Fairfax Media and Nine Entertainment are set to officially become one company next month, marking a significant shift in the Australian media landscape.
But former prime minister Paul Keating has described the competition watchdog giving the merger the green light as a ‘truly appalling decision’ which will ‘poison quality journalism’.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) ruled on Thursday the $4 billion merger could go ahead.
The ACCC has given the green light to the $4 billion merger between Fairfax Media and Nine Entertainment, but former PM Paul Keating has called the decision ‘appalling’ (Pictured left: Greg Hywood, Fairfax CEO, pictured right: Hugh Marks, Nine CEO)
Fairfax head Greg Hywood told staff soon after the approval would allow the process to be officially completed by December 10.
‘The planning and preparation to bring Fairfax and Nine together as one great media company is well under way,’ Mr Hywood wrote to Fairfax workers in a letter.
Nine has put the date a touch earlier at December 7, but both deadlines depend on the merger successfully passing a series of final hurdles.
Former PM Paul Keating (pictured) the ACCC’s decision had consigned key Fairfax mastheads to the ‘ethical dustbin of Channel Nine’. He added that it would ‘poison quality journalism’
They include the proposal’s approval by Fairfax shareholders at a November 19 meeting and court approval on November 27.
‘The directors of Fairfax unanimously recommend that Fairfax shareholders vote in favour of the scheme, in the absence of a superior proposal,’ Nine said in a statement on Thursday.
Nine Network CEO Hugh Marks said he welcomed the ACCC’s ‘rigorous process’.
‘It is a clear acknowledgement of the changing competitive landscape in our industry, where the ability to compete across a variety of platforms and to engage different audiences is key,’ he said.
Fairfax said the deal would be completed on December 10. Nine has put the date a touch earlier on December 7, but both deadlines depend on the merger successfully passing a series of final hurdles (Pictured: Nine News reporter Erin Molan)
The deal is still subject to approval from Fairfax shareholders at a meeting on November 19 and court approval on November 27 (Pictured: Fairfax editorial staff during a protest over job cuts)
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission examined more than 1000 submissions as well as documents demanded from Nine and Fairfax before giving the merger the go ahead.
The authority said the move will likely reduce competition in the Australian news content market – but not enough to break the law.
Concerns were also raised about combining newsrooms in the New South Wales’ Newcastle region but the ACCC said the two companies do not compete sufficiently close with each other there.
But Mr Keating said the ACCC’s call had consigned key Fairfax mastheads to the ‘ethical dustbin of Channel Nine’.
‘What the ACCC has done today is effectively skewer major source media diversity in Australia,’ the former Labor leader said in a statement.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission examined more than 1,000 submissions as well as documents demanded from Nine and Fairfax before giving the merger the go ahead. (Pictured: ACCC chairman Rod Sims)
Mr Keating described Channel Nine as a ‘low-rent news organisation’ and said the merger would ‘remove chunks of local specific political issues, normally covered by newspapers, from the political debate’
‘A low-rent, news organisation, Channel Nine, will have editorial command of the major print mastheads in the country.
‘This will poison quality journalism; but more than that, remove chunks of local specific political issues, normally covered by newspapers, from the political debate.’
The merger comes after media ownership laws were changed in October 2017, allowing a proprietor to control more than two-out-of-three platforms – TV, radio or newspaper – in one licensed market.
Mr Marks said he welcomed the ACCC’s ‘rigorous process’, calling it ‘a clear acknowledgement of the changing competitive landscape in our industry’
Mr Keating said those laws has protected capital city print journalism from domination by television companies for 32 years.
After Nine and Fairfax proposed the step in July, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the law changes had been necessary to give media organisations the best chance of survival.
‘The greatest threat to Australian media diversity would be the failure of an Australian media organisation,’ he said.
Labor communications Michelle Rowland said in September the merger meant the media was about to get ‘a whole lot more concentrated’.
After the merger, key local players will be reduced to just Nine-Fairfax, News-Sky, Seven West Media and ABC/SBS.
The ACCC said ‘competition constraint’ would be provided via outlets including The Daily Mail, Buzzfeed, The Guardian, Crikey and The New Daily.
‘While there are important barriers to building trust and scale, significant new entry into the Australian online news market has already occurred and made a notable difference,’ Mr Sims said.
‘Due to the difficulties in monetising journalism online, however, it is hard to predict the future landscape with any certainty.’
After the merger, key local players will be reduced to just Nine-Fairfax, News-Sky, Seven West Media and ABC/SBS