Times are getting tougher in the media trade. Journalists at Next Media in Hong Kong are busy fighting a 3.5 per cent salary cut introduced last Friday. Chief executive Chu Wah-hui announced the salary reduction effective next month for all staff earning more than HK$10,000. Staff are not taking the cut lying down, however, and have rejected a new employment contract that must be signed before January 23 or the firm will treat the employees as having voluntarily resigned. A letter by angry Next Media staff was circulated within the company's headquarters at Tseung Kwan O on Monday, three days after the announcement was made. The letter called on Mr Chu to hold a staff meeting to explain the reason for the salary cut, outline the firm's financial situation, discuss other means of reducing operating costs, and the possibility of resuming current salary levels once the economy recovers. About 80 of the 300 staff have signed the letter. The company circulated a letter about the salary cut on Monday and sources said some department heads had encouraged staff to sign a letter of petition to reflect their discontent over the management decision. Some staff wanted to join forces and not sign the new employment terms until the management held a dialogue with them. Media Eye has learned that journalists at the Apple Daily were particularly angry about the salary cut announcement as Mr Chu did not communicate with editorial heads on the plan. Separately, Next Media staff in Taiwan have been put on notice that their salaries will be under review if the economy turns around. Staff in Taiwan were reportedly more laid back about the salary cut and understood the company's actions were taken to avoid lay-offs. This is the first time Next Media's management has implemented an across-the-board salary cut since the firm was established in 1990. Sources told Media Eye the company was not in such a difficult position that it had to make such cuts and said the move would hurt morale within the company. 'It's not a wise decision,' the sources said. 'The annual labour cost for all Next Media staff was HK$1.109 billion for the year to March last year, up from HK$1.057 billion in the previous year. A 3.5 per cent salary cut will only save about HK$38.8 million per year. It's not a big sum that the management is looking at.' In fact, Next Media could see savings totalling hundreds of million of dollars as newsprint costs are expected to decline this year. Some industry watchers said it would have been better for the management to lay off underperforming staff, rather than cut salaries. Next Media is one of the most profitable publishing companies in Hong Kong. The firm booked a net profit of HK$208 million for the six months to September last year. It employs about 4,000 staff, mostly in Hong Kong and Taiwan, with publications such as Apple Daily in Hong Kong and Taiwan, Next Magazine in Hong Kong and Taiwan, gossip weekly FACE and Sudden Weekly in Hong Kong. Next Media shares yesterday fell 5.49 per cent to 86 HK cents. Feeling the pinch It is not just Hong Kong media companies that have been affected by the weak economy. British-based global financial newspaper publisher Financial Times Group began consulting staff yesterday on plans to cut 80 jobs as it streamlines its operations this year. Financial Times chief executive John Ridding told staff the firm was now taking the next steps in reorganising and streamlining the business. It's a dog's life What would you think about a television drama in which the principal cast was a group of army dogs? A mainland-based production house has partnered with the Armed Police Force and other related parties to produce a drama series called Army Dogs Story focusing on how army dogs live and train on the mainland. The drama features a range of canines including German Shepherds, Borzoi and Boxers. The drama is now under production at the Guangdong Wu Jin Army Dogs Training Headquarters. The series is expected to be launched on provincial television channels in August to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China.