Seven West Media admits need for caution in how it acts after Sunday Times deal goes through

Seven West Media WA boss Chris Wharton has committed to the publisher taking over printing of the Sunday Times on November 13 after the ACCC gave the purchase of the News Corp masthead approval last month and said the media giant needs to treat its newly-acquired market strength with respect

Chris Wharton- Mumbrella Perth 2015Wharton said the approval of the deal two weeks ago by the ACCC had set the transition wheels turning, but with Seven West Media now in control of all Perth’s print media he said bias was an issue he had to be aware of.

“We are reasonably careful because we do recognise that there is a lot of what some people would say power vested here,” Wharton told Mumbrella.

“But we also feel that there is a lot of responsibility that goes with it. So I think even from a board level there is a keeness that we do our jobs properly. We have been around for 188 years as West Australian Newspapers and one of the things I like to say is if there is something we are biased about, it’s a bias about support for Western Australia and for West Australians.

“If we are accused of being parochial, I don’t really care. There has very much been a history in this state of, if we don’t take care of ourselves who else is going to look after us?”

The ACCC raised initial concerns that the deal, which sees Seven West Media acquire News Corp’s Sunday Times and Perth Now website for between $12m and $15m, would lessen competition in the market and potentially lead to advertising rate hikes.

However, after an extensive review the watchdog concluded that declining readership and the growth in digital in the market meant there was little reason for standing in the way of the sale.

Seven West CEO, Tim Worner, had described the deal as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for the Perth-based media company.

Wharton said now the deal had been done he was aiming to start printing The Sunday Times on the The West Australian’s presses on November 13 and that there would new opportunities for the company to pursue in the wake of the acquisition.

“One of the things hardly anyone has thought about in the Sunday Times purchase is with News Corp decommissioning its Canning Vale printing plant we will also be printing The Australian, we are already distributing it and we will also print the community newspaper titles that they printed, so we are absolutely sweating our assets.”

The media veteran noted that where once media companies were bitter enemies, the disrupted market was forcing a new way of thinking to be adopted.

“Pragmatism has forced the collaboration there and we need to do this because it makes commercial sense. It was like never give a sucker an even break, but pragmatism has come to the fore a fair bit.”


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