Fri, Nov 09, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Canberra green-lights landmark multimedia merger

AFP, SYDNEY

A landmark merger between Australian broadcaster Nine Entertainment Co and newspaper group Fairfax Media Ltd yesterday won regulatory approval, clearing the way for the creation of a media giant across TV, print, video streaming and digital media.

The deal, announced in July, is “not likely to substantially lessen competition in any market,” the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said

The commission acknowledged that the merger would leave only four big media companies “intensely focusing on Australian news,” but it said that the advent of the Internet had brought in many online news players to “provide some degree of competitive restraint.”

The merger was the first deal under a controversial media ownership law passed last year, which removed restrictions that prevented companies from owning newspapers, radio and free-to-air TV stations in the same city.

Major players in the market had long pressed for the change, arguing that the rules were outdated and did not account for digital media platforms and new actors, such as Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc, which have syphoned off the lion’s share of advertising revenue in the media sector.

The commission’s decision opens the door to further consolidation in the Australian media market, already dominated by a small group of broadcasters and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

News Corp, the country’s largest newspaper group, has already begun developing cross-platform deals with free-to-air TV companies and many analysts believe it could in turn merge with Seven West, which operates the country’s most popular TV network.

The Nine-Fairfax deal, in which Nine is the dominant partner, includes Nine’s free-to-air TV network, Fairfax’s radio interests and mastheads — including the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Melbourne — and a suite of digital assets, including the highly profitable real-estate Web site domain.com.aus.

The new company is to be called Nine, with Fairfax ceasing to exist, drawing the curtain on a brand that has been an Australian staple for more than 170 years.

The Nine takeover must still be approved by Fairfax shareholders at a meeting on Nov.19.

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