Fairfax spent $500m on redundancies: MEAA

A public inquiry has heard more than 2500 journalist jobs have been lost in Australia since 2011. (AAP)

Fairfax Media has spent half a billion dollars in redundancy costs between 2007 and 2016, a federal parliamentary hearing has heard.

Fairfax Media spent half a billion dollars on redundancies between 2007 and last year, a Senate inquiry into the future of Australian journalism has been told.

The federal select committee is investigating public interest journalism, the impact and market power of social media news aggregators, competition issues and "fake news".

Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance union chief executive Paul Murphy on Wednesday said the industry was at a crossroads with more than 2500 journalism jobs cut in the past six years.

"The media industry is crinkling at the seams," he told the inquiry in Sydney.

The Senate probe was launched after Fairfax earlier this month announced it was cutting a further 125 full-time job cuts across its major metropolitan mastheads.

Reporters at the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age struck for a week in response.

"The company (Fairfax) has spent close to half a billion on redundancy between 2007 to 2016," Mr Murphy told Wednesday's hearing.

Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood told the inquiry "difficult" decisions created a "pretty successful story in a pretty arduous environment for a publishing company".

"Unless you make the decisions we did, the business would have not been here three years ago," Mr Hywood said.

"We have taken $500 million plus costs out of the business in the last five years - that's an enormous about of money but only 10 to 15 per cent has been taken from the front line of journalism."

Greens senator Scott Ludlam asked Mr Hywood if his reported $7 million-plus remuneration in 2016 was an "appropriate way of running a media business".

Mr Hywood responded by stating the figure was "media speculation" but he wouldn't reveal his actual salary.

"Everyone at Fairfax is paid appropriately to where the market is in that role," he said.

Mr Hywood attacked the ABC for purchasing search engine marketing with Google to boost the national broadcaster's stories online.

"That means ABC stories appear higher on key search terms and restricts our ability to generate revenue from our audience," he said.

"Traffic is dollars for us and if the ABC takes traffic away from us using taxpayers' money to drive that traffic, it's using taxpayers money to disadvantage commercial media organisations."

The committee on Wednesday also discussed the possibility of taxing news aggregators such as Google and Facebook, and providing incentives to encourage greater investment in journalism.

However Buzzfeed views Google and Facebook more favourably, with editor-in-chief Simon Crerar telling the inquiry they were "newsagents" for their business.

"Our distribution method is social networks," Mr Crerar said on Wednesday.

The proposal to use incentives to encourage investment in journalism was met with caution by Huffington Post Australia editor-in-chief Tory Maguire.

"Anything publicly funded by the government would mean the government will have some sort of agenda of the outcome of that reporting," she said.

The committee is due to present its final report by December 7.

Source AAP

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