Germany’s top-selling tabloid Bild announced that it will cut about 200 jobs and close about one-third of its regional editions across the country. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined its affiliates in Germany, the DJV and dju in ver.di, in opposing the plans of publisher Axel Springer SE and calling for no journalists to be dismissed.
The move comes after the company launched a major shift to go totally digital this year. Citing an email sent to the staff on Monday 19 June 2023, The Guardian first reported that the Bild would “parting ways with colleagues who have tasks that in the digital world are performed by AI and/or automated processes”. The information was later denied by Axel Springer, who said in a statement that the job cuts were in no way AI-related, but part of a restructuring of its regional press operations.
The German Journalists’ Association (DJV) strongly criticised the planned job cuts: “If the CEO Mathias Döpfner wants to slaughter the group’s cash cow, this is not only antisocial towards the employees but also economically extremely stupid. BILD is still Axel Springer’s profit earner. Less regional reporting means less reader service and thus fewer readers,” said DJV Chairman Frank Überall. “There must be no layoffs. In such a large media group, the affected employees must be offered alternative jobs. Springer owes this to its people,” Überall added.
“With the increasing distribution channels, digital journalism needs more colleagues in the editorial offices, not fewer. The use of AI cannot take over the human creativity, classification of research and journalistic responsibility that journalists stand for,” warned Christoph Schmitz, member of the ver.di national board and responsible for media.
Despite inflation, the energy crisis and the Ukraine war, the group made good money in 2022 with annual sales of 3.9 billion euros and a profit of three-quarters of a billion euros, according to ver.di.