Media Prima’s MSS shows a sad trend in media sector

The scheme is offered to selected staff as firm continues to assess overall operation

By SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / Graphic By TMR

Media Prima Bhd has confirmed it is offering a mutual separation scheme (MSS) to selected staff as the media giant seeks to rationalise its manpower requirements based on current needs.

The company said the group continues to assess the overall operation, especially with the rise of the digital and commerce segments, and demand for digital content and online services.

“Our ongoing assessment also includes identifying businesses and job functions that are made obsolete or redundant by technological advancements and changing industry landscape,” the company said in a statement to The Malaysian Reserve.

“The MSS is offered to staff of selected departments and business units. It is voluntary in nature,” the company said, adding that the benefits will be paid in full upon completion of the exercise and not in staggered payments.

On the manpower rationalisation exercise involving select unionised employees of Media Prima’s subsidiary, Sistem Televisyen Malaysia Bhd (STMB), the company is currently in talks with STMB employee unions.

“Details will be provided upon completion of the said discussions,” it said.

News of Media Prima’s MSS had swirled over the weekend, denting the already battered Malaysian media industry which is facing lower revenue and drop in newspapers circulation and television viewers.

Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd recently offered a voluntary separation scheme (VSS) to 800 of its staff.

Meanwhile, a source in Media Prima said: “The management had completed conducting a review of the content creation department, Primeworks Studios Sdn Bhd, and now it is moving on to the news department.”

The source said there is no exact number of employees to be axed, but it would largely depend on the allocation.

“Anyone within the selected department can apply. The number of employees who will be released will be according to the allocation that Media Prima has for this round of MSS,” said the source.

In November last year, STMB had retrenched 190 employees from the technical operation support and creative service department, issuing a three-month notice.

It also offered MSS to 43 employees, of which 24 are from the news and current issues unit, and 19 are from the management service department.

The media group’s decision to embark on the programme had sparked a dispute with its employee unions, namely the STMB Employees Union and TV3 Executive Union.

An analyst said Media Prima is conducting a workforce restructuring according to its Odyssey Transformation Plan launched in 2017, which focuses on the digitalisation of the media network.

“As long as Media Prima is having its digitalisation phase, they will need to reskill, restructure and reduce their human resource, and focus on employees who will adhere to the programme.

“As Media Prima comprises many experienced and senior workers, adapting to the new digital technology would not be necessarily in line with some of their work regime,” said the analyst.

In its third quarter of 2018 financial performance, the operator of four free-to-air television stations and three publications reported narrowed losses to RM30.7 million from RM101.09 million in the previous corresponding quarter.

The group attributed the lower losses to the one-off impairment of investment and payment of an early retirement scheme in August 2017.

In December 2018, Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd had included a VSS in its strategic business review.

According to the pay-TV operator, the scheme is being complemented by coaching and skills upgrading training to provide support to the employees, and that the scheme is purely relying on a voluntary basis. The politically-linked media group, Utusan Melayu, has been under Bursa Malaysia’s Practice Note 17 since August 2018.