Coronavirus: Celtic Media lay off staff on temporary basis

Regional newspaper group announces move after pandemic causes collapse in revenues

Celtic Media Group confirmed it will continue to publish its five weekly cover-price titles. Photograph: iStock

Celtic Media Group confirmed it will continue to publish its five weekly cover-price titles. Photograph: iStock

 

Celtic Media Group, one of the country’s largest local and regional newspaper organisations, has announced that a number of staff will be laid off on a temporary basis during the Covid-19 pandemic due to a collapse in revenues.

Celtic Media employs just over 90 people at eight different titles, including the Anglo-Celt in Cavan, first published in 1846, as well as the Meath Chronicle, Westmeath Examiner, Westmeath Independent and Connaught Telegraph.

Staff temporarily laid off from the group can avail of the Government’s emergency Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment, while other employees have agreed to work shorter hours next month and all managers have offered to take “substantial pay cuts” on a temporary basis.

The group has confirmed it will continue to publish its five weekly cover-price titles – both in print and online, and the company’s print plant in Navan is operating as normal. However, publication of its free newspaper, the Offaly Independent, has been suspended.

With more than 1.5 million monthly visitors to its group websites and 230,000-plus Facebook followers, Celtic Media Group has been investing substantially in its digital model.

Revenue downturn

Frank Mulrennan, chief executive of the group, said: “By acting quickly once we saw the scale of revenue downturn in the last fortnight, we are putting in place a lower cost platform during these crisis weeks to allow us to emerge as a strong business once the economy recovers.”

He added: “I am so proud of how my colleagues throughout the centres are responding to this crisis situation for us all in local businesses.”

Leading industry figures have warned of the potential closure of other titles around the country unless urgent State support is given immediately to the news publishing industry.

In a joint letter going to Oireachtas members, Linda O’Reilly, editor of the Anglo-Celt, and Johnny O’Hanlon, director of Local Ireland, called for immediate State support for the local newspaper titles.

“Some publishers fear their ability to survive beyond the next few months without immediate Government support,” the letter states. “We cannot overstate the scale of the crisis facing the news publishing industry in the coming weeks and we are asking the State to ensure we can continue to fulfil our public service role in society.”