The crisis for the UK’s regional newspapers is in its deep winter, and spring feels like a long way off right now. Like its US parent company Gannett (NYSE: GCI) Newsquest is asking staff to take one week’s unpaid leave while DMGT-owned Northcliffe Media is joining a host of publishers in imposing a group-wide pay freeze. And, amid the chaos, regional publishers have joined together to lobby the government to come up with a solution to help them in the recession.
FT.com reports that the “Local Media Alliance”, including seven CEOs from companies including Trinity Mirror (LSE: TNI) and Johnston Press, met media minister Lord Carter last month to press for a relaxation of M&A competition rules, something the Office of Fair Trading is reviewing. Newsquest, Northcliffe Media, Guardian Media Group, Archant and Scottish publisher DC Thomson are also members. So they appear to have spurred the OFT into action and won the ear of Lord Carter, but whether they can reverse the carnage in their print titles remains to be be seen and the task gets bigger each week. More after the jump…
– Newsquest: Less than three months after Gannett told its 40,000-strong US workforce to take a week’s unpaid leave, it looks like its UK division is doing the same thing. According to PG, that Newsquest management have agreed to take a so-called “furlough” and will ask its 6,600 staff to do the same. PG notes that the move is unconfirmed officially, and although Gannett had previously said it would look at “other expense reduction measures” to save money at Newsquest, it may see week-long pay cuts as preferable to yet more redundancies or title closures. This year alone we have seen at least 40 redundancies at the Glasgow Herald and Times group, 13 in Colchester, seven at The Press in York, at least 10 at The Argus, Brighton. The reason is simple: 2008 ad sales were 29.3 percent down year on year.
– Northcliffe: DMGT-owned Northcliffe Media is to join Newsquest, Trinity Mirror, Guardian Media Group and others in imposing a group-wide pay freeze staff across its 130 papers. PG reports that staff were told today the “very difficult economic conditions” had prompted the move, which won’t be reviewed until February next year at the earliest. already this year Northcliffe has announced the loss of 50 jobs in its Midlands division and 45 job cuts in Bristol.
Disclosure: paidContent:UK’s parent company is a wholly-owned subisidiary of Guardian News and Media.