Germany: massive cuts plan endangering 700 jobs at RTL Group

The German media group RTL, part of Bertelsmann, announced on 7 February 2023 its decision to stop the publication of 23 print magazines and to potentially sell others. This decision would put 700 jobs at risk, including freelancing jobs. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) demand the opening of immediate negotiations between RTL and the journalists’ organisations (dju in ver.di and DJV) in Germany.

Thomas Rabe reacts during the Bertelsmann annual press conference March 26, 2013 in Berlin. Credits: JOHANNES EISELE / AFP.

Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe, who took office on 1 April 2019, said that RTL Group was adjusting to “the rapidly changing media landscape” and that it would focus on “core brands”, including Stern, GEO and Capital. Together with 10 other titles and two digital divisions, those brands account for 70% of sales. Rabe added that keeping a “uniform brand management” with that many in the portfolio would “not be possible”. It is understood that the investment’s focus will shift to the digital sector, another blow to the print media sector already in decline.

As a result, 500 of the 1,900 jobs will face termination of employment by the end of 2025, and 200 will face transfers. A majority of the job cuts will affect the administrative department of the Hamburg offices.

DJV national chairman Frank Überall said in a statement that the decision to cut jobs was driven by “unscrupulous profit maximization”, disputing the arguments put forward by Rabe.

Christoph Schmitz, from the ver.di national board for media, said: “Bertelsmann is now breaking up the magazine publisher RTL in Hamburg due to the inability to lead a profitable magazine house that is respected throughout Europe into the digital transformation.”

Employees have been worried about the future of their jobs since the merger of the traditional publisher Gruner+Jahr with RTL a year ago. A protest was organised on 7 February in Hamburg and gathered some 300 employees.

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