Fairfax staff down tools as SBS journos gape at lowball offer. Fairfax staff have donned their “Fair Go Fairfax” shirts once again today, after staff meetings rejected management’s latest offer of “merit-based” pay rises for the newsroom. Staff are also seeking permission to go on strike for up to three days from Wednesday next week, and they’re stopping work for one hour today from 11am to noon to protest against the offer.

Raising particular ire was Fairfax executive Gail Hambly’s leaked comments from last week about Fairfax journalists not being willing to “back themselves,” unlike the company’s management. “We also note management’s view that Fairfax journalists do not ‘back themselves’, and ask that management consider rewarding their journalists in a similar vein to the $2.4 million pay rise awarded to the top four executives,” the resolution passed by staff stated. One Fairfax scribe noted that she’d bought $4.75 worth of Fairfax shares in 2000. Luckily she didn’t back herself any further — they’re now worth 91 cents.

Meanwhile, the Community and Public Sector Union has expressed displeasure at management’s initial position on pay — 0.5% per annum for the next three years, to be paid for by “efficiency improvements”. SBS staff have, for the first time, been told the hybrid public-commercial broadcaster must meet the government’s bargaining policy, which stipulates that all pay rises have to be funded by efficiency gains. Management has found $2 million in such efficiency improvements, leading to the 0.5% pay offer, Crikey is told.

“With the consumer price index running at 2.9% over the last 12 months this pay rise will not keep up with the cost of living,” CPSU president Michael Tull said. “And on top of that is a cut to conditions that penalises staff.”

The negotiations are at a very early stage. Sources say no formal offer has yet been put on the table, and the process is currently being run by bargaining representatives for SBS. However, journalists at SBS have been shocked by how low the early offer is, as it indicates management isn’t willing to move far. The network lost $8.4 million in government funding in the budget, and while recent events like the Brazil World Cup have delivered massive ratings, other parts of the programming schedule haven’t held up as well. The Oz recently reported the network is planning on increasing the number of ads it runs per hour, in a bid to raise revenue.

There was a rumour going around that formal bargaining for the EBA was delayed for a month because managing director Michael Ebeid was in Brazil for the World Cup. But Crikey understands he was only there for six days, and has so far had no formal involvement in bargaining. — Myriam Robin

They who must apologise. Random House has issued an apology for getting two Chris Browns mixed up in He Who Must Be Obeid. Here’s an ad the publisher bought that ran in newspapers today — this one’s from The Australian Financial Review. The publisher has promised to pulp and reprint the book, and that’s not counting the legal costs. It’ll be a very expensive case of mistaken identity.

How Rupert stays informed. The News Corp Australia operational accounts Crikey uploaded (then removed after a legal agreement) show just how Rupert Murdoch and his bean counters in New York maintain control over the empire.

Since the empire’s near-death experience in 1999 — when the company came close to collapse by a debt burden that not even Rupert Murdoch and his bean counters knew the extent of until the very last moment — News Ltd, then News Corp and now Fox and News Corp have spent millions of dollars a year on upgrading and improving the financial reporting and data crunching systems across all companies and business units in the empire.

Accountants have to prepare weekly reports (from a small suburban paper in Melbourne, or The Courier-Mail, or the NT News, to a TV station in the US midwest or New York). That information is then assembled into weekly operational accounts for both companies. Murdoch’s legendary finance director, David DeVoe (who retired in the middle of last year) was responsible for these information systems, while in Australia it was Peter Macourt who looked after them and kept them tuned.

Weekly reports are compiled and sent to New York so they can be read over the (New York) weekend. So in Australia that means they are sent late Friday night so Murdoch gets them in the office in either NYC or LA by late Friday afternoon US time. That’s how Murdoch keeps in touch (remember he’s also getting the front pages of his major newspapers every day and night, and can access the editorial systems of all papers to check, and he passes on his views to editors about story placement and headlines). This is how he seems to be so well informed, especially when he arrives in Australia or the UK or wherever he is travelling.

And, when you see footage of him arriving somewhere, or in the back of a limo, there’s always a stack of papers with him, or in his arms. These are the weekly financial reports from News Corp Australia, from The Wall Street Journal, from News in the UK and from the various reporting units in Fox. These would also now be going to the co-chairman of both companies, Lachlan Murdoch. — Glenn Dyer

Why this freelancer is leaving Ferguson. The ongoing unrest in Ferguson has drawn the media’s eye to the previously little-known American city, and for one TV freelancer, Ryan Schuessler, it’s all gotten a little ridiculous. On his blog, Schuessler wrote about all the insensitive, self-absorbed things he’d seen journalists do, before remarking:

“There are now hundreds of journalists from all over the world coming to Ferguson to film what has become a spectacle. I get the sense that many feel this is their career-maker. In the early days of all this, I was warmly greeted and approached by Ferguson residents. They were glad that journalists were there. The past two days, they do not even look at me and blatantly ignore me. I recognize that I am now just another journalist to them, and their frustration with us is clear. In the beginning there was a recognizable need for media presence, but this is the other extreme. They need time to work through this as a community, without the cameras.

“We should all be ashamed, and I cannot do it anymore. I am thankful for my gracious editors who understand that.”