Labor on community TV: sector needs more time. Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has found support from an unlikely source, after his Labor counterpart signalled his in-principle support for shifting community television toward a model that uses the internet as a distribution platform.

In a letter to a constituent obtained by Crikey, shadow communications minister Jason Clare said he supported the sector being distributed through the internet. He did, however, take issue with the time frames being proposed. The letter read:

“Malcolm Turnbull has been in his job for more than a year and it is disappointing that he waited until now to inform the community television sector of his decision to kick them off the airwaves and give them just over 12 months to transition … Malcolm Turnbull should work with the community television industry and give them the help and time they need to ensure community television survives and grows into the future.”

The decision to kick community TV off the airwaves has freed up one of the six spectrum slots on the publicly owned broadcast spectrum. To quell speculation this is just a cash grab for the government, Clare wrote, Turnbull should outline what the spectrum will be used for (in his speech announcing the change, Turnbull said the sixth spectrum slot would be used to test new broadcast technologies including MPEG4 compression, which allows twice the same number of TV stations to be aired on a the same amount of spectrum).

The community TV sector has asked for a two-to-three year time frame to adapt to the changes internet transmission will bring. Turnbull has said he believes community television is best delivered through the internet and, in the long term, it’s unlikely community television channels will be the only broadcasters to utilise internet TV. But in the short term, streaming services that seamlessly integrate into people’s TV sets (where most viewers and advertisers remain) are still in development, or have been adopted sparingly. Hybrid broadcast-broadband TV — which was turned on in Australia last month and allows TV stations to supplement their TV signals with online content — is not currently built to allow online-only broadcasters to be seamlessly viewed on people’s TV sets. — Myriam Robin

Buyouts and layoffs. The New York Times says it plans to cut its vaunted journalist staff by 100 in the next month, a move that raises a dire question: is this the start of a new round of job cuts in the struggling US newspaper industry, as the growth in revenues from digital pay walls, ads and other areas slow or fail to meet optimistic budgets forecasts?

The slowing growth trend for digital revenues has been increasingly apparent now for much of this year in most print media industries around the world. Now the mighty New York Times has moved to tackle the growing asymmetry in revenue growth by taking the axe to costs. The move must be serious because it comes despite the paper’s strongest growth in digital revenues for four years. Making matters worse is the realisation that its recently revamped digital offering has failed to get traction in some areas, despite a 40,000 jump in new subscribers.

In a statement overnight, the company’s publisher Arthur Sulzberger and CEO Mark Thompson revealed the plans to cut staff numbers by 100 via contract buyouts, and layoffs if necessary. The cuts will reduce the company’s newsroom strength by 7.5%. A number of other jobs will be lost elsewhere in the business.

Unlike News Corp or Gannett Company, The New York Times Company is a single-paper business with considerable experience in online subscriptions and digital income generation (second only to The Wall Street Journal, owned by News Corp). But a check of previous cut announcements makes it easier to understand why the need for cuts has arisen now. The paper’s management has been very, very naughty. Despite cutting 200 newsroom jobs since 2008 (in contract buyouts and other packaged departures), staff numbers have risen — to some 1330 this year from 1251 at the end of 2013. So much for stringent cost controls, which the company has been claiming have been in place.

Of course, the real story is that it’s becoming almost impossible for newspaper companies to fully replace (let alone increase) lost revenues for new money from online activities. With costs continuing to edge higher (especially for staff), third quarter profits will be lower than the same quarter in 2013. — Glenn Dyer

Australia’s premier. Speaking of The New York Times, the Crikey bunker couldn’t decide if this was a mistake or not. Still, it’s strange to see our Prime Minister referred to as a “Premier” …

Forget the ABC — who’s really paying for the Oz? The Australian can never pass an apparently dead horse without giving it another good flogging. With the ABC bracing for more budget cuts, and the national broadcaster’s loyalists calling the faithful to the barricades, Tuesday’s Oz gave us — yet again — an editorial that ran its standard Ultimo-bashing line under the head: “Aunty should remember it’s our ABC and our cash”.

The Oz trundled out its stock anti-ABC argument. The ABC is funded by taxpayers, the government is trying to reduce the deficit, ergo the ABC is “deeply irresponsible to resist cost-saving measures”.

But let’s try the same logic on The Australian itself. All reliable indications are that the newspaper currently loses $15-20m annually. In the past, that number has been much higher. For 50 years, those huge recurring losses have been applied against the total profits of News Corp in Australia, yielding handy company tax deductions for Murdoch. And who’s been funding all those tax benefits that have helped keep the Oz afloat for half a century? Australian taxpayers, by having to make up the foregone revenue. Ergo, by its own argument, the “responsible” fiscal thing for the Oz to do now would be to cease publication. Don’t hold your breath.

Perhaps, in the interests of the public’s “right to know” so beloved of editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell, the next anti-ABC editorial in The Australian might try to explain that troublesome little hypocrisy to its readers. And while he’s at it, Mitchell might also tell us his salary to compare it with Quentin Dempster’s take-home pay. After all, we taxpayers are making a hefty contribution. — Former Media Watch executive producer David Salter

Front page of the day. Sometimes all you need is a picture …

Peter Fray

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