The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) has declined to intervene in the sale of the ARN newspaper titles on the grounds that a News Corp takeover would not ‘substantially lessen competition’ in the regional media market.
ARN, APN’s media stable, comprises regional NSW and Queensland titles including Northern Star, Tweed Daily News, Byron Shire News, Ballina Advocate and the Lismore Echo.
News Corp executive chairman Michael Miller, a former head of APN, welcomed the move.
‘As a former CEO of APN, I know these businesses and these teams well and appreciate the significant value they will bring to our company. I look forward to what we can achieve together by combining our collective expertise,’ the publication NewsMediaWorks quoted him as saying.
In reaching its decision the ACCC contacted some 600 advertisers and agencies that use both ARN and Murdoch publications.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said that feedback from readers raised ‘few concerns’ and suggested there was ‘not close competition between the paid daily Queensland papers published by News and ARM.’
But the commission pointed out that reduced choice would occur in areas where ARM papers were currently in competition with existing Murdoch publications, such as Tweed Heads, where the Tweed Daily News competes with News Corp’s Gold Coast Bulletin.
But Mr Sims said ad agencies in these local areas, mostly acknowledged that ‘print advertising was of declining importance and identified other advertising options if News attempted to increase rates.’
‘The ACCC concluded that, overall, a sufficient range of local news choices and advertising options would remain available in these areas, with Fairfax and independent local newspapers in some local areas, competing online options, as well as local radio news,’ Mr Sims said.