Fair­fax-Nine bid gets nod

ACCC’s green light for pro­posed me­dia merger

The Cairns Post - - BUSINESS -

THE com­pe­ti­tion watch­dog will al­low Fair­fax Me­dia’s $4 bil­lion merger with Nine En­ter­tain­ment to go ahead af­ter de­cid­ing the move would not di­min­ish com­pe­ti­tion in Aus­tralian news and me­dia.

The Aus­tralian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion yes­ter­day said it had ex­am­ined more than 1000 sub­mis­sions, as well as doc­u­ments de­manded from Nine and Fair­fax, be­fore giv­ing the merger the green light.

The de­ci­sion re­moves one of the fi­nal ob­sta­cles to the cre­ation of a me­dia gi­ant own­ing Nine’s free-to-air TV net­work, news­pa­pers in­clud­ing the Age, The Aus­tralian Fi­nan­cial Re­view and Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald, a ma­jor­ity stake in real es­tate site Do­main, stream­ing ser­vice Stan, and a 54.5 per cent stake in the Mac­quarie Me­dia ra­dio net­work.

“We con­cluded that the pro­posed merger was not likely to sub­stan­tially lessen com­pe­ti­tion,” ACCC chair Rod Sims (right) said.

Mr Sims ac­knowl­edged the merger, which was an­nounced in July, would re­duce the num­ber of com­pa­nies in­tensely fo­cus­ing on do­mes­tic news from five to four, but said ri­vals such as The Guardian and Buz­zfeed were pro­vid­ing ad­di­tional com­pe­ti­tion.

“Only Nine-Fair­fax, News/ Sky, Seven West Me­dia and the ABC/SBS will em­ploy a large num­ber of jour­nal­ists fo­cused on news cre­ation and dis­sem­i­na­tion,” Mr Sims said.

“With the growth in on­line news, how­ever, many other play­ers, al­beit smaller, now pro­vide some de­gree of com­pet­i­tive con­straint.”

The ACCC also found while Nine’s tele­vi­sion oper­a­tions and Fair­fax’s main me­dia as­sets gen­er­ally do not com­pete closely with each other, their on­line news cov­er­age could over­lap af­ter in­vest­ment in this area from both com­pa­nies.

It said the deal would prob­a­bly put Nine along­side News Corp and ahead of the ABC in terms of on­line cov­er­age.

Mr Sims said he un­der­stood con­cerns that a merger would strip re­sources from Fair­fax cul­ture and jour­nal­ism.

“The ACCC recog­nises there will likely be changes to the way Fair­fax and Nine op­er­ate in fu­ture, ei­ther due to the chang­ing me­dia land­scape more gen­er­ally or due to the merger it­self,” he said. “How­ever, we reached the con­clu­sion that if such changes do oc­cur, they would not be, to a sig­nif­i­cant ex­tent, caused by the merger low­er­ing the level of com­pe­ti­tion.”

Fair­fax di­rec­tors have unan­i­mously rec­om­mended that share­hold­ers vote in favour of the deal in the ab­sence of a su­pe­rior pro­posal.

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