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Prime Minister backs media consolidation

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull added his support for the proposed $4.2 billion merger of the Nine Network and Fairfax Media, which he credited to changes the Coalition government made to media laws last year.

In an interview on Tasmania radio, Mr Turnbull said he welcomed the merger, although it would be reviewed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

“It will have to go through the regulator … the ACCC, all of those matters but I understand the parties expect it not to face any regulatory hurdles,” he said.

“To be frank, I welcome the announcement. Fairfax is a great Australian newspaper company. Nine Network, of course, is the first television station to be on air with Bruce Gyngell doing the first broadcast.

“I used to work for the Nine Network my journalistic and legal past and I think bringing them together will strengthen both of them … as television and online and print journalism.

“It’s a very tough, competitive environment nowadays. The arrival of all of the online news services has made the media so much more competitive than it used to be, whether it’s competition for newspapers, or whether it’s the competition in the television area with streaming services like Netflix.

“Bringing them together enables two strong Australian brands … to be more secure.”

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield defended his government’s media reforms that made the Fairfax-Nine merger possible. Senator Fifield said consolidation would help local companies prosper and be strong.

“The greatest threat to media diversity in Australia would be an Australian media organisation that fails,” he said.

“How media organisations configure themselves is a matter for them. But we can’t pretend that this is 1988. This is 2018. The internet exists. There is significant competition from global online media platforms.”

Campaigning in Tasmania for the Braddon by-election on Saturday, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten took a cautious attitude. He said it “remains to be seen” if the merger was in the best interests of Australians.

“Labor voted against the legislation that would have enabled this concentration of media power,” he said. “The law changed. We accept that.

“We will be watching very carefully to make sure that our concerns are not realised.”

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