It has been described as the biggest shake-up in Australia’s media landscape this century. Nine Entertainment Co, owner of the Nine Network and Fairfax Media owner of The Age the Sydney Morning Herald, 2GB, 3AW, and 4BC will merge. The new company will keep the Nine name meaning that Fairfax corporate name will cease to exist, the deal is worth $4.2 billion with Nine shareholders owning 51.1% of the new company with Fairfax shareholders owning the rest.
The merger was made possible by the Turnbull Government’s reforms to cross-media ownership laws which abolished the 2 out of 3 rule which prevented media companies from owning television, radio and print. There has been the usual hysteria from the left about this merger claiming that it confirms their fears about further media concentration which is bad for journalism and democracy. The left supports cross-media ownership laws due to their suffering of Murdoch Derangement Syndrome. They fear if media is unregulated Rupert Murdoch will buy up all the mainstream media to push a far-right conservative agenda.
But the reality is this merger between Nine and Fairfax is taking place, not from a position of strength, but a position of weakness. In the pre-internet era, both companies could rely on the traditional rivers of gold revenue streams. All major companies would advertise on television and jobs and other classifieds were advertised in newspapers. This is why they could afford to employ large newsrooms and have investigative journalism units. If the public wanted the news they had to turn on the TV, tune into the radio or open a newspaper.
But the internet has changed all of that, more companies are using Facebook to advertise themselves and classified advertising has moved to websites such as SEEK and eBay. Publishing articles and video content on the internet is much more cost effective than the printing press plus distribution to newsagents and beaming video from satellites. For the public, it is much more convenient to just open your smartphone for the latest news than go out of your way to purchase a newspaper.
Fairfax has gone through years job cuts, financial losses and share price plummets. Last year it cut 125 editorial jobs from their newsrooms, which was around a quarter of their staff. The company also took a $1 billion write-down in 2016. Network Ten posted a $232.2 million loss for the first half of 2016-17 and was only saved by a takeover by American media conglomerate CBS Corporation.
The left like the mainstream media because they can be relied upon to report with a leftist progressive slant and shape public opinion in such a way. They do not like the fact that now ordinary citizens can start up their own news media organisation online like we have been able to do with the Unshackled. They view ordinary people attempting to counter the news narrative put out by the mainstream media as spreaders of fake news.
They blame the new online media for helping to elect Donald Trump as President of the United States by exposing the crimes and corruption of Hillary Clinton which was covered up by the American mainstream media. The left losing control of the media narrative and the rise of the citizen journalist is deemed the biggest threat to our democracy. They have been putting pressure on tech companies like Google and Facebook to shut down so-called fake news and only promote news from reputable (ie mainstream corporate) sources.
But the left still hasn’t lost their dislike for big corporate owners of media, for the record we are not big fans of them either, but for different reasons. The journalists union the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance announced they were opposing the merger believing “it harms the ability of an independent media to scrutinise the powerful, threatens the functioning of a healthy democracy [and] undermines … quality journalism”. Former Prime Minister Paul Keating the architect of the original cross-media ownership laws called the merger”an exceptionally bad development”.
From a business perspective it makes perfect sense given the challenges facing traditional news media for Nine and Fairfax to merge. They can now pool their news resources together as a single entity where the same news team and file a report for television, radio, print and online. If a few mainstream journalists lose their jobs or heaven forbid have to work a bit harder there won’t be much sympathy for them in the Australian community who are more suspicious of the traditional mainstream media than ever.
The mainstream media is fighting for survival, this merger between Nine and Fairfax is more an act of desperation. News media contrary to what the left claim is actually becoming more diverse thanks to the internet and that is a good thing. We at the Unshackled are pleased to see this and will continue to do our utmost to continue to put the traditional media under the pump.