With changes to cross-media and foreign ownership rules looming, there’s talk that private equity firms are eyeing off Australian media. So what happens when a private equity firm takes over, say, a newspaper?

Last year, Rupert Murdoch’s News International sold off the Times Education Supplement (TES) to private equity group Exponent in a 230 million pound package deal. Since then, Exponent’s biggest contribution to the respected title has been radical cost-cutting.

About one-third of the company’s 150 staff, mostly from the TES, have taken up an offer of voluntary redundancy. The number of pages has been slashed and, as Chris Johnston reports in The Guardian, the use of freelancers has been curtailed.

And despite reduced costs, advertising rates in the TES are expected to increase by 16% after the relaunch and “some in the education world believe many schools will find it too expensive to advertise rank-and-file teaching posts”, says Johnston.

Lesley Smith, corporate affairs director for TES Education Ltd, says that the TES needed to be streamlined and the new offering will be more user-friendly. But others are concerned with the impact of downsizing on quality : “What editor agrees that less content, and the departure of half their editorial staff, can be a good thing?” asks one long-serving staffer leaving the TES.

That’s what happens when a private equity firm buys a newspaper.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey