The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) is urging for a tougher review of the proposed merger between media powerhouses Nine and Fairfax.
In a statement posted on the MEAA website over the weekend, the alliance urged both Nine and Fairfax to “seek formal authorisation” from the ACCC, as opposed to the current 12-week informal merger review of the $4.2 billion deal.
The MEAA Media federal president Marcus Strom went so far as calling the informal review “opaque” and “not underpinned by legislation”.
“A takeover of this nature, with its implications for media diversity, editorial independence and the cloud hanging over the Fairfax portfolio of regional publications and websites, requires a more robust and transparent process than an informal merger review,” Strom said.
Strom put the pressure on Nine and Fairfax to be more transparent about what will happen to the companies, employees, audience and consumers if the merger is to go ahead.
“Nine and Fairfax should submit themselves to detailed questioning about this takeover. They should explain what their takeover will mean for all their media businesses and what it will mean for consumers, the audience who rely on the information and entertainment provided by those businesses.
“And they should be willing to explain what it will mean for the thousands of affected employees,” he added.
Meanwhile, Domain has thrown its support behind the merger, claiming the move would likely stimulate business for the real estate giant.
Speaking at an event announcing Domain’s full-year results, executive chairman Nick Falloon said, “We welcome the proposed merger of Fairfax Media with Nine Entertainment Co, announced in July.
“We only see considerable upside for Domain through the additional marketing and audience reach of the combined business.”
According to MEAA’s statement, ACCC chairman Rod Sims has said the commission will take the results of its digital platforms inquiry into account when making a decision about Nine’s takeover of Fairfax.
This is not the first time the MEAA has taken aim at the proposed merger.
Immediately following news of the takeover, the alliance released a statement calling for the ACCC to block the move altogether, citing it would threaten media diversity.
At the time, Strom 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 newsrooms at Nine, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Canberra Times, Illawarra Mercury, Newcastle Herald, Macquarie Media and more right around the country.”
In the most recent statement, the MEAA also issued several questions to Nine and Fairfax that should be answered during “the formal authorisation process”.
The questions include:
• How the approximately 7000 employees affected by the merger will be allocated across the combined organisation;
• The continuing provision of media content to regional and rural communities through print, television and radio following the merger;
• Where and whether media resources will be merged and centralised;
• How the combined reach of five television stations, approximately 170 news titles and eight radio stations will comply with section 61AB of the Broadcast Services Act 1992 (i.e. the four and five voices rule);
• How changing technology will influence the merged company’s structure.
Last week, Seven West Media (SWM) ruled itself out of challenging Nine for Fairfax Media with a rival bid, despite originally being tipped as the more likely dance partner of the publisher.