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Print media crisis deepens in Australia and New Zealand

News, 04 May 2017
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SYDNEY/WELLINGTON: A full quarter of Fairfax Media's news staff in Australia – 125 journalists in total – have been made redundant, with cost cuts also looming in New Zealand as declining print sales and advertising revenues continue to take a toll on the company.

Ad revenue for the publisher's metropolitan media arm – whose titles include The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Brisbane Times and WA Today – plummeted 16.6% per cent in the first half of the current financial year.

Fairfax journalists in Australia walked off the job on Wednesday for seven days in response to the redundancy announcement, which come on top of 120 job losses from metro daily titles just a year ago. The strike period is likely to include the Federal Budget release on May 9, which is traditionally the biggest day of the year for both sales and coverage.

In New Zealand, a proposed merger between Fairfax Media NZ and NZME - the country's two dominant newspaper publishers – was blocked by the country's regulator on Wednesday. If approved, the merger would have seen the new mega-publisher control 90% of New Zealand's daily print readership.

According to Mark Berry, chairman of the New Zealand Commerce Commission, concerns about competition were behind the decision, despite acknowledging the "challenging commercial environment" faced by publishers in New Zealand who are also struggling with lower adspend and falling print circulations.

"This merger would concentrate media ownership and influence to an unprecedented extent for a well-established modern liberal democracy. The news audience reach that the applicants have provide the merged entity with the scope to control a large share of the news consumed by a majority of New Zealanders.

"This level of influence over the news and political agenda by a single media organisation creates a risk of causing harm to New Zealand's democracy and to the New Zealand public," Berry said in a statement.

Fairfax Media chief Greg Hywood confirmed that further cost cutting will be needed at the company's New Zealand titles as a result of the decision, with staff redundancies likely in order to remain viable in the country.

"In light of the NZCC decision, an even greater focus on cost efficiency will be necessary. Moving to the next stage of our New Zealand publishing model will involve reshaping how we deliver our journalism to local communities. Further publishing frequency changes and consolidation of titles is an inevitability," Hywood said, in a statement.

Data sourced from The Australian, New Zealand Herald, Stuff; additional content by WARC staff

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