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News Corp and Seven West Media try for backdoor merger with ACCC approval

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and the Kerry Stokes controlled Seven West Media are attempting a national merger in one of the dodgiest business deals the country has seen under the guise of one selling assets to the other. It looks from a distance like the purchase of one Sunday paper and one website but under closer scrutiny it is another step in a national merger.

What isn’t well advertised is that News Corp and SWM are already in partnership and jointly own 23 community and regional newspapers in WA and also jointly own one-third each of Sky News Australia with Channel 9.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) are meant to stop this type of corrupt conduct but look like they might give it the rubber stamp although they have blinked in the short-term for at least the next few weeks and have asked for further submissions. The ACCC were meant to announce on Thursday if they had approved the purchase but have raised further issues and will now announce a decision on the 15th September 2016.

While the deal is focused on Western Australia and only includes one Sunday paper and one website it is an Old Media v New Media battle which will have national ramifications and anyone who uses any type of media including social media should take an interest.

If News Corp can sell WA assets while still maintaining a certain level of control and profitability from the asset sale then good luck to them. The big problem is that the company that wants the assets, Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media (SWM), already has massive market share in all forms of media in WA and should not be allowed to increase their market share any further. Even more so given Seven West Media’s history of bribing government officials and politicians and now they want the ACCC to spoon feed them a newspaper monopoly in WA.

Reading the fine print of the deal also makes it very clear that it is actually a national merger between Australia’s 2 biggest media companies as News Corp and Seven West Media want to share content for at least four years and also share advertising sales for at least 12 months. If and when the ACCC agree to those terms, then it would be easy for News Corp and SWM to renew the deal in the future. (Click here to read more)

To be fair and balanced the ACCC have taken receipt of a number of written submissions from myself and also took time for three of their staff to have a telephone conference call with me on Thursday the 14th July to hear my concerns and submissions. They would have also done the same for other interested parties.

Background – ACCC Statement

Seven West Media already owns national media assets the Seven Network, Pacific Magazines, and interests in Yahoo!7 and Sky News Australia. In WA SWM own The West Australian, The Weekend West newspapers which publish Monday to Saturday but not on Sunday and as well as 44 community and regional newspapers of which 23 papers are owned in partnership with News Corp. Seven West media also owns 11 regional radio stations in WA. (Click here to read more) It is by far the biggest media company in WA.

News Corporation is the publisher of various print media and online sites throughout Australia, including The Australian newspaper and online site In Western Australia, News publishes the print newspaper The Sunday Times and online site

The Sale

Seven West Media want to buy The Sunday Times which only publishes on Sunday and from News Corporation which would give SWM a virtual newapaper monopoly in Perth.

“The proposed acquisition would combine the two highest-circulating Western Australian print newspapers and related online news sites. The ACCC is investigating the impact this would have on two distinct groups: readers and advertisers.”

“A number of interested parties have expressed concern about the reduction in competition and the impact this would have on quality and diversity of content. A number of advertisers have also raised concern about the loss of competition for advertising opportunities in the print newspapers,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“WAN and News appear to be each other’s closest competitors in print and online news in Western Australia. They compete strongly with each other to attract readers and advertisers.”

“The ACCC is seeking to understand whether the competitive tension between WAN and News is a key factor in maintaining quality and diversity of content for readers, or whether the threat of readers shifting to alternatives, particularly alternative online news sites, will competitively constrain WAN after the acquisition,” Mr Sims said.

The latest Statement of Issues by the ACCC: Seven West Media Limited – proposed acquisition of The Sunday Times publication and website from News Limited.

Response to ACCC

I will make fully detailed submissions to the ACCC in a week or so but a couple of things that I will address now are:

1. If the ACCC block the sale then not much will change. News Corp won’t stop publishing the website and The Sunday Times will continue to be published and sold for the foreseeable future. Both are important parts to News Corp’s sales strategy to national companies.

2. The fact that News Corp and Seven West Media want to share content and advertising sales confirms the transaction is a merger not a sale and on that basis alone it has to be rejected by the ACCC.

3. If the ACCC allow the purchase to go ahead then the “quality and diversity of content” will decrease in a major way. A prime example is a story that I have reported on twice which is Channel Seven in Adelaide sacking a female journalist after she complained of sexual harassment. (Click here and here to read more) The News Corp owned The Advertiser in Adelaide was the first to report on it and that type of story wouldn’t go ahead in Perth if there was no News Corp presence as no one else has run the story.

