News Corp now has a clear run to buy the Australian newspapers owned by APN News and Media.
The competition watchdog the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) says it won’t oppose the sale, mainly because of falling readership as people turn to other online sources of news.
APN is selling its print business, Australian Regional Media (ARM), to News Corp for $36.6 million, to concentrate on its outdoor advertising.
ARM includes 12 regional daily newspapers in New South Wales and Queensland, 60 community newspapers and more than 30 regional news websites.
The ACCC’s focus was on how ARM’s paid regional newspapers and News Corp’s the Courier Mail compete for readers, and the extent of competition between overlapping News and ARM community newspapers in south-east Queensland.
“The ACCC reviewed the acquisition very closely, as News and ARM are the two largest newspaper publishers in Queensland,” says chairman Rod Sims said.
“However, feedback from readers raised very few concerns and suggested that there is not close competition between the paid daily Queensland papers published by News and ARM.
“ARM’s paid daily regional newspapers focus mostly on regional and local news and there is limited overlap with The Courier Mail which focuses on greater-Brisbane, state, and national news. Furthermore, readers are increasingly reading online sources of news, where there are alternatives to News and ARM.”
He says falling readership and reduced advertising revenues for hard-copy publications were important factors in the ACCC’s assessment.
“Advertisers and readers are increasingly turning to other sources of news and advertising opportunities, particularly digital, which is having a significant impact on the print industry,” says Sims.
The same factors were important factors in allowing Seven West Media, the owner of the West Australian newspaper, to buy The Sunday Times from News Corp.