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Johnston Press bosses told to forgo 2014 bonuses

27 March 2015

Johnston Press has reported a pre-tax loss of £23.9m for the past year and a 2.8pc increase in its operating profits. It also announced a "multi-million, five-year deal" to print Richard Desmond’s Express and Star titles in the north of England.

The Express's presses at Broughton will close from July 8 with the loss of 90 printing jobs.

Digital revenues rose by 20 per cent from £24m to £28.8m. Combined print and digital advertising revenue was down 4.2 per cent to £167.2m last year. Newspaper sales revenue fell 4.8 per cent from £81.8m to £77.9m.
Digital audiences grew by 35.8 per cent from an average in 2013 of 12.3m to an average of 16.7m per month in 2014, with 40.7 per cent using mobile devices.

Net debt stands at £184.6m, down from £302m in 2013 following a refinancing package.There were exceptional operating expenses of £4.6 million for one-off retention and incentivisation plans for senior managers, one-off strategic performance bonuses for executive directors and the Value Creation Plan for the executive directors.

Meanwhile job cuts have continued with another 16 set to go in the Yorkshire Publishing Unit.

Johnston Press is the publisher of the Scotsman and Yorkshire Post, with 13 daily, 154 weekly paid-for and 37 weekly free newspapers,  plus a number of glossy monthly lifestyle magazines, 215 local, e-commerce and mobile websites, and 31 tablet and Smartphone apps.

Ashley Highfield, Johnston Press chief executive, said:

"Following the refinancing we are seeing the business transform into a modern multimedia organisation. We are excited about the future for the business and confident of delivering on our strategic objectives of growing an engaged audience base and returning our business to top-line growth.”

The NUJ Johnston Press group chapel said:

"While the company made a loss of almost £24m, operating profit was up and declines in total revenues continue to improve. The multi-million pound print deal is also likely to help the company's goal of returning to growth.
"However, this will be of little comfort to our members, who face endless restructuring and potential job losses. The company has continued with big cutbacks to editorial staffing in the past year on top of its well-documented programme of office closures. We're also seeing an increasing amount of centralisation of resources in each region under its Newsroom of the Future programme.
"The danger is that all this will bring the company to a tipping point where it can no longer retain local readers and advertisers."

Chapels have called on Johnston Press executives to forgo their 2014 bonuses and ensure the money is invested in staffing for the company's struggling newsrooms.

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:

"Johnston Press’s pared down newsrooms are operating solely on goodwill and it’s just not sustainable. There needs to be a national joined-up approach to the changes the company wants to make; and the real concerns of overstretched journalists must be central to that process. This is a critical time for local papers. In the run up to the general election members want stability, certainty and proper resources so they can get on with the vital job of covering it for their readers."

Support the NUJ's Local News Matters campaign. Read more about it on the campaign page.

Attend the major summit for newspapers and agencies on Saturday 25 April. Find out more on the events page.

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Tags: , local newspapers, regional newspapers, johnston press, cuts, ashley highfield, profits, local news matters, express newspapers