Impact of recession: US media in deep crisis

December 9th, 2008 - 12:31 pm ICT by IANS  

New York, Dec 9 (IANS) Faced with declining advertising revenue and mounting debt, the US media has plunged into a deep financial crisis.The publisher of the two most popular dailies, The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune, has filed for bankruptcy. The New York Times is seeking a $225 million loan against it’s headquarter in mid-town Manhattan. The popular Miami Herald has been put on sale by its owner. And stocks of CBS, one of the popular new channels, have fallen below $5 in recent weeks.

Most American media outlets are now struggling to survive. They have gone into massive cost cutting, resulting in hundreds of journalists and non-journalists in the mainstream media losing their jobs in recent months.

In the latest sign of crisis that has hit the once flourishing US media, The Tribune Company - which owns as many as 23 television stations and 12 newspapers including its flagship Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune - Monday announced that it has filed for bankruptcy. The company is said to have nearly $13 billion in debt compared to $7.6 billion in assets.

“Unfortunately, factors beyond our control have created a perfect storm — a precipitous decline in revenue and a tough economy coupled with a credit crisis that makes it extremely difficult to support our debt,” Tribune CEO Sam Zell said in a statement Monday.

David Carr, popular media columnist for The New York Times, said: “Media companies have been hammered on the leading edge of the recession because they run on advertising, a discretionary expenditure that always is among the first things to go.”

The New York Times Company, which runs one of the most popular American newspapers by the same name, Monday said it will borrow as much as $225 million against its skyscraper property in mid-town Manhattan, which happens to be its headquarter.

This has become essential to prevent a possible cash flow jam. It is facing a debt repayment of $400 million. Notably, stocks of The New York Times have dropped 55 percent this year.

So have stocks of several other media outlets. Besides CBS news channel, News Corp stocks have recently been trading below $6 and those of Time Warner have dropped under $8.

Only a few days ago, The McClatchy Company, America’s third largest newspaper chain running more than 30 newspapers, had put its popular The Miami Herald newspaper on sale. The Miami Herald with a circulation of 210,000 has won as many as 19 Pulitzer Prizes.

Latest statistics released by Newspaper Association of America has disclosed that newspaper advertisement revenue in the third quarter of this year dropped by $2 billion; a record 18.1 percent decline. The online ad revenue too declined for the second quarter in a row, it said.

The USA Today had announced a cut in jobs in its newsroom a fortnight ago. So did The Chicago Tribune last week. Gannett, the parent company of USA Today, has announced that it will cut 10 percent of its workforce at the more than 80 newspapers run by it.

The 17-member Cox Newspapers chain has announced it is closing down its Washington bureau and would depend on news agencies now. Independently-run Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has lost 20 percent of its staff in the past 18 months. A majority of the US media has already shut down its foreign bureaus or cut costs drastically.

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