The Scottish Government is to be asked to set up a newspaper version of the broadcasting commission it launched four years ago.
The move – by the National Union of Journalists – follows the news two weeks ago that 90 editorial jobs at the Daily Record and Sunday Mail newspapers have been earmarked for redundancy by publishers, Trinity Mirror.
And at a meeting on Friday of Record and Mail members of the NUJ, it was agreed that the approach to the Scottish Government should comprise one part of a three-pronged response to Trinity Mirror's plans, the other two being to explore legal and industrial action.
Said the NUJ's Scottish Organiser, Paul Holleran: “A commission would look at the role the banks could perform to save newspapers from going under and maybe how the Government could perhaps act as a guarantor. It could look at the changing face of advertising, the impact of new technology, not to mention ownership and the salaries of chief executives.”
Holleran told allmediascotland.com he informed the meeting that Trinity Mirror have rejected a plea to increase the severance terms on offer, to potentially attract more applications for voluntary redundancy.
Currently on offer is two weeks' pay for every year of service, up to a maximum of 18 months' worth.
Said Holleran: “Last week, it looked like our negotiations with Mark Hollinshead [director of national newspapers at Trinity Mirror] were making progress. It seemed that we had agreed some important decisions; for instance, that the number of years a member of staff has done as a casual would be added to their severance calculations.
“Then the Trinity Mirror board went and pulled the rug from under it all. It seems they were not even persuaded by our offer not to use any enhanced deal this time around become a precedent for future negotiations on other issues.”
Holinshead is scheduled to speak to staff on Friday, the original deadline day for applications for voluntary redundancy but which has now been moved to a week today.
A Trinity Mirror spokesperson told allmediascotland.com: “We continue to work with all affected staff and their representatives and we are committed to achieving as many as possible of these redundancies by voluntary means.”
A couple of years ago, 72 journalism posts were shed at the Record and Mail.
News of the 90 jobs at risk, this time around, was couched in the language of 'technology-led development'. As perhaps a sign of the times, when news of the 90 jobs at risk first broke, it is understood to have been 'tweeted' over 250 times within the first hour and before it was reported on the popular media section of The Guardian's website.
Industry pundits have pointed out the relative sales success in Scotland of the Scottish editions of The Sun and the Daily Mail, both of which operate with a much smaller workforce and carry a relatively substantial amount of (usually non-news and sports) editorial sourced by their England-based counterparts. The average sale in Scotland of The Scottish Sun in May was 328,842 versus an average 284,152 for the Daily Record and 115,063 for the Scottish Daily Mail.
The broadcasting commission – launched by First Minister, Alex Salmond, and chaired by a former head of news and current affairs at BBC Scotland, Blair Jenkins – went on to recommend the creation of a digital TV channel (including a large online presence) dedicated to Scottish content. To date, it has enjoyed widespread support – including unanimous backing from the Scottish Parliament – but remains, still, a recommendation.