AAP wields the axe: After the recent round of cutbacks at and News Ltd, things aren’t exactly rosy at AAP’s new decentralised head office at Rhodes near the old Sydney Olympic complex. A mole told Crikey about a series of stingy measures that seem to bear a strong resemblance to Bryan McCarthy’s slash-and-burn ethos at Rural Press/Fairfax — this mightn’t be surprising given Fairfax’s substantial ownership stake in the wire service. Here are the latest directives straight from HQ:

Taxis
AAP will now no longer issue taxi dockets for any home-work or work-home travel. Where people are eligible for cabs, they would be expected to pay (suggested by credit card to ensure best records) and claim at the end of the week for reimbursement in the next pay period.
The times when people can catch a taxi to work have also changed — you must start before 5.30am or finish after 10.30pm. Great for a remote train location like Rhodes, a new precinct which half of Sydney’s cabbies haven’t even heard of.
AAP is “not keen to revert to the journalists’ Award which says we are obliged to provide transport assistance to those who finish late (and their “normal means of transport is not available”) and they are not regularly rostered on these shifts.”

Parking
Parking beneath the building has been cut right back. Those lucky enough to have a spot were allocated on the basis of seniority, not need.
Staff have been allowed to park underneath after 5pm and at weekends but even that seems to have been cut in the latest missive.
Some staff have to take 15-minute breaks to move their cars in and out of the adjacent shopping centre (3-hour limit) or around the surrounding streets.
It is a 2-hour commute from the northern beaches and for anyone not on a train line the average is more than an hour.
AAP’s preferred option is for staff to buy a shopping centre car park pass for $80 per month.

Air-con
The air conditioning on weekends is unreliable, and if it fails staff have to press a button in the kitchen every 20 minutes to reactivate it. Just like the BBQ in your local park.

Machines
At least once a month the coffee machine and/or water filter needs fixing. — Andrew Crook

The Vine goes out on a limb. Fairfax online continues to vigorously pursues the high-end quality journalism promised by CEO David Kirk. The most recent example being this Zoo Weekly-esque  snare for internet eyeballs. This link to Fairfax’s The Vine featured prominently on theage.com.au last week and hits a new bum note for cheap visual thrills:

UK papers unite #1. According to reports in The Financial Times and The Telegraph in London, Tony O’Reilly’s Independent News & Media papers The Independent and The Independent on Sunday are moving to share offices with the Daily Mail group of papers. The news will very likely see an addition 100 jobs chopped, on top of the 90 already slated to go, including 60 journalists.

According to reports in London, Tony O’Reilly’s Independent News & Media papers are moving to share offices with the Daily Mail group of papers. The news will very likely see an addition 100 jobs chopped, on top of the 90 already slated to go, including 60 journalists.

The Telegraph said: “The Independent titles, which had a total of 430 staff prior to the first job cuts, are expected to have fewer than 250 members of staff when the move to Kensington is completed.

“INM’s two London-based titles will move out of Docklands and into Northcliffe House, Associated’s headquarters off Kensington High Street in London, at the end of January. INM’s journalists will have their own dedicated office space in the building they will share with papers including the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and the Evening Standard.”

The UK part of INM saw revenues fall 1.3% in constant currency terms in the six months to June 30, but operating profit fell 27%. INM is trying to sell its 39.1% stake in APN News & Media in Australia. In the year to September 28, DMGT’s Associated Newspapers — owner of the Mail titles and London’s Evening Standard — saw operating profit fall 13% to £73 million. It revealed it had cut around 400 jobs in recent months across the entire business. — Glenn Dyer

UK papers unite #2. In a rare collaborative move reminiscent of the local media love in over the ‘Right to Know’ campaign, UK papers of the right, left and centre today condemned the arrest of the UK shadow minister for immigration, Damian Green, writes Roy Greenslade in his popular Guardian blog. The Tory minister was arrested at home in Kent after allegedly leaking a series of sensitive immigration stories damaging to Gordon Brown’s government. His parliamentary, home and constituency office were searched, prompting papers including the buttoned-up Financial Times to blow the whistle on an apparent breach of civil liberties. — Roy Greenslade

Sydney gossip columnist Annette Sharp made her debut in the Daily Telegraph this morning with a three-page “Sydney Confidential” featuring items about socialites Steven and Lisa Pongrass, model Jennifer Hawkins, TV hostess Anna Coren and Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore. It was an impressive “first up” performance if you enjoy reading that kind of thing, and represents a notable coup for the Telly’s new editor Garry Linnell. By stealing La Sharp from Fairfax, Linnell has given notice that he is taking the gossip pages “upmarket”, if that isn’t a contradiction in terms. Sharp had an immense following when she wrote for the Sun-Herald, Fairfax’s Sunday tabloid, but her contribution was barely appreciated let alone understood. She would have been an excellent choice to edit the Sydney Morning Herald’s Stay in Touch column but editor Alan Oakley has decided to stay with airhead tittle tattle, endless items about Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, and the latest PR hand-outs from minor TV hangers-on. Stay in touch? With what? With whom? Why bother.

