Not Happy, Fairfax

Fairfax’s new chief operating officer Brian Evans has ordered his management team to slash $100 million from the publishing company. The Australian’s lead media story this week must have made News Limited staff smile. It’s a worrying development, however. Evans is asking for massive cut across all divisions, including editorial.

The paper reports:

“The closure of overseas bureaus, almost certainly starting with Tokyo, the merging of the Canberra bureaus of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and the merging of the staffs of the broadsheet Herald and the tabloid Sun-Herald also have been mooted.”

Redundancies of journalists are also likely. Evans, a former regional newspaper executive, has suggested one way of raising revenue: “the introduction of more advertorials in the broadsheet newspapers.”

As I’ve written many times before, Fairfax is a sick company and I’m very glad that I’ve left there as a full time staff member. However, a strong alternative to the pro-war, pro-free market, pro-Howard agenda, blindly echoed in the Murdoch press, is essential in a true democracy. Australia, sadly, has the most concentrated media ownership in the Western world and is about to get worse, if the Howard government and Communications Minister Helen Coonan get their way.

Speaking on last week’s Media Report, Coonan mentioned the words “diversity” and “choice” many times, giving the false impression that her proposed changes to cross media would bring both. Nothing could be further from the truth. She is already talking to industry stakeholders to negotiate possible options.

Cast your mind back to media player John Singleton’s comments from April, speaking on ABC Inside Business:

ALAN KOHLER: Do you think the cross-media rules and the foreign ownership rules will change so therefore there will be a shake up in the media that you can participate in?
JOHN SINGLETON: ”¦ I don’t know. I can tell you only this – there’s sure to be no decisions made that are going to in any way affect the chances of John Howard being re-elected as Prime Minister in the next term, so …
ALAN KOHLER: What does that mean?
JOHN SINGLETON: Well, it means the terms are going to be, the changes to the media cross-ownership laws will be only those that don’t make any existing media owners, doesn’t disadvantage them.
ALAN KOHLER: And what do you think that turns into?
JOHN SINGLETON: It means life’s a rort and it’s only a rort if you’re not in it, that’s what it means. And John Howard likes being Prime Minister so he’s not going to set out to upset the existing media owners by saying, “Oh, laissez-faire, let’s have every available – let’s have 50, 100 radio stations, 20 TV stations …””¦ And the natural barriers to entry in other things like magazines and newspapers preclude it in any event, so…”

Fairfax should be afraid. Alternatives are needed.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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