The Competition watchdog, the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission), has decided it won’t oppose the acquisition of the Ten Network by billionaires Bruce Gordon and Lachlan Murdoch, partly because the free-to-air network has poor ratings.
Gordon Birketu Pty Ltd and Murdoch’s Illyria Nominees Television Pty Ltd’s have a 50/50 joint bid to acquire Ten Network Holdings Limited.
The Ten Network in June went into voluntary administration after the two billionaire shareholders refused to increase or extend a $200 million credit facility past December.
The company in April posted a loss of $232.19 million for the half year in a tough advertising market. At that time, the company said the current debt facility was drawn down by about $66.2 million.
While the ACCC has given the Gordon/Murdoch deal a clear run, the billionaires still need the federal parliament to pass the media reform bill.
The current rules prevent anyone the control over all three newspaper, radio and television assets in the one market.
Murdoch is co-chair of News Corp, the owner of a national daily and state capital newspapers and a half share in cable provider Foxtel. He also has the NOVA Entertainment radio network. Gordon owns the WIN Television network.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims says the deal is unlikely to result in a substantial lessening of competition in any relevant market.
“On the issue of the effect on competition in the supply of news services, the ACCC took into consideration competition from news providers on other media platforms and in particular, the other free-to-air networks, given Seven and Nine have a stronger position in the market than Ten,” he says.
“Ten news in particular suffers the lowest news ratings of the three commercial networks and has a relatively small online presence.”
However, Sims says the Australian media market is becoming increasingly concentrated and the ACCC will closely examine future media mergers.
Gordon’s Birketu owns about 15% of the shares in Ten. Gordon controls WIN Corporation, a private Australian media company, which owns commercial television broadcasting licences across Australia. Birketu and WIN hold 14.97% of the Nine network.
Murdoch’s Illyria has 7.44% of Ten.