Malaysia's largest media group Media Prima set to lay off hundreds of workers

Media Prima has some 3,800 employees and controls Malaysia's four main private television channels TV3, NTV7, 8TV and TV9, and daily newspapers New Straits Times, Berita Harian and the Harian Metro tablet. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM GOOGLE MAPS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's largest media group is planning to shed hundreds of its print and broadcast staff as it struggles financially due to disruptive changes in the global and local media scene.

Kuala Lumpur-listed Media Prima, which has some 3,800 employees controls the country's four main private television channels TV3, NTV7, 8TV and TV9, and daily newspapers New Straits Times, Berita Harian and the Harian Metro tablet.

The newspapers are grouped under the New Straits Times Press (NSTP), which said 543 employees would be laid off.

Media Prima in a statement on Monday (Dec 16) said it had sought consultations from several journalist and newspaper worker unions before coming to a decision on the new operating structure, as well as the list of affected employees.

The group did not say how many workers would be leaving under the restructuring.

"The group has ensured a fair and equitable compensation governed by the Employment Act, the respective union collective agreements and employment contracts. The group will additionally provide support which includes job outplacement services and career counselling," Media Prima said.

The affected employees were notified on Monday.

Media Prima's ownership in July changed hands from Umno to businessman Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary, after the Pakatan Harapan coalition ousted Umno-led Barisan Nasional from power. Tycoon Tan Sri Mokhtar is close to close to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Media Prima in its annual report said net profit for calendar year 2018 was RM58.99 million (S$19.3 million), down 23 per cent from RM76.6 million five years ago in 2014.

Revenue last year stood at RM1.19 billion, 21 per cent lower than RM1.51 billion at end 2014.

Media Prima said the next phase of its business transformation exercise would include changes to the group's business model and internal organisation structure "to enable the group to be future-proofed and sustainable given the uncertain macroeconomic conditions and disruptive changes in the global and local media sector".

This is its second round of staff rationalisation, with the first one announced in January this year, via a mutual separation scheme.

According to the NSTP's branch of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), the termination is to take effect from March 12 next year, with 543 employees at NSTP expected to receive termination letters on Monday.

"NSTP NUJ hopes the retrenchment process goes smoothly and the compensation the company promised to give us will be delivered in accordance with the law so that we can look after the welfare of our members.

"We also hope this is the last round of retrenchment the company will undertake," said chairman Farah Marshita Abdul Patah in a statement on Monday.

The struggles of Media Prime mirrors those experienced by global media.

Malaysia's oldest Bahasa Melayu newspaper that was owned by Umno, Utusan Malaysia, was shut down in October after its publisher Utusan Melayu ceased operations, leaving 700 people jobless. The printing licence of Utusan Malaysia is now held by Syed Mokhtar.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.