Let The M&A Games Begin: Media Reforms Finally Pass The House Of Reps

Let The M&A Games Begin: Media Reforms Finally Pass The House Of Reps
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The wait is over, with the federal government’s media reform package completing its final passage through Parliament by being given the all clear by the House of Representatives.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield thanked media organisations in a statement yesterday for being united in support of the reforms, which he said will now give them “the fighting chance they need to secure their future”.

Fifield also noted that despite claiming it supported most of the package, the Labor Party voted against its entirety at every stage.

“In a final embarrassment, Shadow Minister Michelle Rowland today capitulated and announced Labor would not oppose the amendments to local programming requirements,” he said.

“The government welcomes Labor’s backflip after they voted against these same amendments in the Senate just a month ago.”

If you’re still none the wiser about the media reforms, have a read of this handy guide courtesy of B&T.

Perhaps the biggest change is the scrapping of the ‘two out of three’ rule, so don’t be surprised if a flurry of mergers, acquisitions and content partnerships involving Aussie media companies take place in the near future.

In the past, a media company could only own a TV station, a newspaper business BUT NOT a radio station in the same territory. For example, Fairfax could own The Sydney Morning Herald and Macquarie Radio stations in Sydney, but the laws meant it was illegal for it to also have ownership in, say, Channel Nine or a third media outlet.

The ‘two out of three rule’ was the one law that billionaire media moguls Lachlan Murdoch and Bruce Gordon really wanted gone so they could make a real play for Ten.

Meanwhile, rumours have been swirling for some time around Nine and Fairfax coming a little closer together – perhaps through a merger – and the scrapping of the ‘two out of three’ rule is only going to add fuel to the fire.

It makes perfect sense that Nine and Fairfax would be keen for each other. One has a strong TV and digital presence, while the other has some decent print, digital and radio assets. The two companies also already have a partnership through streaming service Stan. Watch this space.

However, Nine CEO Hugh Marks told B&T last week that the two companies had not engaged in any talks around a potential merger deal.

As for Kerry Stokes’ beloved Seven West Media (SWM), it’s most likely acquisition target would be its affiliate regional broadcaster, Prime Media, which is part-owned by Seven Group Holdings (the biggest shareholder of SWM).

SWM confirmed in a statement last month there was “a conceptual proposal received from Prime, but that this did not result in any agreement”.

“Seven West Media has discussions with its affiliate when appropriate on various matters of common interest,” the statement said.

In anticipation of the media laws being passed, News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller said the company would “partner with anyone” during his panel appearance at the Radio Alive conference in Melbourne on Friday.

“I don’t think we have any preferred nation in this game in terms of broadcast,” he said.

“Looking forward, this is going to be an industry where you’re sitting next to your partners one day and sitting opposite them the next.”

Let the games begin.

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