ACCC GIVES GO-AHEAD FOR NEWS CORP TO BUY ARM

ACCC GIVES GO-AHEAD FOR NEWS CORP TO BUY ARM

NEWS Corporation (ASX: NWS) has been given the green light to acquire Australian Regional Media (ARM) from APN News and Media (ASX: APN), following a review by Australia's competition watchdog.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) launched its review in August, and shortly after published a 'statement of issues' on October 2016 to gauge public response to the proposed acquisition.

After it received little negative feedback from surveyed readers and advertisers, the organisation decided not to act against the buyout of ARM's 58 separate publications and associated websites.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims says there isn't an alarming competition overlap, despite the fact News and ARM are the two largest paper publishers in the state.

"The ACCC reviewed the acquisition very closely," says Sims.

"However, feedback from readers raised very few concerns and suggested that there is not close competition between the paid daily Queensland papers published by News and ARM.

"ARM's paid daily regional newspapers focus mostly on regional and local news and there is limited overlap with The Courier Mail which focuses on greater-Brisbane, state and national news."

The watchdog probed several key areas including south west Brisbane, Caboolture, Logan, Tweed Heads and the Southern Gold Coast.

While the ACCC conceded that some stakeholders may be stripped of choice, Sims says an adequate amount of options would still exist.

"This transaction will mean that readers in those areas who still value a community newspaper format are likely to face reduced choice," says Sims.

"However, the ACCC concluded that, overall, a sufficient range of local news choices and advertising options would remain available in these areas."

"Although some concerns were raised by small businesses and ad agencies in these local areas, most acknowledged that print advertising was of declining importance and identified other advertising options if News attempted to increase rates."

The ACCC also factored the decline of readership and advertising revenue generated by modern print media into their decision.

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