Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (NWS) is shutting down dozens of local newspapers in Australia and ending print production for most of its smaller publications as part of a major shakeup of its business in the country.
The publisher — which is one of the largest in the country and which owns the major national broadsheet The Australian and tabloids such as The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun — attributed the changes to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Covid-19 has impacted the sustainability of community and regional publishing,” Michael Miller, executive chairman of News Corp Australasia, said in a statement Thursday. “These initiatives are significant. They will involve fundamental changes to how we operate our business, but they are necessary.”
News Corp said that “some job roles will change” and that the announcement “regretfully, will lead to job losses,” though it did not elaborate on how many jobs could be affected. The rival Sydney Morning Herald, which is owned by the Australian firm Nine Entertainment Co., reported that the move to shut down more than 100 print editions and consolidate some operations could affect hundreds of jobs. A spokesperson for News Corp Australia did not immediately respond to a request for comment for more information.
Miller said that while the company’s digital publications have recently seen audience growth of more than 60% during the pandemic, News Corp Australia still mostly relies on print advertising for its income, making the situation “unsustainable.”
The global media industry has been slammed in recent months as the coronavirus pandemic reduces demand for advertising.
Many newsrooms have been forced to implement major layoffs, job cuts and furloughs, including in Australia. Earlier this month, BuzzFeed cut back on local news coverage in the country.
Since last January, more than 150 newsrooms across Australia have reduced service, closed temporarily or permanently shut down, according to estimates from the Australian Newsroom Mapping Project, which is run by the Public Interest Journalism Initiative, a local nonprofit group.
“The closure of so many mastheads represents an immense blow to local communities and, coming off the back of hundreds of previous regional closures during this period, it underlines the seriousness of the crisis facing regional and local journalism,” said Paul Murphy, chief executive of the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, a local union group, in a statement.
News Corp, for its part, says it will work to still cover local communities by continuing to fund some reporting that end up in its national, regional or city newspapers.
“The Courier-Mail, The Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun and The Advertiser will now become more state-focused, with increased regional content, and will partner with our regional and community local titles in their states to ensure we deliver compelling journalism to Australian consumers regardless of where they live,” said Miller.
The company also intends to hire “more digital-only journalists,” and to invest in expanding its online advertising offerings. Changes will take effect at the end of June.
“We are reshaping News Corp Australia to focus on where consumers and businesses are moving,” Miller said.
– Hilary Whiteman contributed to this report.