Northcliffe employees warned of more cuts

| December 1, 2009 | 0 Comments

STAFF at Bristol’s only newspaper group, Bristol News & Media, face the prospect of yet more job cuts next year despite its parent group making a £24 million profit.

Northcliffe Media, the regional arm of Daily Mail & General Trust and owner of the Bristol Evening Post and the Western Daily Press, has warned that more needs to be done to overcome the slump in advertising.

This is despite Bristol’s two daily newspapers suffering devastating cutbacks in March, when 44 journalists lost their jobs – almost a third of the total.

Another DMGT subsidiary, Harmsworth Printing, slashed 88 jobs in June when it shut the city’s printing press and moved production to Didcot in Oxfordshire. Only a few years ago the Bristol press was being touted as one of the most modern and efficient in Europe.

The warning of further job losses came from Martin Morgan, chief executive of DMGT, announcing  the company’s annual results.

He said: “The drive for change and efficiency is continuing and we expect costs to fall [further] next year.”

More job cuts are “possible”. “We will continue our reorganisation and re-engineering of the business. There has to be a continuing drive. We expect costs to fall again next year but the big cuts are behind us.”

Two editorial jobs which recently fell vacant at Bristol have not so far been filled by recruitment.

Staff at Bristol are still reeling after a year of unprecedented cutbacks and change.

Not only have editorial numbers been slashed, but the Western Daily Press has been reduced to a rump operation with few staff and virtually no unique web content.

Staff have also faced a pay freeze.

Meanwhile the seats vacated by the Bristol job losses have been filled by staff moved in from other Northcliffe centres such as Cheltenham, Yeovil, Bath and Clevedon.

Bristol has become one of a  handful of “centres of excellence”  – others include Swansea and Leicester – where a team of subs produce pages for a host of titles.

The NUJ has criticised the plans, saying they lead to increased workloads, more mistakes and less, not more, efficiency. Crucially, the bond between local journalists and they area they cover is being broken.

Nationwide, Northcliffe Media shed 1,100 employees, about  a quarter of its total, in the year to October 4.

Martin Morgan said Northcliffe  may have seen the worst of the collapse in advertising revenue, but more needs to be done.

DMGT said the fall in ad revenue at Northcliffe’s 100-odd regional titles had stabilised since March.

Peter Williams, DMGT’s finance director,  pointed to positive signs in the property market, though the profitable recruitment sector is continuing its decline.

“In the past two weeks, property [ad] revenues have been up year on year – when was the last time we said that about a sector [in the regional operation]?” he told The Guardian.

Northcliffe Media revenue fell 22% to £328m. Operating profit slumped 65% to £24m.

UK operating profit fell 67% to £20m and total revenue by 24% to £285m. Underlying ad revenue fell 30% and circulation revenues dropped 7%.

However, visits to Northcliffe’s regional newspaper websites in September jumped 31% on an annual basis.

Paul Breeden

More about Northcliffe’s annual results here and here.

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Category: Branch News

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