ACCC welcomes dispute over ARM deal

Competition watchdog The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has revealed it is set to further examine the negative impact of News Corp’s ARM acquisition, and is welcoming feedback ahead of final approval.

The proposed acquisition, which saw shareholders vote overwhelmingly in favour, is slated to see the integration of the two major Queensland newspaper publishers – a move many have dubbed as a step towards a News Corp monopoly.

News Corp’s bid to buy ARM is still subject to approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), however if permitted will see News own both The Courier Mail and the local paid newspaper in nearly every town and city in Queensland.

[Related: ACCC probes News Corp's acquisition

“This may result in a reduction of quality and diversity of content available to readers. Reinforcing that concern is that both News Corp and ARM have a strong presence in online news through websites associated with the Queensland papers,” says ACCC chairman Rod Sims.

“The ACCC is seeking to understand whether the competitive tension between News and ARM is an important factor in maintaining quality and range of content, or whether the threat of readers shifting the alternatives, particularly online news sites, will competitively restrain News after the acquisition.”

ARM publishes a suite of paid daily newspapers in Mackay, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Gympie, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba, Ipswitch and Warwick, and the ACCC says it will closely observing these areas.

The ACCC says it now invites further submissions from industry participants in response to a further statement set to be released on October 27. The watchdog anticipates a final decision will be announced on December 1. 

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