News / 10.09.2012

Staff reduction in media houses affects quality of journalism

By Linus Atarah

In a statement issued last Thursday, the Board of UFJ said it was opposed to the radical restructuring in the major Finnish media houses which has led to journalists losing jobs in spite of the fact media houses have reasonably increased revenue in the midst of an economic downturn.

According to UJF, between 2009 and 2010, 500 journalists had lost their jobs in the newspaper sector alone, and the situation might get repeated more dramatically this year.

The latest example is Sanoma Magazines Finland which has entered into codetermination negotiations with 118 workers aimed at axing 95 jobs. Owned by Sanoma News, the leading newspaper publisher in Finland, Sanoma Magazines is undergoing work and organisational restructuring process which would enable it share content across a wide range of the different magazines which the company publishes, hence the need for job cuts.

According to Clarrise Berggårdh, managing director of Sanoma Magazines Finland, organisationally the various editorial offices are at the moment operating separately but in the future they will be working more closely together.

However, the Union of Journalists in Finland says the policy of sharing content across a wide range of magazines as a cost-cutting measure is “short-sighted” because it obliterates the different branding and profiling which magazines have used to carry content to differentiate sectors of readers.

”The strength and quantity of magazine brands in a small language region has been founded on the fact that they can be differentiated from each other. Now that foundation is in danger due to a short-sighted cost-cutting policy”, says UJF.

“As a trade union, the Union of Journalists is concerned about the job situation and livelihood of its members, but it would like to take the newspaper reading public into consideration but about whom the newspaper companies are silent”, said UJF.

As UJF points out that the fewer journalists there are on a newspaper, very often work is done in a rush and there is little time to gather more background information and check facts; the number of mistakes increases and the reputation of the newspaper crumbles.

Newspaper and magazine publishers are blaming a decline in circulation figures and subsequent loss of revenue on the government’s introduction of value-added tax newspaper and magazine subscription.

According to the biggest magazines publishers, the value-added tax of nine per cent which was introduced by the government and came into effect at the beginning of this year has doubled the acceleration of the decline in circulation of magazines.

Yet according to the Union of Journalists in Finland, representatives of the media sector have not given conclusive evidence of the impact of the value-added tax in their public utterances.

“In the opinion of the Union of Journalists in Finland, it is only with sufficient resources that quality journalism can be produced which the public would have confidence in, and willing to pay for. That is why the union and its 15 600 members are opposed to the current policies of the media houses”, UFJ said.

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