The China Post yesterday reported that the China Times, the Chinese language paper that was once the Xinhua of Taiwan and remains ardently pro-Blue, will reconstitute itself in tabloid format in a couple of months:

No date has been fixed for the downsizing, which the paper said is necessary after the rise in the cost of operations and the advertising revenue shrinkage due to Taiwan’s economic downturn.

Lin Sheng-feng, president of The China Times, said the adjustments will be completed in two months for the change to actually become a tabloid. Financial stringencies have already forced the English-language Taiwan News in Taipei to appear in tabloid form.

According to its schedule, The China Times will appear in downsized form in early September.

Union leaders at The China Times were seriously concerned over the proposed layoff of close to 600 or half of the paper’s staff members.

They hope the Taipei municipal bureau of labor would mediate in the negotiations for the severance pay of the staff who will be laid off.

At least, union leaders said, the workers who will lose their jobs should be paid just like those when the China Times Express closed in 2005. The afternoon paper of The China Times was closed on October 28.

That may not be possible, according to Chou Sheng-yuan, publisher of The China Times.

In a letter to the staff, Chou apologized for failing to improve the operation of The China Times over the past year. The paper has been losing money.

He said he would leave The China Times along with those workers who have to be separated.

The China Times tried to diversify its media operation by acquiring two TV networks. Neither electronic media has made money.

One of the networks, CTI, has increased its advertising revenue since its introduction of a popular songfest program, The Starlight Highway.

The other, China TV, has continued to lose money, though the loss was lowered to NT$246 million last year from NT$764 million in 2006.

“We believe,” a union leader said, “the paper has made a wrong venture, which made its financial situation worse to the extent that many of us have to be fired.”

Whether The China Times will survive as a tabloid remains to be seen, as the Ming Pao Weekly of Hong Kong will debut in Taiwan today.

Taiwan’s crowded media market offers three English language papers alone, plus several 24 hour news channels, in addition to a slew of Chinese-language news organs. I would bet money that more local news organs will be downsizing to survive over the next couple of years.