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No more Mr Nice Guy - bring out the knives

Announced cuts at Denmark's Berlingske Officin, Germany's Hamburg Post and Norway's Edda Media have caused uproar among Mecom Europe's employee representatives.

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...

See update from Germany in the comments.

(NB. links in Norwegian, Danish and English)


Now, according to Hamburger Morgenpost editor Matthias Onken, Orkla-owned BV Deutsche Zeitungsholding has backed down significantly. However, the works committee is still afraid of cuts. All political parties in Hamburg are backing the Morgenpost staff, and even rival newspapers are writing sympathetically. Greetings from Hamburg!

Many thanks for this update Alexander. It's fascinating to see how much the arrival of a foreign media proprietor engages journalists and politicians alike.

I think Monty's reputation as a 'tough guy' and merciless cost-cutter', is part of the reason Orkla sold to Mecom. The company was in need of further restructuring in order to adapt successfully to a new media reality, if that's best achieved by a leaner organisation can be debated, but Orkla would have been castigated by Norwegian media if they had attempted a more radical shake-up. Now, with a roughly 20 pc stake in Mecom, they get to reap the benefits if Monty succeeds in raising the profit margins, without paying the price for a fall-out with the unions and public opinion

why all the hate?

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