Leading Australian media companies Fairfax and Nine announced a $4 billion merger, resulting in a new conglomerate under the name Nine. The International Federation of Journalist (IFJ) warns that this merger risks undermining media plurality in a country that has one of the most concentrated media markets in the world.
Under flawed government regulations on media ownership -- including the recent removal of the ban on single ownerships in print, television and radio platform – Australia’s level of media ownership concentration is already one of the highest in the world.
The takeover of Fairfax, a 150-year-old media company, stops the company from serving as a diverse and independent platform for rural, suburban and regional publications. It threatens the editorial independence of local news agencies such as the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Canberra Times, Illawarra Mercury, Newcastle Herald, Macquarie Media and more.
The merger has been condemned by the main Australian media workers union and IFJ affiliate, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), over its concern that it will harm democracy and diversity of voices in Australian media.
The IFJ backed its Australian affiliate’s call on the Australian Competitor and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to block the takeover. It also supports MEAA’s demand for commitments from both companies that the Fairfax Charter of Editorial Independence will be upheld under any merger. Together, the unions in Australia and IFJ urge the Australian government to stop the destruction of media market diversity.
Marcus Strom, president of MEAA Media, said: “Today’s takeover announcement is the inevitable result of the Coalition’s Government’s short-sighted and ill-conceived changes to media ownership laws that were always going to result in less media diversity. With ongoing inquiries into the independence and long-term viability of quality journalism under way, the ACCC must block this takeover”.
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “Media plurality is essential in a well-functioned democracy. It provides the society with healthy, independent, multifaceted news feeds, which further promotes social cohesion and civil engagement. We urge the Australian authorities to take action and prevent such concentration in media ownership and impede this operation that reduces plurality and undermines diversity – as such it is clearly against the public interest”.