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Thumbs up from ACCC to News’s ARM takeover

Thursday, 08 December 2016
By Jake Nelson

ARM newspapers

The ACCC has announced it will not oppose News Corp’s takeover of Australian Regional Media (ARM) from APN, removing a major hurdle in the way of the $36.6 million deal.

Rod Sims, chairman ACCC

In its statement, the consumer watchdog said it did not believe the buyout would significantly reduce competition for the newspaper industry in Queensland. “The ACCC reviewed the acquisition very closely, as News and ARM are the two largest newspaper publishers in Queensland. 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,” said Rod Sims, Chairman of the ACCC.

Sims said there were clear differences between the audiences of News Corp’s papers and ARM’s. “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. Furthermore, readers are increasingly reading online sources of news, where there are alternatives to News and ARM,” he said.

Lorraine Cassin, National Print Division Secretary AMWU.

Job losses were feared from the buyout, with a report in September suggesting that up to 300 staff including printing, distribution and back office workers could go once News Corp takes over ARM’s operations. However, Lorraine Cassin, National Print Division Secretary at the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, says the AMWU is not concerned at this stage, and will work with News Corp to achieve the best outcome for its members.

“We had an undertaking with News Corp that once the ACCC process had been done, they would sit down with us so we could discuss what this would mean on the ground, and we’ll be beginning this process soon. They have a commitment to work with us, and we have a commitment to work with them on behalf of our members. We see this as an opportunity to strengthen the newspaper brand for the future and we look forward to working with News Corp on this matter,” Cassin said.

Michael Miller, Executive Chairman News Corp Australasia

News Corp could not comment on any potential job cuts, but issued a press release welcoming the ACCC’s decision and assuring readers of its commitment to regional media. “The decision to invest in ARM shows News Corp Australia’s commitment to the news media and publishing, to our regional and community audiences, and to the growth areas of Queensland and north-east New South Wales,” said Michael Miller, executive chairman News Corp Australasia.

According to Miller, both ARM and News Corp’s publications have a long tradition of serving local communities, and share similar values. “As a former CEO of APN, I know these businesses and these teams well and appreciate the significant value they will bring to our company. I look forward to what we can achieve together by combining our collective expertise,” he said.

The deal is still subject to regulatory approval by the Foreign Investment Review Board.

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