ABC employment: it’s up, but not to where it used to be. The ABC employs 10% more people now than it did 10 years ago, but has yet to reach the staffing levels it had in the mid-1990s, its annual report reveals.

On Friday the ABC released its 2014 annual report, which makes public a range of statistical data about the ABC’s performance and cost base, right down to its energy usage and participation in recycling programs. This data reveals the ABC has 4,697 full-time equivalent employees. This is more than the 4,244 it employed in 2004, but still far below the 5,523 it employed in 1994 (as revealed in the 2004 annual report).

During its first term, the Howard government slashed the ABC’s funding by 10% over two years. The effect of this can be seen on staffing. The ABC radically cut staff numbers between 1996 and 1999, employing just 4,166 at its slimmest, which was 1,357 fewer than it had employed just five years earlier.

Since then, the ABC’s staffing levels have been rising, though slowly. The ABC has added staff every year for the past 10, but never very many in the one year.

Most of this staff growth has been concentrated in Sydney. While the report breaks down employment by state rather than city, the ratio of ABC staff employed in New South Wales rose from 47% to 51% in the past decade. Meanwhile, the proportion of staff employed in several states and territories has decreased. The ACT went from employing 4% of ABC staff to 3.85% in 2014, Victoria went from 18% to 17.15%, the Northern Territory went from 3% to 2.61%, Western Australia went from 6% to 5.24%, while South Australia saw the biggest decline, going from 8% to just 6.90%. The effect of the Australia Network cuts can also be seen — the ABC went from employing 1%, or nearly 40 people overseas, to employing just 0.64% of its staff outside Australia. Queensland, meanwhile, saw a slight increase in ABC staff numbers from 9% of the ABC total to 9.18% in the decade. — Myriam Robin

Another reality series bites the dust. Utopia, the live streaming feed-based show from Big Brother and The Voice creator, John de Mol, was axed by Fox in the US this morning. The live feeds will be turned off in the next few hours and the program, which started with a twice a week schedule on Tuesdays and Fridays, but sank to once a week on a Friday night, will end and will not be missed. Deadline.com says it rates 1.56 million viewers (and a half a per cent share in the key 18 to 49 demo, its target audience zone). “Contributing to its fate is the fact that Utopia never created any buzz or made any headlines, a must for a successful reality series, wrapping up a very quiet run,” Deadline commented. The axing represents a huge waste of money for Fox. Utopia was intended to be a show about what happens when you leave a bunch of people to form their own government, with no external input. The $50 million set was rigged up so the contestants wouldn’t have to see cameras or crew, with the hopes this would lead to less contrived outcomes. Alas, it didn’t rate. With reality TV on the nose in Australia (but less so in the UK), it seems American TV viewers are now tuning out. American Idol’s return in January is going to be rough and tough for Fox. In fact ABC TV had much more success with its Utopia series this year — not a reality program, but a solid scripted comedy series on Wednesdays at 8.30pm. — Glenn Dyer

If it’s not News Corp, it doesn’t count. The Sunday Mail in Queensland has upped its prices and tried to sweeten the deal by pointing out that it is still the cheapest Sunday newspaper in the state.

That’s not actually the case — the Sunday edition of the APN-owned Sunshine Coast Daily retails for $1.50, more than a dollar cheaper than The Sunday Mail. One of those times where the services of a subeditor or two wouldn’t have gone astray …  — Sophie Benjamin

NYT posts losses above expectations. The coming week sees a step up in the quarterly reports from some of America’s major media companies, led by the largest, Disney, plus the top TV network, CBS and 21st Century Fox (among the profitable), and News Corp and a scattering of smaller print based companies such as Time Inc and Tribune Media, the print spin-off from The Tribune Co.

The big three media groups leading the way will be joined by Liberty Media, controlled by John Malone, Time Warner, the company Rupert Murdoch couldn’t get, Discovery, which has Malone as a big shareholder, Scripps Broadcasting, a major cable company, Cablevision, a smaller cable operator, and Dish Network, America’s number two satellite TV operator. For Australia the two big reports of interest are 21st Century Fox, which reports in the next day or so, and News Corp, which releases its data early Thursday morning, our time. Both companies have teleconferences after the release to discuss the figures.

And while the big, profitable companies pitch their results and get lots of coverage, of greater interest will be the way News Corp, Time, Tribune Media and several small print groups report and spin their figures. Will News report a return to profits in Australia from operations, not from jiggling tax bills and playing currency moves? Judging by the results from the New York Times late last week the news won’t be all that encouraging from print. If anything the NYT figures were a bit grimmer than those estimated in a trading update in early October.

The NYT reported an operating loss $US9 million, compared with a profit of $US12.9 million a year earlier. The net loss of $US12.5 million was half the loss of $US24.2 million a year ago.

Revenue rose less than 1% to $US364.7 million as print ad revenues again fell sharply. A 13.3% rise in digital circulation and a 15.3% rise in digital advertising sales could not offset the falls in print sales and advertising revenues. Ad revenues from all sources hardly moved at $US138 million, while circulation sales rose 1.3% to just over $US206 million.

But worrying for the company and the sector, Time’s management said they expected ad sales to fall at “mid-single digit” rate from the fourth quarter of 2013. That’s despite rising retail sales, heavy political spending and strong economic growth in the US.

The paper added 44,000 online subscribers for a total of 875,000, up 20% from the same quarter a year ago and the best quarterly growth in nearly two years. Revenue from digital circulation rose 13.3% to $US43 million and the number of digital subs now outweigh the number of daily print purchases, as the latest circulation figures last week showed. In last month’s update the paper said it would cut 100 jobs and this was ahead of a rise in severance costs that rose to $US21.4 million in the quarter from just $US600,000 a year ago. That will rise this quarter. — Glenn Dyer

Gina Rinehart steps down. As has been widely canvassed in the media, Gina Rinehart has stepped down from the board of Ten, citing her “expanding responsibilities”. Hancock Prospecting’s John Klepec, who has stood in for her at the many meetings she’s missed, takes over her spot.

Video of the day. Sometimes you just can’t win. Crikey had a go at Fairfax last week for republishing the most salacious bits of the NT News’ Nova Peris scoop, but over at Channel Ten, Andrew Bolt had a go at The Age for not publishing “a single word” on the scandal in its Thursday edition.

Why the omission? “You know that the Spencer Street Soviet is very reluctant to publish the facts whenever they punish Labor and the Left,” intoned fellow News Corp columnist Piers Akerman (a guest for the regular “News Watch” section).

Akerman had more to say on the subject of leaked emails, including his view of New Matilda’s decision to publish Professor Barry Spurr’s.“This is yet another example of the staggering hypocrisy of the leftist media. They will gutter-trawl for — as you say — private emails which don’t affect any public money and there is nothing to do with Professor Spurr’s job … If you read all of [the emails] in context it is quite obvious that the Professor was engaged in hyperbole and you know of a quite amusing nature [sic].”

Bolt disagreed. “I must say I didn’t like the racist language.” — Myriam Robin

Front page of the day. Racing season continues in Melbourne …

Peter Fray

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