How Nine and Fairfax sat the wrong test

Television Newspapers Media ownership Cross-media ownership Australia

Australia is going to be worse off as a result of the merger between Nine and Fairfax media, the chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Rod Sims, acknowledged yesterday — but nevertheless he won’t stand in the way. And that is because he almost certainly can’t.

Hardly anyone was surprised by this result, but that doesn’t mean we should pass lightly on. There are things about the inquiry worth noting, and the outcomes underline the shortcomings of our current system of media regulation.

The ACCC took an unusual tack in this inquiry. It is a market regulator. Its legislation is focused on markets and competition. Asking it to address the non-commercial interests of citizens as media users is always going to be a stretch — like using a spanner to hammer a nail.

Nevertheless, the envelope was pushed a bit. In previous media merger inquiries, the ACCC and its predecessor, the Trade Practices Commission, looked mostly at the markets for advertising. News and information came a poor second. No matter how much those concerned with concentration of media ownership wailed about concepts such as the market for ideas, it didn’t cut it with the competition regulator.

Read the full article on Inside Story.

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