Bleak end to year as more job losses hit media world

Journalists face a gloomy Christmas as the roll call of redundancies continued this week.

Telegraph Group announced 40 voluntary job losses – mostly editorial – at the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs while Guardian Newspapers introduced a three-year redundancy and early-retirement scheme. The first 10 Guardian staff will go by April.

In television, the Local Broadcasting Group is axeing 46 jobs across the UK and five editorial jobs have gone at FT.com after it axed its webcasting department. Formerly known as FT TV, the decision to close it led to five staff being moved to other posts within the FT group or to take voluntary redundancy.

The magazine industry has already suffered. NUJ national magazines organiser Mike Sherrington estimates that in roughly 10 days, more than 500 redundancies were announced at publishers Haymarket, IPC, Reed Business Information, United Business Media and Quantum Business Media.

Telegraph Group had already announced just over 90 redundancies among staff at its jointly owned West Ferry Printers and had axed many jobs in non-editorial departments after a freeze on hiring was imposed in July.

This week it was the turn of the journalists. The installation of a new computer system accounts for some of the 40 redundancies. The Sunday Telegraph was faced initially with having to axe 10 of its meagre editorial team – it has only 16 journalists in the newsroom – but after negotiations by editor Dominic Lawson only three jobs will go. This puts a heavy burden on its sister daily, particularly in production

Jeremy Deedes, Telegraph Group managing director, said: "These things are always painful but we will do it in the least painful way we can. Group executive editor Brenda Hayward will be seeing heads of departments in the next day or so. I think soonest done, soonest mended. It is being done in order to save costs in the face of this huge advertising downturn."

Telegraph Group staff have also to digest news of a pay freeze instead of their 1 January rises. The freeze affects every level, including Deedes. He would not say how much the company was hoping to save but added: "It is clearly a stern look at our cost base."

Journalists heard the bad news when editors Charles Moore and Lawson saw their senior staff to explain the background.

Deedes scotched repeated rumours of a sale of the papers. "It is categorically not the case," he asserted.

At Guardian Newspapers, managing director Carolyn McCall is introducing a tougher non-replacement policy, as well as the redundancies. This is despite, she wrote in a memo, the papers’ "very strong position compared to competitors". The cost-cutting was the result, she added, of "the economic downturn in April, accelerated by the events of 11 September".

The company has been reviewing all elements of its costs.

"Whether the steps we have taken so far prove sufficient will depend on the ongoing economic situation," McCall warned. "In the meantime, we are keeping every part of our business under review. If any further action is necessary this will be made clear to staff as quickly as possible. I will certainly be informing staff fully of the up-to-date position of the company, and any other steps we feel necessary, at the very latest by the middle of January."

She believes the first 10 editorial job cuts will be achieved through voluntary redundancy, early retirement and non-replacement of staff.

"The Guardian is taking the long-term view – there may be those who want to plan for their retirement in a year or 18 months’ time and plans tailored to the individual may be agreed," she stated.

By Jean Morgan

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