Labor is not surprised by today’s announcement that the ACCC will not oppose the Nine-Fairfax merger, and condemns the Liberal Government for junking the rule that prevented Australia’s already highly concentrated media market from getting even more concentrated.
All along, Labor has said that the ACCC, as an economic regulator, will not safeguard media diversity in Australia because it is not explicitly required to consider pluralism or diversity in considering media mergers.
For years, Labor has warned that the repeal of the 2 out of 3 cross media control rule would lead to further media consolidation and job losses in the media, including in regional areas, but the Liberals abolished it anyway with the help of One Nation.
Today’s decision puts to bed the notion that the ACCC acts as a safeguard for media diversity in Australia. It doesn’t.
The Nine-Fairfax merger will proceed as planned and Australia’s highly concentrated media market will get even more concentrated, care of the Liberal Government.
Notably, the ACCC’s statement today is silent on the issue of media diversity.
While initially the ACCC Chair clearly stated that the regulator would consider what the Nine-Fairfax merger means for diversity, the ACCC does not even acknowledge diversity or concentration in its statement today.
The Minister for Communications parrots that there are other diversity protections in Australia, such as the 5/4 rule, but his own Department found years ago that the level of diversity is at or below the minimum number of ‘voices’ required by that rule in 70 per cent of all licence areas.
What’s more, the Minister says the ABC and SBS are important underpinnings of media diversity, but the Liberals have cut around half a billion dollars from public broadcasting over the last five years.
Policymakers and regulators around the world, in media markets far less concentrated than Australia, have media pluralism high on the agenda and are working to monitor and intervene in media mergers to protect diversity.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Government has failed to deliver a coherent media policy framework for 21st century conditions and undermined media diversity at every turn.
Australians have every reason to feel outrage that the Liberal Government has sold out the public interest and concern for the health of our polity.