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ACCC concerned by industry impact of News Corp’s proposed acquisition of Australian Regional Media

The consumer watchdog is concerned News Corp’s proposed acquisition of APN News & Media’s regional publishing arm Australian Regional Media may substantially lessen competition in the supply of news in areas where the two companies have overlapping newspapers.

ARM newspapers

The Australian Competition Consumer Commission (ACCC) has published its issues statement on the proposed acquisition, which has already gained APN News & Media shareholder approval.

ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, said: “One area of focus is the loss of competition between ARM’s paid regional newspapers and News’ The Courier Mail. If the proposed acquisition proceeds, News will own both The Courier Mail and the local paid newspaper in nearly every city or town in Queensland.

“This may result in a reduction of quality and diversity of content available to readers. Reinforcing that concern is that both News and ARM have a strong presence in online news through their websites associated with the Queensland newspapers.

“The ACCC is seeking to understand whether the competitive tension between News and ARM is an important factor in maintaining quality and range of content, or whether the threat of readers shifting to alternatives, particularly alternative online news sites, will competitively constrain News after the acquisition.”

The ACCC will be looking closely at areas in which ARM currently publishes paid regional newspapers such as in Mackay, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Gympie, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba, Ipswich and Warwick.

The watchdog will also examine areas of overlap in local news such as Caboolture/Bribie Island, south west Brisbane, Brisbane northern bayside, Logan and Tweed Heads/southern Gold Coast.

Sims said: “The ACCC will be assessing the importance of diversity of local content in these competing community publications. The ACCC is also seeking to understand whether advertising opportunities on other media platforms, such as local radio, pamphlets and online, will constrain prices for advertising in the ARM and News community newspapers.”

While the ACCC is concerned about the acquisition’s impact on advertising in community papers, it is not concerned it will impact the supply of advertising opportunities in Queensland regional centres.

The ACCC has invited further submissions from industry participants in response to the statement of issues by October 27 with a final decision expected to be announced on December 1.

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