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April 17, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:10am

Coronavirus: News UK asks staff to take unpaid leave + FT warns of multi-million revenue gap

By Freddy Mayhew and Charlotte Tobitt

News UK, publisher of the Sun and Times newspapers, has asked staff to volunteer for unpaid leave or to reduce their working hours in new measures to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.

At present these are voluntary measures, but staff must take a third of their remaining annual leave, plus two days, before the end of June this year.

The group is not currently planning to apply for the Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme, so will not furlough staff at the moment.

Radio group Wireless, which is a subsidiary of News UK, is considering taking part in the wage subsidy scheme in Ireland, however.

As part of the new measures, the discretionary annual company bonus will also be reduced this year, with a greater reduction for executives in the company and those on higher salaries.

News UK is a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

In an email to staff, Chris Longcroft, chief financial officer at News UK said: “As part of News Corp, we have a long and proud heritage of delivering outstanding journalism and producing quality content for our audiences, but we need to adapt to ensure the business is able to endure the current challenges and prepare for the future.

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“We are taking a number of steps to address costs and to prepare for scenarios post-lockdown.”

The Independent is the only news outfit so far not to have made cutbacks during the virus outbreak.

Press Gazette analysis shows more than 2,000 UK news media staff have been furloughed and more than 500 publications – mainly in the regional press – have made, or face, cuts due to coronavirus

FT facing ‘double digit millions’ revenue gap

At the Financial Times, chief executive John Ridding told staff on Wednesday that the pandemic “constitutes the most serious shock to the FT’s business in modern history”.

In measures to shore up the company, Ridding is taking a 30 per cent pay cut and his fellow board members are taking a 20 per cent pay cut. The paper’s top 80 managers and editors will take a ten per cent pay cut until the end of the year.

FT owner Nikkei has agreed to protect all jobs this year.

Although digital subscriptions are “surging”, Ridding told staff, this is “not enough to offset the sudden and severe revenue shocks elsewhere in the business”.

“Advertising, print circulation and conferences have suffered sharp falls in demand and face unprecedented logistical challenges,” he wrote in an email.

“Our client teams are working hard to protect revenues, and event teams are rescheduling over 60 events and innovating with digital formats.

“But even if economic activity rebounds later in the year, we still face a revenue gap that stretches into double digit millions and which we need to manage.”

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