Fairfax media (publishers of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Canberra Times) have announced that they will close two of their printing plants and cut 1900 jobs over the next three years.
This also means that around 150 of the editorial voices you are used to hearing from each day, won’t be there in the future. The move is expected to save the company close to $250 million in the immediate term and then around $200 million a year going forward.
Never one to miss a good business opportunity, mining magnate and Australia’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart has revealed she is buying up big at Fairfax.
Rinehart has so far refused to rule out intervening with the way Fairfax reports news. And now the Government is (quite rightly) getting nervous – calling on the mining magnate to demonstrate her commitment to journalistic independence.
The Australian reports:
The Gillard government has demanded mining magnate Gina Rinehart sign up to Fairfax’s charter of editorial independence, declaring she was not entitled to “trash” the nation’s oldest newspaper company…Advertisement
Senator Conroy said Ms Rinehart wanted to turn the company into the “mining gazette. She is entitled to representation but what she is not entitled to do is trash the brand for all the other shareholders,” he told ABC radio.
“If she was to directly interfere and breach that charter, it would actually lead to a crisis of confidence among the readership, and if the readership deserted, the share price for every shareholder would decline.
Rinehart’s latest spending spree will see her share in the company increase from 12.5 to 18.7 per cent and opens the possibility of her gaining multiple seats on the Fairfax board. It is understood that her intention is to reach a 19.9 per cent share in the company – the largest possible amount she can own without embarking on a full takeover bid.
The restrictions on what Gina can and can’t buy (because, you know, she can afford to buy a lot) are the result of media ownership laws. Those laws exist to recognise the significant power of the media as a driver of public opinion and debate. They operate to restrict how much of that public influence a single person or organisation can have.
Australia’s media ownership laws are notoriously weak and are the subject of Government plans for reform. But what is incredibly alarming for some, is that
And the changes just keep on rolling over at Fairfax. The company has also said that they are going to switch away from the traditional broadsheet style (big, luxurious, covers your whole coffee table, impossible to read on a bus) and switch to a more compact format (usually referred to as ‘tabloid’).
Fairfax is also sending all of their online content behind a pay wall. That means no more free online news from Fairfax – you’ll be subscribing the same way you would to a magazine and you’ll have log-in each day to access stories.
Taken together, all of these developments are big, big news in the media world, as well as incredibly distressing for the people whose jobs are on the chopping block and their families.
It reflects the growing popularity of online media outlets over the old fashioned, hard copy publications. More and more Australians are logging onto their laptops or skimming their iPhones for the news headlines, rather than opening the paper.
How do you consume your news? Do you still subscribe to a newspaper that is delivered daily to your home? Or are you a creature of the online world? Does Gina Rinehart’s growing influence over Australian media bother you? Do you think Australia’s media ownership laws are sufficient?