Two key media companies in New Zealand announced Wednesday they were holding merger talks, triggering a likelihood of a press monopoly in the country. APN News & Media and Fairfax Media are discussing the merger of their New Zealand operations — NZME newspaper and Fairfax New Zealand, respectively.
“The New Zealand businesses of NZME and Fairfax are, to a large extent, complementary,” the companies said in a joint statement. “The expanded network of brands and channels would create an opportunity to deliver improved, innovative offerings to advertisers and audiences.”
NZME, the owner of the New Zealand Herald newspaper, also runs several North Island newspapers and various radio networks including Radio Sport, ZM and Newstalk ZB. Fairfax is the owner of the Press, the Sunday Star Times, as well as several magazines, including Cuisine, TV Guide and NZ House & Garden, and the popular news website stuff.co.nz.
“This is an important opportunity for all of our shareholders to be part of the future of content and journalism in New Zealand. The merger would enhance the position the businesses are in to continue to deliver high quality, local content to audiences now and in the future,” Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood reportedly said.
After the merger, the total revenue of the combined entity is likely to reach $441 million and the businesses would reach almost every person and every corner of New Zealand, Business Insider reported. APN and Fairfax said they are looking to complete the deal by the end of this year.
“The combination of these two businesses would provide the necessary capability to continue investing in high-quality local news, sport and entertainment at a time when advertiser commercial investment continues to fragment across international media platforms that do not invest in local content,” APN CEO Ciaran Davis reportedly said.
According to the merger plan, the NZME will be demerged and APN shareholders will receive one NZME share for each APN share, Business Insider reported. APN is reportedly hoping to concentrate on its Australian growth media assets. The deal will have to be approved by New Zealand’s competition watchdog, the Commerce Commission.
Green Party's member of parliament, Gareth Hughes, expressed concern over the possible merger. Hughes said a diverse and competitive media was important for a democracy.
“Many other countries have specific rules that prevent media monopolies from forming, but New Zealand doesn’t. I think it's unlikely these Australian-owned media companies would even dream of proposing a virtual monopoly over newspapers in their home country, under current rules there,” Hughes told the New Zealand Herald.
Hughes said countries such as Australia and the U.K. administer ownership rules, digital convergence issues, and local content quotas through their communication and media regulators.
“The people who lose out from a newspaper merger will be the journalists whose jobs are cut and citizens who want a choice about where they get their news from,” Hughes added.