News Corp and Nine’s market share front and centre at senate hearing

The diversity of Australia’s media landscape was at the fore of discussion on Friday as News Corp Australasia and Nine Entertainment Co (Nine) executives sat before the senate’s environment and communications references committee.

The senate hearing was the first step into an inquiry launched as a result of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s petition for a Royal Commission which gained 500,000 signatures.

According to an IBIS World report Newspaper Publishing in Australia Industry Trends (2015-2020) the Australian newspaper industry is dominated by News Corp, with a 53.4% market share, while Nine has 15.7%.

Senators at the committee hearing were keen to hear from News Corp and Nine executives about what they considered to be their market share, with varying degrees of response.

News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller attempted to ascertain what measurement of market share the senator was asking for, whether it was audience, revenue or circulation, without success.

He told the senate committee that News Corp had an estimated share of 30% and that he would take it on notice to revert to the committee with a more accurate figure.

Senator Kim Carr argued that Australia had the “highest levels of media concentration in the world”.

Source: IBIS World report

Nine CEO Hugh Marks told the hearing that Nine’s share of advertising revenue in the Australian market was “somewhere between 15-20%”. He added that if combining all media, it would be “north of 20%” and that News would also be more than 20%.

He added: “I don’t think media ownership is determinative of media diversity, I think what is determinative of media diversity is independence of journalists.

“I think we have had a number of inquiries into media diversity, and for me the core issue comes down to sustainability.”

Both Nine and News Corp welcomed the digital platform code inquiry, which has resulted in the News Media Bargaining Code. News has since signed a deal with Google’s News Showcase product.

“The value of that to our business and our ability to invest in journalism, will be significant,” said Marks. “That more than anything talks to the viability and diversity of journalists.”

According to the IBIS World report, the newspaper publishing industry is forecast to contract by a further annualised 2.8% over the five years through 2025-26, to $2.7 billion. Almost 4,400 jobs across the industry have been lost over the past five years, and employment is projected to contract at an annualised 3% over the next five years, to total 9,400 employees.

The report found that the companies holding the largest market share in Australia’s newspaper publishing industry include News Corp Australia, Nine Entertainment Co, 20 Cashews Pty Ltd (which is invested in Australian Community Media and Prime Media Group) and Seven West Media.

According to Miller: “Diversity is not just about ownership, it is about diversity of views, diversity of sources, and importantly the incredible diversity of how people consume news.

“We are living in the most diverse media marketplace in Australia’s history.”

Michael Miller_M360 2018

News Corp’s Michael Miller

When challenged by Senator Sarah Hanson-Young that News Corp describes itself as the ‘number one destination for news’, Miller responded: “We are proud that we are leaders in news, but don’t misconstrue that as being a monopoly.”

According to the company’s website: “News Corp Australia is the leading digital destination for news, sport, business, property, family and lifestyle, health, food and entertainment in Australia.”

However, as Miller pointed out during the senate hearing, is the third most visited news site in Australia, behind the ABC and, according to Nielsen Digital Content ratings for the 2020 calendar year.

When asked if chairman of News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, has any influence on editorial decisions at News Corp Australia, Miller said Murdoch had not been in Australia for two years, and that he was not aware of him contacting any editors this year. “I have not spoken to him this year.”


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