A no to StuffMe

The has made a final determination:

The Commerce Commission has today released its final decision declining authorisation for and to merge their operations in New Zealand.

The merger proposed to bring New Zealand’s two largest newspaper networks and corresponding online news sites under common ownership.

The Commission’s preliminary view, published in November last year, was that the merger would be likely to substantially lessen competition in advertising and reader markets – specifically Sunday newspapers, online news and community newspapers in 10 regions. It also indicated that the merger would not be of such a benefit to the public that it should be allowed. Those views remain largely unchanged. …

The merged entity would have direct control of the largest network of journalists in the country, employing more editorial staff than the next three largest mainstream media organisations combined. Its news media business would include nearly 90% of the daily newspaper circulation in New Zealand and a majority of traffic to online sources of New Zealand news. Including its radio network, the merged entity would have a monthly reach of 3.7 million New Zealanders.

This merger would concentrate media ownership and influence to an unprecedented extent for a well-established modern liberal democracy.  The news audience reach that the applicants have provide the merged entity with the scope to control a large share of the news consumed by a majority of New Zealanders. This level of influence over the news and political agenda by a single media organisation creates a risk of causing harm to New Zealand’s democracy and to the New Zealand public,” Dr Berry said. …

“While we cannot weigh in dollar terms the net benefits against the detrimental societal impacts we expect to see, in our assessment this is not a finely balanced decision. We decline to grant authorisation.”

A good decision, and the expected one. What will be interesting is how NZME and Fairfax respond. I think inevitably they will start laying off staff in order to try and make their businesses more sustainable.

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