News / 04.09.2013

More journalists face job losses as media houses shed staff

By Linus Atarah

The situation came to a boil on Monday when staff at MTV 3 organised a two-day walk-out in protest against the broadcaster yet calling again for another round of co-determination negotiations.

The new round of negotiations would lead to job cuts and this time possibly the whole staff would be temporarily laid off for one month. MTV Media, owner of MTV 3 and two other commercial television channels employs 480 staff with 150 of them working in news and current affairs production.

According to MTV Media, the company needs to undertake some restructuring in order to soften the impact of the unexpectedly long economic downturn which has hit advertising revenue.

But Kari Pyrhönen, chief shop steward in MTV 3, said in exasperation, “every 9 months our staff comes under attack, there will be job loses once again and no one knows anymore who to believe and in what”, he lamented. It was only last year that the company called for co-determination negotiations which led to 30 journalists losing their jobs. With the new negotiations the company says it wants to reduce costs by 30 person years.

However, while MTV Media blames loss of revenue on a long economic recession, Pyrhönen says the problem lies elsewhere. The losses of the company stem from certain programme deals it made, and from its pay television portfolio, he says.

MTV Media also runs two expensive sports programmes— Formular One and Ice Hockey – which are loss-making ventures, and yet in an attempt to reduce staff costs it the axe is aimed at the journalism department, says Pyhrhönen.

Most of the job cuts arising from the negotiations will be from the news and current affairs programmes.

Managing director of MTV Media Heikki Rotko conceded that the company would also re-examine its sports portfolio, which he says is perhaps too extensive for the company’s current finances but that sector has less staff than the news and current affairs section.

But the story of job cuts does not end only at MTV Media. Coming hot at the heels of the staff walk-out at MTV 3, Sanoma Magazines announced on Tuesday that it was shutting down three magazines which the publisher says are loss-making. Sanoma Magazines has therefore also called for co-determination with its staff which is expected to see the departure of 14 workers.

Sanoma Magazines is the subsidiary of Sanoma News, the biggest media conglomerate in Finland and publisher of the biggest daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. The company also operates in Holland and in Estonia.

Similar staff reduction negotiations are taking place in Keskisuomalainen Oy, publisher of regional newspapers and in Aller Media, a Danish-owned media house with publications in all of the Nordic countries.

Arto Nieminen, President of the Union of Journalists in Finland has also expressed exasperation at the frenetic job cuts in the media houses and fails to understand why.

“From the point of view of our readers and viewers, they want more and not less products but with the job cuts, the media houses are rather offering less”, says Nieminen.

According to him, in the last two years almost all media houses have been cutting jobs and consequently about one thousand journalists have lost their jobs. Even though there has been job recovery in some media houses but they have been mainly in the technical and not necessarily in journalistic area. To Nieminen, the media bosses are panicking.

One journalist who did not want to be named for fear of possible victimisation has described the media houses in a Catch-22 situation:

“The media houses complain of poor sales and think the solution lies in getting rid of journalists. But few journalists leads to poor quality product which leads to still poorer sales”.

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