Sure, you could read every submission to the Commerce Commission on the proposed merger of NZME and Fairfax, but time is money and your social media-addled attention span is short. Henry Oliver understands, and is here to help.
Yesterday, the Commerce Commission published the public versions of the submissions received in response to its draft determination where it signalled its preliminary intention to deny the NZME and Fairfax’s merger application.
There are 21 submissions, some quite lengthy, some quite dense, some quite repetitive, some quite difficult to read. So, dear reader, we present a partial summary of all 21 submissions, including convenient shorthand: 👍 for submissions in support of the merger (and against the draft declaration), 👎 for submissions against the merger (and in support of the draft declaration) and ✋ for submissions that are technical, legalistic and jargon-filled, yet take no side on the proposed merger.
Dr An Hertogen, Auckland Law School ✋
Question: Can the “non-quantifiable plurality detriment” of the proposed merger be used in considering the public benefit test under the Commerce Act to override the “net quantitative efficiency gains” of said merger?
Answer: A purpose of competition law may be regulating the ownership of media, but not to protect “non-quantifiable media plurality”.
Anonymous Global Fund Manager 👍
Just stop all this nanny-state, over-regulation business, okay?
We see you rogue anonymous staple…
Bernadette Courtney, Fairfax 👍
“To accept the status quo and suggest we do nothing is tantamount to accelerating the decline of news media, particularly the print-product runway. A merger is seen as extending that runway. No to the merger means parking up the aircraft, cancelling regional routes and slowly letting the mother ship rust away.”
Also: “When Donald Trump took the US presidency and I decided to run the headline “WTF” across the front page of The Dominion Post, I did not seek any approval from the executive group editor, I just did it. That’s what independence is and always has been.”
Nice cover, Bernadette…
Communications Agency of New Zealand (CAANZ) 👍
“The suggestion that a merged NZME/Fairfax could somehow have advertising market power, in either print or digital, does not match the day-to-day realities of the advertising marketplace. Perhaps in 2006, but not in 2016.”
Casey Eden, Neighbourly.co.nz & Fairfax 👍
“Over the last 20 years, and increasingly moving into the future, NZME and Fairfax have been challenged with a disrupted business model, similar to how Uber has disrupted traditional taxi companies. This disruption has attacked both NZME and Fairfax’s product/service (media content) as well as both companies method of funding (advertising). A joint entity would only control 11.7 percent of New Zealand’s digital advertising market … hardly a position of strength.”
That’s … quite a compelling figure…
Coalition for Better Broadcasting (CBB) 👎
Fairfax and NZME have not covered the merger fairly and therefore cannot be trusted to maintain an editorial plurality should the merger be approved.
“If there are concerns about how the applicant’s’ own media outlets have represented their prospective merger thus far, then there must be even greater concerns about the potential for any merged entity to skew the overall pattern of news coverage on future issues of public concern where vested commercial interests might outweigh the editorial commitment to the public interest.”
Interesting take, perhaps explained by the following:
Former editors 👎👎👎👎👎👎👎👎👎👎👎
“Content is king” and the proposed merger would “undermine it”.
Further: “The commission has made a powerful statement about the importance of the media in a free society. Any diminution of an already shallow media pool should be of concern to all New Zealanders.”
You’ve come this far ComCom, don’t back down now….
Current editors 👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍
“The government shows little inclination to tax these overseas competitors, or to support local journalism. So we held out hope that you would.”
Geoff Collett, Fairfax 👍
“The Commission has been swayed by theoretical interpretations of ‘plurality’ , and has failed to reach the necessary level of understanding of the practical workings of journalism in New Zealand to properly inform the ‘qualitative’ view it much for on ‘unquantifiable matters’”.
Heath Sadlier 👍
Jeremy Rees, Fairfax 👍
“I believe that your Status Quo of November 8, 2016, when your draft determination was published, will not exist in six months time. New Zealand media companies will simply have to reduce the number of newspapers published in this country to match declining revenues. I believe that is the real Status Quo; an irresistible but accelerating decline in the number of newspapers throughout New Zealand in 2017. This will mean fewer journalists employed at Fairfax and NZME.”
