Trinity Mirror is facing an Early Day Motion from MPs and calls for a public inquiry over the future of the press in Wales amid plans to cut 22 editorial jobs from its Media Wales division.
According to the NUJ father of chapel at Media Wales, Martin Shipton, anger at the latest redundancies is directed at Sly Bailey and senior executives at Trinity’s Canary Wharf headquarters rather than the Media Wales management in Cardiff who have been left to “take the flack”.
The EDM, tabled by Aberavon’s Labour MP Hywel Francis, backs the NUJ’s campaign to protect jobs, wages and working conditions at Media Wales – which publishes the Western Mail, Wales on Sunday, South Wales Echo and seven weeklies – while noting that Bailey’s pay rose 13 per cent to £1.7m last year.
More than 100 editorial staff are estimated to have been made redundant at Media Wales since 2007, and its most recent financial figures reveal a 24 per cent drop in turnover to £36.4m and an 84 per cent fall in profit from £12.9m to £2.1m.
While acknowledging the effects of public sector cuts and the slump in the retail sector, Shipton believes the biggest reason behind Media Wales’ current ‘financial plight’was the original decision by Bailey and her fellow directors to make all content freely available online.
‘To think that all print advertising revenue would somehow migrate is ridiculous,’he told Press Gazette. ‘We level the blame at Sly Bailey and the directors – they conditioned people in Britain to expect free content.
‘That is the most significant reason for why newspaper groups like ours are now in this trading position.”
‘People are very angry about the position of Sly Bailey,’continued Shipton.
‘She is presiding over a group that is far smaller now in terms of the number of people it employs than it was eight years ago when she took over, yet her pay is constantly rising.
‘I find it absolutely outrageous that this should be the case.”
Under Media Wales’ latest plans to restructure its editorial operations, it is proposed that a single production team will produce news and features for the Western Mail, South Wales Echo, Wales on Sunday and the seven-title Celtic newspaper series.
Twenty-two jobs could go as a result of the move including eight jobs from news production and four from sport.
Ten jobs are earmarked to go from the weekly newspaper series including seven senior reporters, an assistant head of content and a photographer – leaving six senior reporters and five trainees.
Two new sport and community supplements will be printed across the Celtic titles, which include the Gwent Gazette, the Glamorgan Gazette and the Merthyr Express.
Media Wales said that under the new structure it will be ‘making better use of the community-generated continent which is such a vital and popular part of these titles and maximising the opportunities afforded by our integrated newsroom”.
Calls for media inquiry
The company has said that it cannot rule out compulsory redundancies given the scale of the cuts.
As well as holding emergency talks with management, NUJ members are now lobbying the Welsh Assembly Government to launch an inquiry into the future of the press in Wales following the spate of job cuts and newspaper closures in recent years.
‘It would be appalling if Wales was in a position where it’s the only country in Europe without its own national newspaper,’added Shipton.
‘We need to have some kind of stability here. We should be able to get some kind of plan in place to ensure the survival of the newspapers.”
Trinity declined to comment, but after the recent redundancy announcement Media Wales managing director Alan Edmunds said: ‘Media Wales continues to face tough economic challenges in 2011 and this trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
‘By proposing these changes we believe we will be better positioned to deliver first-class print and digital content to our readers and advertisers and to protect the Media Wales portfolio of local and regional newspapers.”