APN News and Media have confirmed proposals to merge their New Zealand operations into a combined media company. It is planned to go ahead at the end of 2016. If it is goes ahead and is cleared by the Commerce Commission it will mean a virtual monopoly for newspapers, and dominance of the online news sector. A former NZ Herald editor-in-chief, Tim Murphy has said that on past guesstimates the com lined operation would need to retain 2250 or more of the 3000-odd staff . The new entity – jokingly referred to be one Herald wag as F-Me – would have a huge impact on news gathering in this country.
There would likely be cuts to reduce duplication and many would expect newspaper closures. The sector that has already been under pressure. In my opinion such a reduction in staff would have a downstream affect on other media. Newspapers’ role has been traditionally get major new stories up and running and for other media to build on. It’s what one TV executive described as “doing the heavy lifting.” New Zealand is already has one of the most concentrated media markets in the world. What would a merged NZME Fairfax look like?
- The NZ Herald, Herald on Sunday, Northern Advocate, Bay of Plenty Times, Rotorua Daily Post, Hawkes Bay Today, Wairarapa Times Age, and the Wanganui Chronicle
- The Sunday Star-Times, Sunday News, Waikato Times, Manawatu Standard, New Plymouth Daily News, The Press, Nelson Evening Mail, Dominion Post, and the Southland Times.
- Fairfax Magazines titles include: NZ House and Garden, Cuisine, New Zealand Gardener, and the TV Guide.
- NZME owns half the country’s commercial radio stations including ZM,Newstalk ZB, Radio Sport, Radio Hauraki and The Hits. The other half of commercial radio industries will be owned by MediaWorks.
Fairfax and NZME need Commerce Commission clearance, and it would look at the competition and market dominance issues. One factor is that newspapers advertising is declining here – as they are around the world. Any issue on competition and market dominance would likely hinge on impact on advertising rates. The two players could easily argue that rapidly growing online and social media companies, like Google and Facebook that are eating into their revenue.