Meanwhile, in Melbourne gossip, ex Sunday Herald Sun attack dog Fiona Byrne has taken the gossip-spread reins in her former editor Simon Pristel’s new weekday home at the Herald Sun. In what is presumably a sign of the boldly tabloid priorities of the new post-Bruce Guthrie editorial team, gossip has now moved front and centre into the forward news pages, and out of its after-the-editorial-letters-etc ghetto.

Local content king, says MEAA. This missive was sent out this morning by the journalists’ union spruiking the Australian public’s continuing love affair with local content:

New research has found that 64% of Australians think the Federal Government should regulate the minimum amount of Australian programs shown on TV. The Newspoll research, conducted nationally for the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, also found that 72% of Australians support regulation for minimum amounts of Australian children’s programs and 61% for minimum amounts of Australian drama and documentaries on free to air television.

The research also showed that 69% of Australians believe the Government should regulate the minimum amount of Australian content shown on the ABC – in line with the commitment the ALP made while in Opposition which will, hopefully, soon be fulfilled.

The research also found 64% of respondents believe it is important Australian programs can be accessed through new media platforms, with 31% believing this is “very important”. Respondents in the 18-34 age groups, presumably high users of new media platforms, are even more in favour with 76% describing this as “important”, of whom 37% believed it was “very important”.

Proper funding for the ABC is also a high priority. The Newspoll research found that 65% of Australians believe there should be increased funding for the ABC to broadcast more Australian children’s programs, 64% favour increased funding for more Australian drama programs, and 79% wanted more funds for Australian documentaries.

“It’s clear that there is overwhelming demand for an increase to ABC funding as part of broad support for Australian programs. The Government must take this into account when considering the triennial funding for the ABC which is due in the May 2009 Budget,” said Simon Whipp, Director – Equity Section of the Alliance.

The research findings will be released at the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance Australian Content Conference – Australia: You’re Watching It, an initiative of Alliance and The Equity Foundation in conjunction with the ABC, Screen Australia and the Australian Children’s Television Foundation.

Rosie O’Donnell’s new live TV show a turkey. In the US, Rosie’ foray into live variety was unsuccessful in the ratings, and tied for the the lowest rating in its time slot on Wednesday night with just 5 million watching. Considering how boring it was, that’s not surprising. A lot of high end talent joined Rosie on stage, but you had to sit through a bunch of stupid jokes and chit chat to get to the acts. I’d be surprised if 5 million people even watched it to the end. — Celebitchy

YouTube users down on new widescreen format. YouTube asked for feedback on the new format and boy did they get it. Through the hundreds of comments posted, there are a handful of people who like the new wide look, but the vast majority seem to hate it. Various users have pointed out that the lack of choice is a problem, with ‘supaslim’ saying, “I don’t like it. I don’t have a wide screen, so everything looks very cramped and claustrophobic. Maybe you see quality, but I see clutter. Can we have the option to view videos like we did before?” — TechRadar

Microsoft/Yahoo deal is “total fiction”. A report in the Times of London in which Microsoft would buy Yahoo’s search business in a convoluted $20 billion deal that would include well-known Internet execs Jon Miller and Ross Levinsohn, is–in the words of one key player–”total fiction.” — BoomTown

Search advertising booming despite economic downturn. 75% of advertisers are now spending more than ten percent of their total media budget on search related activities. This compares with 65 percent of advertisers twelve months ago. Frost & Sullivan ICT director, Andrew Milroy states, “Advertisers are clearly increasing the amount of money being allocated to search and this is occurring at the expense of other media budgets. We expect this will have a direct impact on traditional media spend over the next one or two years.” — Newswire

New mindset required for newspaper editors.
The game is changing from a reliable cash-generating franchise focused on broadcasting authoritative snapshots reflecting the community to an entrepreneurial “elegant organisation” to: provide platforms that enable communities to do what they want to do, share what they want to share, know what they need to know together — Complete Community Connection

Peter Fray

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