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Weak print sales sees watchdog approve Seven’s takeover of Sunday Times

Seven West Media is set to consolidate its stranglehold on traditional media in Perth after the competition watchdog approved its purchase of News Corp’s Sunday Times paper.

sunday-times-perth-nowThe deal will give Seven control of all print in the city as the company already prints the only weekday title The West Australian, in a deal worth between $12m – $15m according to The Australian.

In his statement on the decision Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) chairman Rod Sims said the decline in print readership had been a big factor in allowing the sale.

“Following an extensive review, the ACCC has reached the view that the proposed acquisition is, on balance, not likely to substantially lessen competition for either consumers or advertisers,” said Sims.

“On the consumer side, the large decline in print newspaper readership formed a major part of our analysis. Many consumers in Western Australia are now getting their news online or from other sources.”

Under the deal SWM will also take control of the Perthnow.com.au, in addition to thewest.com.au which it runs through its Yahoo7 joint venture.

Sims added: “With regards to SWM’s ownership of thewest.com.au and the proposed acquisition of perthnow.com.au, we gave consideration to other online news alternatives for West Australians, including Fairfax’s WAtoday.com.au and ABC News’ dedicated Western Australian website.”

The release also said some advertisers had shown concern about the move, but acknowledged they would find other advertising avenues if there was a major hike in rates.

“Advertising expenditure in print newspapers in Perth is in steep decline. Most of the advertisers we spoke to after publishing the Statement of Issues are spending less on print newspapers than a few years ago and are finding alternative ways of reaching target audiences, including via digital media,” Sims said.

The move has been heralded as a “once in a lifetime” deal by SWM CEO, Tim Worner, who said: “We are about building our media business and ensuring we continue to deliver strong local and relevant content to our audiences.

“The underlying imperative in this agreement was to place our company in a stronger position to compete with the increasing presence of global content and platform businesses in our market.

“For us, this is a once in a company lifetime opportunity and that is the way we are going to approach it.”

The companies are also set to seal a content sharing deal with News Corp’s papers in the other capital cities.

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