Australia's Network Ten to Lose 150 Staff as News, Breakfast Programs Are Cut

Hamish McLennan

Chairman Hamish McLennan says the cuts are "painful but necessary."

SYDNEY -- Australia’s third ranked commercial TV network, Ten, announced Wednesday its axing three key News bulletins and its struggling breakfast TV show, Wake Up, with job cuts from the program losses said to be in the order of 150.

Ten’s morning and late-night news programs, as well as Wake Up, which has been on the air for just six months, will have their final episodes Friday, while chairman and CEO Hamish McLennan said a review has been conducted to “establish a new structure for Ten and to better allocate our resources, with the aim of improving our performance."

Ten has had a tumultuous four years, with McLennan -- its fourth CEO in as many years -- now blaming a soft television advertising market and the network's disappointing ratings, revenue and earnings performance for the cuts.

“It is a tough period for Ten and we need to take some painful, but necessary, measures to restructure the business,” he said in an email to staff.

The cuts come just two years after then CEO Lachlan Murdoch slashed 100 staff from Ten’s News division and closed several of the same programs its just axed again. Months later the early morning and late night news programs were re-instated.

Ten’s flagship Eyewitness News at 5pm will remain on air, as will morning show Studio 10.

Wake Up and Studio 10 both launched six months ago. Wake Up had a shaky start, which included the departure of executive producer Adam Boland and one of its team of three presenters, and has been unable to average more than 30,000 to 40,000 viewers a day – a tenth of the audiences on rival Seven and Nine network’s breakfast shows..

"We need to use our News resources -- staff and content -- more effectively," McLennan said announcing the cuts in an email to staff.

"Our existing business model needs to change and we need to achieve greater efficiencies, tighter cost management and greater focus in terms of the parts of the company in which we invest. A review has been conducted to establish a new structure for Ten and to better allocate our resources, with the aim of improving our performance. As a result of that review, there are proposed changes to News programs, the structure of News and Operations, and other departments," he said.

Ten later confirmed the cuts.

"Network Ten would like to thank the people involved with Wake Up and the Ten Early, Morning and Late News for their dedication, enthusiasm and hard work," the network said in a statement.

Ten Eyewitness News at 5pm will continue to be produced locally in each market. It will continue to have local news, sport and weather, local presenters, local reporters and local production staff, and will continue to bring the best of local, national and international news to viewers,” it said.

A voluntary redundancy program is underway in the news and operations department.

Ten’s head of news and current affairs, Peter Meakin, told the Australian Financial Review newspaper that the network’s revenue is “down the toilet and the ratings are less than auspicious. Clearly the board has had a look at it and this is the decision they’ve made and I guess we have to live it".

The Latest Standard Media Index figures of advertising booked through media agencies show that Ten only pulled in a revenue share of 19.3 percent last month. The network last month reported a fall in earnings of 71 percent to AUS$10.1 million ($9.33 million) in the first half of the financial year.

McLennan, a former News Corp executive who worked closely with Rupert Murdoch, was named chairman of Ten as well as CEO last month after then Ten chairman, Lachlan Murdoch returned to News Corp and Twentieth Century Fox as deputy chairman.