The hard-won but fragile truce between former Mirror boss David Montgomery and the journalist unions in his new media empire has clearly come to and end. Gone is Monty the "nice, piano playing Irishman", there was never much faith behind those words anyway – probably just haphazard words mumbled to the press by Orkla Media's employee representative Kjetil Haanes while he was trying to come to terms with the inevitable, an attempt to spot that famous silver lining.
We're back to Monty the evil cost-cutter, the foreign capitalist bent on sacrificing quality journalism and local democracy to achieve his profit margins. Based on a report commissioned by the union from an independent analyst, Haanes forewarns that the 120, mainly non-journalist jobs, scheduled to be axed in Norway next year will turn to 1000, and certain bloodbath, in 2008. In Denmark, the 350 scheduled job cuts at Berlingske Officin are equally contentious. In Germany, almost the entire news organisation at Hamburg Post has signed a petition entitled "Jetzt reicht's" (Now it's enough) in protest to next year's budget.
However, it's worth remembering that Denmark, where former Orkla Media, now Mecom Europe, achieved a dismal 3.5 profit margin last year, is Monty's Achilles heel. The pressing financial situation here is not helped by the ongoing freesheet war, where each new freebie effectively is loosing something in the region of £82,000 a day, and analysts say the cuts at Berlingske Officin are long overdue.
In fact, I think Orkla 'restructured' its media arm as much as the company could possibly get away with without causing a fall-out with the unions or attracting too much bad PR. But in the face of a new and harder media reality tougher measures are needed, and whom better than a former Murdoch man to see those through...
(NB. links in Norwegian, Danish and English)