Com Com delays NZME-Fairfax decision again

6:08 pm on 29 March 2017

A decision on the proposed merger between media groups NZME and Fairfax New Zealand has been deferred for a second time in three weeks because of a last minute late surge of new submissions.

nzme fairfax

Photo: RNZ

The Commerce Commission said it now planned to deliver a decision on the merger by 2 May from the previous delayed date of 11 April.

"On Wednesday 22 March the Commission received a lengthy submission from NZME and Fairfax providing further analysis and expert evidence in support of its merger authorisation application," it said in a statement.

The regulator said if it was to give the extra submissions due consideration it would have to delay a decision, providing there were no further substantive submissions from the applicants.

In November, the Commerce Commission gave an initial thumbs-down to the proposed merger, saying it would reduce diversity of news and information if control of most of the country's newspapers, a leading radio network and two major news websites came under one banner.

Fairfax owns a raft of newspapers, including the Sunday Star-Times, The Press and the Dominion Post; magazines including Cuisine and NZ House & Garden, as well as the website Stuff. NZME owns The New Zealand Herald, regional and community papers and a stable of radio stations, including Newstalk ZB and ZM.

An edited public version of the NZME-Fairfax latest submissions showed the companies argued the commission should be forward-looking and follow the lead of overseas regulators, and take a wider view of the changing media sector and the public benefits the merger would bring.

"It would also be seen as a retrograde step in comparison to other regulators internationally that have already identified these trends and their implications," the companies said.

NZME and Fairfax said that regulating media on the grounds of diversity was outside the commission's jurisdiction, and it should focus only on the economic impacts.

They said they needed to merge to be able to survive and face the rising dominance of Google and Facebook.

In the past month, Fairfax has lost two senior executives, including its local chief executive, and announced it would cut back publication of one of its regional newspapers.