The Australian Community Media (ACM), News Corp Australia and Nine Entertainment Group (formerly Fairfax) have entered into an agreement to utilise each other’s printing networks.
Together with the agreement, ACM confirmed the closure of three of its four print sites – with Canberra and Murray Bridge closing effective 28 August and Ballarat closing effective 2 October – as ACM moves to print its material and Nine’s at News Corp’s facilities.
ACM is still considering the position of its Albury/Wodonga site and has not yet made a final decision.
According to ACM, the move to consolidate printing networks with News Corp and Nine presents the business with cost savings.
“Even before we saw the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, many of our printing presses had more capacity than demand,” the company said.
“As a result, we have determined that the overheads of running expensive manufacturing operations are an unsustainable drain on our business and that there are alternatives available to us which provide better commercial outcomes while allowing us to focus on our core publishing business.
“The high valued mastheads of ACM, News Corp and Nine Entertainment Group will all benefit from the rationalisation of printing centres that will result in cost savings across printing and distribution.
“We are not stepping away from publishing printed copies of our newspapers – to the contrary, the printed newspaper will still play a significant role in the future of ACM. We have made the decision that ACM does not need to own print facilities to achieve this objective.”
ACM also added that the move ensures that the companies compete in journalism alone and not printing as well.
“A more streamlined and sustainable ACM will enable us to continue to invest in the high-quality journalism in which we pride ourselves,” it added.
ACM also confirmed that the closure of its three print sites will result in a number of redundancies.
“The loss of jobs at some of our print centres has been a difficult decision and not one that we have taken lightly,” it said.
“We would like to acknowledge the efforts, over many years, by the dedicated individuals who have manned the presses at these print centres and ensured our valued newspapers have been produced to the highest standards and delivered to communities around the country. We wish them well in their future endeavours.”
ACM executive chairman Antony Catalano mentioned, in an article he penned on The Canberra Times, that ACM has revised its newspaper printing operations as a result of the “commercial reality we face today in Australian publishing”.
“At ACM, without these significant changes to our printing operations and operational costs, we will be continually swimming against the tide,” he said in the report.
“[The] reality for publishers like ACM, News Corp and Nine Entertainment Co is that rationalising how we produce and distribute our newspapers helps protect the viability of our core businesses.
“With revenues from printing in decline and the advertising market challenged we can no longer afford to be hamstrung by big, expensive, capital-intensive manufacturing operations. So, these changes are the prudent thing to do. It’s smart business.
“We’ve parked egos at the door and left behind the traditional media rivalry so we can get better, more rational, outcomes around printing and distribution.”
Prior to Fairfax Media’s merger into Nine, Fairfax and News Corp has in place commercial arrangements in mid-2018 to use each other’s printing networks in NSW and Queensland.
With ACM’s move into private ownership in mid-2019, Nine then exited printing completely but remains the publisher of The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review.
News Corp also recently announced the consolidation of two of its print sites in Queensland, as well as the transition of the bulk of its regional and community newspapers to be produced in a digital only format.
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