Shit, let us down gently whydontcha?
Joanna Norris, Fairfax 👍
“The wolf is at the door and regional journalism is simply not sustainable in some parts of New Zealand” and (several paragraphs down), “a decision against a merger will remove a very real opportunity to shore it up, resulting in greatly reduced regional news and job losses.”
John Crowley, Fairfax 👍
“While there may be some sensible similarities and syndication of content across many of the mastheads now, there are also distinct differences which are driven by parochial priorities and geographic and readership/lifestyle differences – and different editors. No editor could be encouraged to sacrifice these distinct and regular differences. A sameness will not attract interest, readership or support.”
Jonathan MacKenzie, Fairfax 👍
Umm… WTF? The Commerce Commission’s decision is like a structuralist reading of Raging Bull? And what’s with all the underlining? Was it an error or for emphasis?
Jonathan Milne, Fairfax 👍
“Quality journalism, public interest journalism, a plurality of views, are driven more by conscience than by competition. The number of New Zealand media owners may be reduced by one, but our commitment to quality journalism will continue.
“None of us got into this game for the money. Naively (perhaps), idealistically (probably), we signed up for journalism school because we thought we could make a difference – and that is something our journalists remind us of, should there ever be a danger of us becoming jaded.
“I support the proposed merger. But I offer you this assurance: regardless of your decision, good journalists will continue to do good journalism to the very best of their ability.”
This is honestly the nicest thing I’ve read all day.
Matthew Edwards: 👎
Regan Hawkins 👎
“Democracy is fragile and I adamantly believe that ongoing access to unbiased news and views, from a variety of outlets, is crucial to cultivating and maintaining our civic responsibility as citizens. To teach our children how our country and the world works we must be informed.
Whilst online opinion and news services may help flesh out the range of viewpoints it is becoming apparent that they cannot be relied upon for accuracy, veracity and the prioritising of the public interest as we saw in our last NZ general election and alarmingly this month in the US.”
Shayne Currie, NZME 👍
“I will fight to the death for every last reader of a newspaper … I believe a paywall on any mass-market New Zealand website – be it nzherald.co.nz, stuff.co.nz, newshub.co.nz and others – will not work, no matter who owns them. People have had a good thing for free for too long … The traditional media business model in New Zealand is broken, and this merger would lay the foundation for two of New Zealand’s media companies to have a shot at the future.”
Sinead Boucher, Fairfax 👍
“The economics of the news industry are extremely bleak … We are not asking for government funding, we are just asking for a chance to build a sustainable business model that will allow independent journalism at scale to continue in this country … We have a window in time where we have a shot at saving New Zealand local journalism, but it won’t be open forever. If this merger does not progress, then I am afraid to say the future does not look good.”
Stuart Howie, Flame Tree Media 👍
The merger should be allowed if the resulting company (#Stuffme #NZfax) agrees to supports “high level of “internal plurality” of views.
Sun Media 👎
“Reduction in competition … increased power of the merged companies … price fixing … an assault on the many private New Zealand owned operations … two Australian-owned giants … lessen competition … no incentive to curb subscription and retail prices … paywalls would be inevitable … highly detrimental to the consumer and the advertiser … weaken editorial objectivity and narrow the diversity of editorial scrutiny.”
Henry Oliver, The Spinoff* 👍
“Let ’em merge, I reckon. Live and let live! Or something like that. Sure, none of us know what the future will bring, but, if things continue they way they’re going, it’s definitely not looking good. Sure, a merged entity might not fare much better, but I’ll take the added uncertainty as a net positive over almost certain constriction. The possibility of a scary monopoly seems preferable to the probability of more redundancies (I mean ‘efficiencies’), cost-cutting and closures. Shit, a merged entity may just be a good thing, ending New Zealand’s clickbait arms race once and for all (our own Duncan Greive’s Herald-as-NYT, Stuff-as-Buzzfeed theory is certainlyly enticing in a wildly optimistic way). But, like my mother always said (I don’t think she actually ever said this): you never know if you don’t try.”
Read all 21 submission, in full, here.
*You know I didn’t make an actual submission, right?