Staff at the influential Israeli daily Haaretz carried out a one day strike yesterday, preventing production of the newspaper for the first time in thirty years.
The action took place in protest at upcoming cost-saving measures by the paper’s owners, which reportedly threaten to make one in five Haaretz workers redundant. Workers also claimed that they have not been consulted adequately by the management over the proposed cutbacks.
However, Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken denied the claims and said that the protests were divorced from reality, commenting, “It is regrettable that the union doesn’t understand that something has happened in the newspaper industry that requires adapting expenditures to the reality of the business.”
Haaretz is not the only major Israeli media outlet experiencing financial difficulties. The country’s third largest daily Maariv was sold last month by its cash-strapped owners. The new owners are expected to lay off most of Maariv’s 2,000 employees, who marched to the Prime Minister’s office earlier this week to urge government intervention. There is also uncertainty surrounding the future of independent television station Channel Ten.
Israeli newspapers have suffered from a sharp fall in advertising revenues with the growing popularity in online media. They have also had to contend with the popularity of Israel Hayom, a free daily newspaper, which entered the market in 2007 and last year surpassed Yediot Ahronot as the country’s most read daily.
For some, the downturn in fortunes of Israeli newspapers is a cause for concern given the country’s traditionally robust and outspoken media environment. Quoted in the Financial Times, Tamir Sheafer, professor of communications and political science at the Hebrew University said, “My concern is that the huge economic pressure causes two things: one is that there is less of a budget for real journalistic work, such as investigative journalism. The second is that it creates fear of writing about companies and individuals that advertise in the media.”