The Commerce Commission has delayed releasing its decision on the proposed Fairfax NZME merger until April 11.
A Commerce Commission spokesperson said, “The extension was required in order for the commission to properly assess and account for the further information it has obtained and received following its draft determination and conference. The commission will not be accepting any further public submissions on this authorisation application.”
In November, the Commerce Commission released a statement saying its, “preliminary view is that the merger would be likely to substantially lessen competition in a number of markets, including the markets for premium digital advertising, advertising in Sunday newspapers and advertising in community newspapers in 10 regions throughout New Zealand. It also considers the merged entity would be likely to increase subscription and retail prices for Sunday newspapers and introduce a paywall for at least one of its websites.
Chairman Dr Mark Berry said the merger would result in one media outlet controlling nearly 90 per cent of New Zealand’s print media market. This would be the second highest level of print media ownership in the world, behind only China. The merged entity would also control New Zealand’s two largest news websites – nzherald.co.nz and stuff.co.nz – which together have a population reach more than four times larger than the next biggest domestic news website. Further, the merged entity would own one of New Zealand’s two largest commercial radio companies. All this would result in an unprecedented level of media concentration for a well-established liberal democracy.
He said, “Our preliminary view is that competition would not be sufficiently robust to constrain a multi-media organisation, potentially with a single editorial voice, that would be the largest producer of national, regional and local news by some margin in New Zealand.”
Since then, the Commission and the two media giants have held a conference where they discussed issues raised by the regulator and provided further information to it.
Last month the Commerce Commission turned down a proposal for a merger between telecom giant Vodafone and Sky TV, pointing out the issue of one giant company possessing market dominance.
Also this week, the head of Fairfax New Zealand, Simon Tong, resigned to take up a job with the ASB Bank.