Watchdog feels media merger heat

Watchdog feels media merger heat

The competition watchdog assessing the proposed merger of New Zealand’s two biggest news media company says it has fallen into uncharted waters.

Chairman Mark Berry said the proposed NZME- Fairfax deal “presented a number of questions the Commission has never been asked to assess before”.

These were “specifically around how the merger would impact on Fourth Estate issues,” he said when launching the NZ Commerce Commission’s five-year strategy.

“There is also limited international evidence for us to draw on, so we expect this decision and our analysis will be of interest not just to New Zealanders but competition organisations around the world.”

In August, the Commission delayed its long awaited decision on merger and raised the prospect of holding a public forum in December.

Publishers, broadcasters and commentators have previously expressed concerns the merger would reduce independent views, jobs and create a near monopoly, although this assessment has been reject by publishers.

The Commission will release a draft determination on November 1 that will provide clues on how it will rule.

A final decision is due on or before March 13 next year.

NZME and Fairfax have previously argued their proposal would provide NZ with a strong multi-platform media company that would provide high-quality, local news, sport and entertainment, and compete against digital operators such as Facebook and Google.

Fairfax is the nation’s largest print media network, featuring nine daily and three weekly newspapers, 61 community publications, 10 magazine titles and six websites, including stuff.co.nz. It also has a minority shareholding in social media site Neighbourly.

NZME owns eight daily and two weekly newspapers, 24 community publications, six magazine titles, 10 radio stations and 38 websites, including nzherald.co.nz. As well as websites related to its print and radio offerings, NZME owns a number of individual websites such as Grabone, Shop Green and Adhub.

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