Regardless of its eventual success or failure, Nine’s proposed acquisition of Fairfax marks a new discontinuity in the Australian media landscape. The law that would once have prevented it was changed last year: now, the political economy and culture of our media are suddenly fluid. The familiar cast of Australian media characters, with their ancient rivalries and discontents, will soon be different, and some venerable figures won’t be there. What is happening is at once startling, unsettling, long anticipated and entirely unresolved.
Reminding us that the media is still a place where very different commercial, civic, political and cultural worlds coexist and sometimes collide, the understandings and expectations of key players and observers vary dramatically. Where Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood sees a merger, the Australiansees the death of Fairfax. Journalists and academics see a new challenge to diversity and democracy. Paul Keating sees Nine’s toxic tabloid culture metastasising, while the government tells a story about ensuring the long-term health of Australian media businesses. So far the stock market hasn’t shared the government’s confidence, with Nine shares falling since the deal was announced, reducing the value of the offer.
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