The Australian reported on May 22 that Network Ten will cut up to 150 staff and its latest attempt to crack Breakfast TV, Wake Up, in another upheaval for the embattled broadcaster.
Ten chief executive Hamish McLennan told staff the cuts were the result of a review to “establish a new structure for Ten and to better allocate our resources, with the aim of improving our performance”.
That includes axing the Ten early, morning and late news bulletins and changes to the structure of the news, operations and other departments. A voluntary redundancy program has begun with staff affected including journalists, engineers, cameramen, editors and floor staff.
The news division will close its London and Los Angeles bureaus and the Sydney newsroom will halve its staff. The 150 jobs for the axe are believed to comprise about half the workforce in the news and operations departments.
Ten’s news and current affairs director Peter Meakin said his news staff “were pretty brave” when told of the changes.
“The Channel 10 staff and news department are a bunch of heroes,” he said. “For years they’ve been churning out great product with fewer resources than their competitors.”
McLennan alluded to the ongoing debate about media concentration laws in explaining the decision to axe the programs and the squeeze on Ten’s resources.
He said it was becoming “increasingly difficult to operate in a more fragmented and competitive media environment”.
Many Australian media companies are concerned about overseas companies such as Netflix, Facebook and Google competing for the same audience as free-to-air broadcasters without the same regulatory burdens and tax liabilities. “This is in part why the media laws need to change, because we’re not operating on a level playing field,” McLennan said.
“Media companies need to break out of the overly regulated environment we work in where we pay our corporate taxes as well as licence fees.”
This is the third upheaval to the Ten news division in four years. Staff were told at a midday meeting its strongly performing Ten Eyewitness News at 5pm was safe from changes. It will maintain its state-based newsreaders and local reporting.
“The 5pm news here has been going very well and continues to perform well,” Meakin said. He said all Ten departments would feel the pain.
“The fact is we work in commercial television, and the official phrase is ‘revenue is soft’ so we have to tighten our belts,” he said.
It is understood most of the cost savings from the departing programs will fall to the bottom line, with part of the budget reallocated to general entertainment programming under Ten’s ‘‘Event TV’’ strategy, which focuses on programmes viewers prefer to watch live, rather than record, such as live sport and reality TV.
Ten has not revealed replacement programming for the breakfast slot, although it is understood it will include U.S. content. “The strategy for breakfast is to provide an alternative to Sunrise and the Today show and I don’t think it will include Homer Simpson,” Meakin said.
“It won’t be a cartoon-led recovery.”
He also dismissed extending the successful Studio 10 programme into breakfast from 8.30am.
The three news bulletins and Wake Up will cease production on May 23. Wake Up, created by former Sunrise executive producer Adam Boland, launched in November and will broadcast 148 episodes. Its predecessor, Breakfast lasted 202 episodes in 2012. Wake Up, hosted by James Mathison and Natarsha Belling, was unable to attract average metro audiences of more than 35,000 as its rivals, Seven’s Sunrise and Nine’s Today, averaged 10 times more.