The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) has called on Australia’s competition watchdog to block Nine’s takeover of Fairfax.
The media workers union is arguing that the $4.2 billion deal announced this morning will be bad for Australian democracy and diversity of voices in what is already one of the most concentrated media markets in the world.
The MEAA is seeking commitments from Nine and Fairfax that the Fairfax Charter of Editorial Independence is upheld under any merger.
Marcus Strom, president of MEAA Media, said: “Today’s takeover announcement is the inevitable result of Coalition government’s short-sighted and ill-conceived changes to media ownership laws that were always going to result in less media diversity.
“With ongoing inquiries into the independence and long-term viability of quality journalism under way, the ACCC must block this takeover.
“This takeover reduces media diversity. It threatens the editorial independence of great news rooms at Nine, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Canberra Times, Illawarra Mercury, Newcastle Herald, Macquarie Media and more right around the country.
“It harms the ability of an independent media to scrutinise and investigate the powerful, threatens the functioning of a healthy democracy, [and] undermines the quality journalism that our communities rely on for information.
“Nine and Fairfax must explain how they intend to defend the integrity of independent quality journalism in any combined entity.”
The MEAA will demand that all existing employment conditions and entitlements are protected and retained for all workers at both companies, and that existing industrial agreements are respected.
“Any further cuts to editorial journalism at Nine and Fairfax would bite into the muscle, bone and soul of the newsroom,” Strom said.
“The proposed savings of $50 million in two years should come from trimmings to bloated executive salaries and from any back-office rationalisation.”
The MEAA said it will be urgently convening meetings of its members at all Fairfax Media newsrooms to discuss the impact of today’s announcement.
An ACCC spokesperson told B&T that it expects to commence a public review of the proposed merger once it has received submissions and relevant information from Fairfax and Nine.
“The purpose of the public review is to assess whether the proposed merger is likely to substantially lessen competition in any market,” the spokesperson said.
“The public review will commence with a timeline of approximately 12 weeks and will involve consultation with industry stakeholders.
“When reviewing mergers in the media sector, the ACCC considers the competition impact on consumers (both readers and viewers), advertisers and content creators/sellers.
“The impact of technology on the media sector will be a critical part of the competition analysis.”