The journalists at
Fairfax say their company doesn’t have a strategy. They’re wrong.
Fairfax has a very clear strategy – to sell or merge their company. Or,
if that fails, to buy a TV network so it becomes less dependent on

But to give that strategy a chance of working,
Fairfax needs the federal government to abolish the cross-media rules
so that PBL could merge (sell) its media business (TV and magazines)
with Fairfax, or Fairfax could buy a television network.

is desperate for the government to lift the cross-media and foreign
ownership regulations. It’s far more important to Fairfax than to any
other media company.

And that’s the context in which to see last month’s announcement by Fairfax that it would get rid of another 55 journalists on The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
The announcement was an unvarnished message to the government: abolish
cross-media quickly or there will be a lot more redundancies, cost
savings and damage to journalism.

On Saturday The Age splashed this story – “STOP PRESS: Newspapers’ dog days”
– all over the front of its business section. What, you might ask, is a
major newspaper publisher doing giving so much prominence to a story
that included phrases like: “Newspapers are facing a crisis” and “It’s
the time for lay-offs in the newspaper industry”? It’s part of the same
message to the Howard government: get rid of the cross-media rules.

fact that Fairfax still makes hundreds of millions of dollars in
profits from its newspapers, and could easily invest a very small
proportion of this goldmine into improving its quality journalism
rather than dismantling it, is not on the radar screen of a board which
sees itself as having one overriding function – to lift the profits.
There is no suggestion within the Fairfax board that it has a role as a
public trust if that role inhibits profit growth.

The sad
reality is that the Fairfax board doesn’t have a clue about the future
of its once-great newspapers, other than to offload them while they
still have some value left. But to do that they need a big favour from
the federal government.