve some job role changes and regretfully,  some job losses.”

Over at Collinswood, local ABC staff face yet another nervous wait for management to detail how the national program of job cuts will affect them.

The ABC’s South Australian operations have faced numerous rounds of job and service cuts over the past six years, including the loss of television production and the Stateline program, cuts to newsroom jobs and radio bulletins, and the closure of the sound library, with much of its extensive, taxpayer-funded music collection given away.

The State Editor role was also axed, along with front reception staff, with most calls now fielded in Sydney.

ABC managing director David Anderson told staff yesterday that Federal Government’s budget decision in 2018 to freeze indexation of the ABC’s funding would lead to job losses, with more details to come by the end of this month.

“The budget gap of $41 million per annum means that despite our best efforts some of our services will be affected and, regrettably, there will be redundancies,” he said in an email.

“The indexation pause announced in May 2018, effective from July 2019, applies to our operational funding. The Government booked a saving of $84m over the current triennium or $41m p.a. from FY22 in the budget papers.  Indexation funding remains on our transmission and distribution, however this is contracted over a long period of time, and we are not reducing the ABC’s transmission services over the triennium.

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“As we finalise those change proposals, we have decided to provide employees in Divisions where it is anticipated that more than 10 redundancies will be required with an opportunity to express an interest in redundancy.  Those employees will receive an email regarding that opportunity from their Directors shortly.”

For the MEAA, the union that represents journalists, the ABC offering voluntary redundancies – at least in the first instance – is a small positive.

In the past, ABC staff have been forced to compete with colleagues to retain their positions, in a process given the bitter nickname of “The Hunger Games”.

SA branch secretary of the MEAA, Angelique Ivanica, said she was anticipating job losses at both the ABC and News Corp.

“It’s a devastating time,” she told InDaily.

The MEAA is also trying to get clarity about the future of many journalism jobs in regional South Australia, where Australian Community Media has “suspended” titles due to COVID-19 economic stresses.

The Federal Government says the ABC is well-positioned compared to private media companies.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the ABC receives “significant” taxpayer funding.

“The growth in funding hasn’t been as high as the ABC might have hoped, but the ABC is in a much stronger position than any other media in Australia,” he told the ABC on Wednesday.

A recent report found the Coalition Government had cut nearly $800 million from the ABC’s budget since it came to power under Tony Abbott in 2013.

– with AAP

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