4. The suggestion that Fairfax Media and overseas online media companies will keep them honest is a joke. Media Watch has run two recent shows that are very credible that suggest there is a very good chance the likes of Fairfax Media and overseas sites such as The Guardian might not last much longer than another 12 to 18 months because they are losing their market share of ad revenue to Google and Facebook.

The ACCC have set the 18th August 2016 for final submissions and you can play your part and read this article and add your comment below and I will add it to my submissions to the ACCC.

The Australian media landscape is changing rapidly with the growth of social media. Old media such as News Corp and Channel Seven are trying to protect their monopolies or create new monopolies which undermines democracy. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have so far aided and abetted the corrupt conduct of News Corp and Seven West Media and in the next few weeks we will see again what they are up to.

Rupert Murdoch Kerry Stokes August 2015 - 2

August 2015. News Corp joined with Seven West Media and Telstra to sign the biggest sports rights deal in Australian television history, securing vital pay-TV rights for Foxtel. AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan with (left to right) Kerry Stokes, AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick, and Rupert Murdoch as they announce the record-breaking deal.


The monopoly game

Seven West Media only want monopolies if they can get them as no competition means more profit. There is nothing stopping SWM from printing a Sunday paper if they wanted but one assumes they have a deal with News Corp not to compete which is something the ACCC should be looking at.

Seven’s frivolous and vexatious court cases

Seven West Media play dirty pool and try to bully the competition and recently lost one of many frivolous and vexatious defamation cases they run. This time against the ABC. (Click here to read more) Seven are also currently avoiding me in court in another frivolous and vexatious matter. That is on top of SWM’s regular court loses to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) for false and misleading reporting on their TV stations. Unfortunately, the ACCC will not take into account when making their decision whether or not Seven’s management and owners are fit and proper people to own and run a media company.

There are a lot of issues for the ACCC to take into account but they should block the sale as the media landscape is changing fast and in 12 to 18 months there will be less competition in the media as companies continue to downsize and sack more and more journalists. And allowing what is in effect a national merger between the 2 biggest media companies in Australia won’t help the situation but make it a lot worse.

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5 replies »

  1. These mergers should not be allowed to take place – because we have, almost,
    a 100% monopoly by a foreign press ownership, in the form of News Corp
    Since 2007 (when I began to notice) we have seen the power and influence of this particular media corporation has had on the politics of this country and the well being of the inhabitants of this nation
    It has not been pretty.
    I, for one, refuse to buy anything printed, published by Murdoch Press (News Corp)
    Diversity of voice is an important principle to uphold , if this merger takes place this will be lost
    I firmly believe any monopoly over News Media is suspect and dangerous, because it can be adversely, misused by the news monopoly for fulfilling Corporate profit interests, and political agendas, and not for the public good, or, for, the public’s interests.
    Media ownership monopoly, also, can be used to manipulate, and skewer information, and therefore, prevents the public from being well informed about what could affect them, and what they need to know, in, and, for, their own best interests.
    The public also, vitally, needs access to a venue in which to express their voice – and it seems, at present, Social media provides this when news media doesn’t, e.g., reportage on protest marches, and the documentation of important issues taken on by environmental protestors, the plight of asylum seekers, the Border Force incursions in Melbourne, and government policy changes, just to name a few
    Regarding this particular hidden, proposed merger, we have already had too much of Rupert Murdoch’s and the IPA’s influence in manipulating our news and influencing the politics of our country.
    The LNP already proposed changing these laws governing media ownership rules, recently. On the chopping block were the “75% reach” and “two out of three” rules, laws to be changed, in favour to News Corp getting more purchase in the news media stakes
    “The two-out-of-three rule – and the other existing rules limiting market dominance – do still effectively maintain voice diversity”, but, not if, this merger takes place

  2. Any & all monopoly’s should be investigated and avoided for all of Australians benefit. The rich scratching each others backs in the bath is unjust and simply wrong.
    When will they learn they cannot manipulate what & when we find out the facts. The truth WILL always come through, Just a shame that these Muppet’s continually try and hide their mistakes, protect the corrupt & make it harder & longer for the truth to see light of day.

  3. I fully support the concerns you have regarding this “sleight of hand” merger of business interests. Why is it taking the ACCC so long to see through this scam – if the banks tried this they would be hit with every resource available to prevent it. We don’t actually own very much in Australia anymore – foreign ownership rules have been weakened so much that all too soon soon we will have no influence on matters which are of national interest. For those who think that this will not happen, please wake up! Nine is already foreign owned and controlled – Australian board members of the company are for show not control.
    As one who has fought for this country I now despair at how we jump to the wishes of foreign corporations. They have a far more powerful arsenal at their disposal than mere guns – money! Much of which they have acquired from Australia with no tax paid here!

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