The true extent of the job losses at News Limited is becoming clearer with details emerging from Queensland which reveal how each of the states will centralise their operations to cut costs.

Under the plan the Queensland company will set up a seven day subbing “hub” to manage the layout, subbing, artwork and on-line services for the Courier Mail, The Sunday Mail and Quest community newspapers.

The plan will mean another twenty artists, sub-editors and production staff will lose their jobs. But as the Queensland scheme is the forerunner for similar plans in every state, the total job losses could be as high as 100.

Courier Mail, Sunday Mail and Quest staff will hold a stop work meeting on Thursday to plan their response. National delegates of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance are holding a phone hookup today to swap notes on the extent of the News Limited job cuts and how each state business is implementing them.

The Queensland operation, to be known as “NEWSCentral”, will also produce the national Sunday Travel section which has been handed to Queensland as part of the separate, but related, plan to centralise all of News Limited’s tabloid sections.

It is becoming clearer that centralisation at News Limited means more than just bringing sections together. It is in fact a comprehensive plan to consolidate pretty well anything that can be so that duplication or unnecessary localism is systematically eradicated.

News Limited’s Queensland division is emerging as the front runner in this austerity drive because it has already consolidated its subbing at the Courier Mail so that sections and features are all subbed by the same team. Campbell Reid, the Group Editorial Operations Director, has obviously decided to take this model to the next level. He told staff in a memo on Friday that production will be achieved “more consistently and efficiently than can be achieved with standalone operations.”

News Limited has a long standing aversion to paying redundancies and again it seems that there will be a fight for some staff facing retrenchment, particularly casual staff. Photographers and reporters are not being targeted for redundancies, while production staff will be required to fill in a Personal Information Questionnaire (PIQ) to assess what role they would play in the “NEWSCentral” hub before they will be eligible.

As more details emerge about News Limited’s model for cost-cutting, the company’s form is beginning to look more like a series of concentric circles than the traditional hub and spoke model of a centralised operation. Each circle is encouraged to pull more activity into its centre, while becoming smaller and yet somehow more integrated with those other hubs around it. The News Limited structure is looking like a giant set of Olympic rings as the company strives ever onwards in its quest to become leaner, meaner and tighter.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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