by Tim Lezard Richard Desmond, owner of the Express Newspapers and OK! magazine, has been accused of wilfully running his newspapers to the ground despite his company making a profit following the sale of Channel 5. Desmond is in the process of making …
Richard Desmond, owner of the Express Newspapers and OK! magazine, has been accused of wilfully running his newspapers to the ground despite his company making a profit following the sale of Channel 5.
Desmond is in the process of making 200 staff redundant at the Express and Star newspapers, at the same time as pocketing £463.3m from the sale of Channel 5 to the American media company, Viacom. Staff on his newspapers have not had a pay rise in the past seven years.
The latest accounts of Desmond’s Northern & Shell show an operating profit of £37m in 2013. However, his Health Lottery made an operating loss of £28.4m on revenue of £26.5m last year.
While the wage and salary bill stayed almost flat at £78.7m, five directors received £1.96m in remuneration. Average employee numbers fell from 1,242 to 1,190.
Morale among his staff is at rock bottom. The NUJ is carrying out a survey to gather evidence on workload pressure and stress following cuts to journalist numbers. The union is also gathering evidence of hardship faced by journalists across his titles because of the pay freeze. The staff have to work in poor conditions, with mice rampant at the London office.
NUJ national organiser Laura Davison said: “Desmond has made a huge amount from the sale of Channel 5, but has no plans to re-invest this windfall in the newspapers he runs. Instead, he is wilfully running them down, by cutting staff to unacceptable levels and leaving those who remain with huge workloads.
“Why should journalists lose their jobs so he can prop up his failing Health Lottery? The NUJ believes the papers deserve a proprietor who values them and secures their future using the ideas and skills of the people who work on them, both in print and digital. Now the company is in profit, perhaps it is time for him to sell the titles to someone who actually cares about newspapers and quality journalism. In the meantime, there should be a moratorium on these cuts and meaningful negotiation over a strategic plan for the future of the titles, including a proper pay rise for staff.”
The NUJ will meet the management for further talks on 13 October.
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