The merger, made possible by the Turnbull government’s reformed media ownership laws, was proposed in July but raised concerns over media plurality.
The ACCC sought to review the consolidated company’s impact on the current competitive media market, particularly how closely Nine and Fairfax’s respective platforms competed in the supply for news content.
“While the merger between these two big name media players raised a number of extremely complex issues, and will likely reduce competition, we concluded that the proposed merger was not likely to substantially lessen competition in any market in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.
“This merger can be seen to reduce the number of companies intensely focusing on Australian news from five to four,” he said.
“Post the merger, 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.
“With the growth in online news, however, many other players, albeit smaller, now provide some degree of competitive constraint.”
It is now up to Fairfax shareholders to approve the merger at a meeting on Monday, November 19.
If the merger is approved at the Fairfax meeting, Nine shareholders will own 51.1 per cent of the combined entity with Fairfax shareholders owning the remaining 48.9 per cent.
Nine’s free-to-air television network, Stan, 9Now, radio interests through Macquarie Media, Fairfax’s real estate arm Domain and mastheads – including The Australian Financial Review, The Sydney Morning Herald, and The Age – will be included within the merger.
Nine Entertainment Co chief executive Hugh Marks will head the new company, officially named Nine. Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood announced his resignation from the publisher shortly after the merger was proposed.
Mr Marks spoke about opportunities for media businesses in the current climate at the recent NewsMediaWorks’ INFORM News Media Summit.
“It’s actually a fascinating time to be running a media business in an environment where relationships are the same as they’ve been but also changing and what you can turn that into, in terms of opportunity,” Mr Marks said.
You can watch Mr Marks’ full presentation at INFORM here.
Make sure to save the date for next year’s INFORM News Media Summit, to be held on September 24, 2019, at The Ivy in Sydney.