News Corp Australia has continued to wring out its staff photography department to save money, with more redundancies issued to a handful of regional-based photographers.
Around eight newspaper photographers from across the country were called into management meetings last week, according to The Guardian, and told their positions were being replaced by freelancers. The photographers were then apparently asked to come back to work as ‘outsourced labours, on a freelance basis, and were offered to buy the staff photography equipment for a discounted price.
The photographers worked for the Geelong Advertiser, NT News, Hobart Mercury, Townsville Bulletin, Gold Coast Bulletin, and Cairns Post.
‘This completes our rollout of the freelance model for our photography and the way it’s commissioned,’ a News Corp spokesperson said.
News Corp Australia has been enacting cost-cutting measures for years now, resulting in the slow death of its staff photography departments. In April 2017, responding to job cuts, a News Corp spokesperson said photography would shift from being 100 percent in-house to a ‘hybrid model’. At the time it was stated this would consist of specialist/staff photographers, freelancers, and stock photography, but it seems staff photography has been ruled from the equation.
News photographers have been sounding the alarm about how the shift from in-house photography toward cheap’n’nasty solutions will hurt the public’s ability to stay informed.
In August 2020, Inside Imaging reported how News Corp published numerous ‘propaganda’ photos captured by the Prime Minister’s official photographer, Adam Taylor. These photos show Prime Minister Scott Morrison in good step, and replace images traditionally captured by an independent photographer with no political agenda. Someone like Gary Ramage, a Walkley-winning former senior News Corp photographer who had just been made redundant and hired back on a freelance basis.
Dismantling in-house photo departments are only one part of News Corp’s major restructure, which has also included merging more than 20 regional newspapers with capital city mast heads. According to News Corp chief executive, Michael Miller, this resulted in favourable quarterly earnings and the media company will create 100 new jobs this year.
Earlier in 2020 former News Corp photographer, Fiona Rogers, who was made redundant last year, told the Senate Inquiry into Media Diversity about the media company’s ‘sexist’ and toxic workplace, and how the media company sought click-bait stories based on whether a woman is attractive.
Long live AAP
But it’s not all bad news for the news photography sector in Australia, as the Federal Government is granting the Australian Associated Press (AAP) $15 million over two years.
The national news wire is now operating as an independent not-for-profit, after being sunk last year by its owners Nine and News Corp, and replaced by NCA NewsWire. The closure was attributed to the ‘shifting media landscape‘, although apparently Nine (Fairfax) and News Corp had enough of subsidising a business that was providing breaking news content to competitors, such as The Guardian.
‘…This grant will help underpin the AAP newswire on its path to sustainability,’ said Emma Cowdroy, AAP CEO. ‘The AAP newswire is an essential part of our democratic infrastructure. Supporting the national newswire means supporting the industry as a whole.’
This is the second round of government money for the AAP, which scored $5 million in September 2020 from the Public Interest News Gathering (PING) program.