Media merger decision delayed until March

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The Commerce Commission has agreed to delay its decision on plans to merge our two media giants. In a statement released this morning, the Commission said while we can expect a “draft determination” in November it agreed with NZME and Fairfax to delay a final decision until March next year.

“NZME and Fairfax lodged their application on 27 May 2016 and the Commission has received a large number of submissions from interested parties. The proposed merger is complex and involves two-sided markets – advertisers on one side and consumers (readers) on the other.

“The Commission is continuing to assess the effects of the proposed merger on areas such as the provision of national, regional and local news content and information, including the impact on the quality, accuracy and range of the news media in New Zealand. In addition, the Commission is assessing whether the proposed merger would enable the parties to increase prices to advertisers and consumers,” the statement said.

The Commission does intend to release a draft determination by early November.

“This will set out the Commission’s preliminary view on whether the proposed merger would be likely to result in a substantial lessening of competition as well as balancing the public benefits and detriments that it may bring about. Following the release of the Draft Determination, the Commission will seek further submissions from interested parties.

“The decision-making timeframe allows for a public conference to be held in December should it be needed. A conference would be an opportunity for the Commission to test the views of NZME and Fairfax and interested parties on the issues raised in the draft determination.

“The Commission would then consider all submissions and publish its final decision on or before 15 March 2017.”

Fairfax boss Simon Tong is being quoted as saying the delay shouldn’t come as a surprise.

“We said at the outset we expected this process to take six months or more given the timeframes we have seen for other merger applications to get the green light.”

Click here for the full Commerce Commission statement.

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