Win owner Bruce Gordon avoids penalty despite breaching media laws

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has ruled that the owner of Win Corporation, Bruce Gordon, breached media control and diversity rules. However, the TV magnate is escaping any penalty because the breach was the result of a mistake.

Gordon acquired an 11.59% share of Prime in April, on top of his existing 14.99% interest, bringing his total share to 26.58%.

Gordon said the breach was the result of a mistake

He divested 11.73% of his shares (43m shares) a month later, but during that period, his share meant he could exercise control of the commercial TV licences held by Prime’s subsidiaries. Owning more than a 15% share puts a shareholder in control of a media asset, regardless of whether the shareholder actually exercises control.

Accordingly, Gordon was breaching the ‘one-to-a-market’ rule, which stops a company or person controlling more than one commercial TV licence in the same licence area. Gordon was breaching this rule in eight separate licence areas.

The ACMA added that Gordon’s interests also “caused an unacceptable media diversity situation to occur, or to be worsened, in more than 40 licence areas”.

“Media control and diversity rules exist so that Australians have access to a diverse range of voices in the media landscape,” said ACMA’s chair, Nerida O’Loughlin.

“It is up to companies and individuals to ensure that they comply with these important rules at all times, especially where control occurs in more complex shareholding arrangements.”

Gordon submitted evidence that the breaches occurred as a result of a third party’s actions, contrary to his instructions. He said that, because of this, he did not, and could not have reasonably, known he was breaching media laws. As soon as Gordon became aware of the mistake, he immediately acted to sell down his Prime shares.

During the month he was breaching these laws, the ACMA found no evidence Gordon took steps to exercise control over the Prime licences.

Because of Gordon’s evidence, and immediate action, the ACMA is not imposing a penalty against Gordon.

“Given the limited duration of the breaches and our satisfaction with the action to rectify the breaches, the ACMA will not take any further action on this matter,” O’Loughlin said.

Earlier this month, Seven announced its plans to buy Prime.


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