G’day. I am Leon Gettler, bringing you the latest news on what’s happening in the media. And the job cuts have started at Fairfax. Just a week after the Federal Court approved Nine’s takeover of Fairfax, the chief executive of Nine has announced that a total of 144 jobs will disappear as a result of the deal. That number includes 92 people to be made redundant this year before the new business is formed on 10 December, wiping out the Fairfax name after 177 years in the business. The logo will be removed. That’s their Christmas present. Direct reports such as chief executive officer Greg Hywood, chief financial officer David Housego and general counsel Gambly have left the building. Nine has said there will be no editorial redundancies – for now. But Deloitte has been hired to look at closer editorial arrangements between television and newspaper reporters. It was also announced that that the national affairs editor of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, Mark Kenny, had resigned after six years in the Fairfax Canberra bureau. And the Victorian publisher of Fairfax Media, Mark Hawthorne, has also left. Redundancies in IT, human resources, payroll, office productivity and content management have yet to be decided. Nine has been organised into four divisions. Australian Community Media, Printing and Stuff, Publishing, Stan and Television. The company will have a free-to-air television network, home to reality shows like Married At First Sight and The Block, and the digital business 9 Now. Publishing led by Fairfax executive Chris Janz will include metropolitan mastheads the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age and the Australian Financial Review, as well as Nine’s websites and events division. But the Canberra Times will be part of the Australian Community Media division rather than metro. That makes it more likely to be sold off. The streaming service Stan, formerly a joint venture between Fairfax and Nine, will be led by the founding executive, Mike Sneesby. Australian Community Media and printing will continue to be led by Allen Williams. The New Zealand business, Stuff, will report to Williams. The television division will be led by Nine’s long-serving director of television, Michael Healy and Greg Barnes will be chief financial officer. The group will also own a near 60 per cent stake in ASX-listed online property group Domain and a 54.5 per cent shareholding in listed radio network Macquarie Media, home to 2GB and 3AW. None of this is a surprise. Ever since last year’s change to media ownership regulations — including the removal of the ban on any entity owning print, television and radio platforms in a single market — something like this has been almost inevitable. This will see a reduction in the diversity of ownership of mainstream journalism outlets in Australia. Most obviously, Fairfax’s rural, suburban and regional publications, including important local titles such as the Launceston Examiner and the Newcastle Herald, clearly have no future as part of the new entity. Nine CEO Hugh Marks said the focus of the new entity will be on high-growth digital assets, and the regional Fairfax newspapers would do better “in some other environment.” In other words, they will be dumped. Probably they will close, unless Nine can find some buyer who values their content. And this is bad for Australia. It will be devastating to the civic and democratic health of local communities. Also significant is the fact that Nine’s board is chaired by former Liberal treasurer Peter Costello, who led the anti-ABC forces in the Howard government and who was notorious trying to pressure individual journalists at Fairfax, with some former editors perceived as being too malleable under that pressure. Fairfax in recent times has worked closely the ABC, particularly Four Corners, increasing the reach and impact of quality journalism. With the new entity, Fairfax journalists will presumably be expected to collaborate with Nine if they’re seeking cross-platform reach, and not the ABC. Nine has a very different journalistic culture from that of the main Fairfax mastheads. Nine is all about commodified mass-market news. There is little commitment to investigative journalism. So watch this space. We are entering a new and dangerous era for journalism in Australia.
Podcast – https://anchor.fm/leon-gettler/episodes/Episode-1-e2notn