SBS warns of outsourcing, funding cuts and wages. SBS managing director Michael Ebeid has used his monthly missive to staff to say he expects a decision on SBS funding in December. Echoing comments made by the ABC’s Kate Torney last week, he said the diminishing level of resources available to the broadcaster made it all the more necessary to review current practices to “remain relevant in a tough media market … As the media consumption patterns of audiences change, we need to ensure we are innovating and to play to our strengths.”

Ebeid also commented on the company’s enterprise bargaining agreements, which has proven controversial given the broadcaster’s opening offer was just an 0.5% increase per annum. “Whilst we are working hard with governments to secure the best funding outcome for SBS, the uncertain environment I’ve described is going to make our EBA negotiations more difficult.” This year, Ebeid continued, SBS is required to operate under the new public sector guidelines whereby any wage increases must be met with productivity savings to match. Any conditions of employment for the first time also require the communications minister’s sign-off, Ebeid warns.

Last week, Crikey reported that a plan to outsource the play-out functions for SBS put 62 jobs with the broadcaster at risk.

Ebeid said the intention would be for those workers to transfer to jobs with whichever company takes on the tender. “We’re looking at a model in which the successful vendor would work in partnership with SBS to migrate SBS services to a new platform next year, with conditions on maintaining employment and conditions of employees that do transfer as a part of the proposed Transfer of Business,” Ebeid wrote, adding that negotiations are “progressing well”. “We made this decision on the basis that it will lead to further efficiencies for SBS … Digitisation and convergence is reshaping the media broadcasting industry and this move is in line with a global trend towards outsourcing components of the broadcast value chain.”

SBS staff fear the outsourcing of these skills will lead to a deskilling of the SBS workforce. “It’s a major step,” one said. “SBS will no longer have an engineering team. Anything to do with broadcast – it’s all going to be outsourced.”

“If three departments go outside SBS, it sets precedents for other departments. And once you lose a set of skills it’s very hard to ever bring that back in house,” the staff member said. — Myriam Robin

Canada’s anti-competition news deal. Is a big newspaper merger deal in Canada a taste of the future of the already concentrated Australian newspaper industry? As Fairfax, APN and News Corp Australia struggle to hold the line on falling sales, vanishing print revenues and weak digital revenue growth, it could well be. Ownership of Australian papers is already highly concentrated, with News controlling around 58% of daily sales. The Canadian industry has more players, but they are rapidly shrinking in number.

Overnight, two of Canada’s major publishers have done a deal that will have Postmedia Network buy 175 papers from Quebecor, including most of the country’s major English-language papers. It is the second major newspaper deal in Canada in a month, after Transcontinental Corp bought 20 papers and closed another 14 that were also owned by Quebecor.

The deal will be looked at by Canadian competition authorities, but there will be enormous pressure to approve what looks, on the face of it, to be a highly anti-competitive arrangement.  If approved, Postmedia will own both major daily newspapers in the Canadian cities of Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary. Postmedia says the two papers will compete editorially, but critics point out that there will be a monopoly in these markets for newspaper ads. Postmedia will model the new operations on Vancouver, where it already runs two papers and runs a combined back office and printing operation.

In addition to the major city papers, the deal also includes 160 small newspapers across Canada, as well as Sun Media’s digital properties, including the website, canoe.ca. But Quebecor will continue to operate canoe.ca in French-speaking Quebec, which, according to a Postmedia investor presentation, makes up about half of that website’s monthly traffic. That makes it a less valuable online property for Postmedia. – Glenn Dyer

News on … Palmer? Remember Clive Palmer’s News on News? He registered the domain and trademark back in August last year, and said it would be a website where News Corp employees could blow the whistle on the things that go on in that evil empire. It seems the website has quietly launched, but it’s not what was promised. Instead, it’s a collection of PUP media releases. When you click on one you get redirected to the Palmer United website. It’s all very disappointing. — Myriam Robin

Oz out-Chanticleers the FinThe Australian bought a lot of experience when it gobbled up Business Spectator and Eureka Report in 2012. In today’s edition, it gloats about that somewhat …

Rapid-fire reviewing. It’s been a busy night for TV and media writers, as former Sunrise executive producer Adam Boland’s book was “rush released” onto the market to beat Seven’s legal action. Seven responded by securing an injunction to stop MUP from further distributing the book yesterday afternoon, but had relented by morning, with the network’s spokesman saying in a statement this morning that there was nothing in the book that breached confidentiality. While all this was going on, TV Tonight’s David Knox was reading the book, and already has a review on the blog.

It’s no hatchet job, as Knox writes:

“Boland is gracious about many industry identities in the book including Peter Meakin, Hamish McLennan, Rob McKnight, Ita Buttrose, Chris Reason, Ian Hogg. He acknowledges some of the decisions by former partner Michael Pell in guiding Sunrise, even if he concedes he was against some choices. The Seven show comprises several chapters, from early beginnings under a robust David Leckie shouting ‘Let’s have some f***ing fun!’ to his reluctance to return to the show he had left because he needed financial support when his Ginseng Bathhouse project was struggling.

“The early pairing of a ‘dorky finance nerd’ and a ‘suburban mum’ taking on Nine’s Today succeeded by throwing away the rulebook, with talking points, crew banter, and Live TV events — with US talk show Fox and Friends as its inspiration. If you’re looking for a behind-the-scenes archive of the Beaconsfield mining broadcast (Koch was invited into the back of that ambulance), Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga concerts, tsunami and flood benefits, the media rise of Kevin Rudd, it’s all here. He also concedes a frosty war with Chris Bath (later resolved), a heated argument with Grant Denyer and initially feeling betrayed by Lisa Wilkinson’s switch to Today. The question really is whether anybody beyond media junkies will have much interest in hearing about them.”

Front page of the day. The face of a revolution …

Peter Fray

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