In a statement on Thursday, the ACCC said it had examined a number of markets that would be affected by the proposed merger. Australian news, including online news, current affairs news and investigative journalism, was the key issue on which it focused.
The competition watchdog said it had looked at whether the merger would substantially lessen competition in the sector. More than 1000 submissions were examined, in addition to internal documents that the ACCC obtained from both companies.
“While the merger between these two big name media players raised a number of extremely complex issues, and will likely reduce competition, we concluded that the proposed merger was not likely to substantially lessen competition in any market in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.
“With the growth in online news, however, many other players, albeit smaller, now provide some degree of competitive constraint. These include, for example, The Guardian, The New Daily, Buzzfeed, Crikey and The Daily Mail.
“While there are important barriers to building trust and scale, significant new entry into the Australian online news market has already occurred and made a noticeable difference. Due to the difficulties in monetising journalism online, however, it is hard to predict the future landscape with any certainty.”
The ACCC said it had also looked at potential competition issues in provision of regional news, specifically concerns about combining two key newsrooms in the Hunter/Newcastle region. It determined that in this region, Fairfax and Nine did not compete sufficiently closely with each other.
“The ACCC recognises there will likely be changes to the way Fairfax and Nine operate in future, either due to the changing media landscape more generally or due to the merger itself. However, we reached the conclusion that if such changes do occur, they would not be, to a significant extent, caused by the merger lowering the level of competition,” Sims said.