Fairfax NZ, NZME merger sparks monopoly fears

(AAP)
(AAP)

There are concerns a proposal to merge two of New Zealand's biggest media companies could spell the end of quality local journalism.

NZME and Fairfax have confirmed they're in talks, sparking fears they could monopolise the country's media industry.

"[The merger] raises all sorts of questions about the concentration of editorial power and agenda-setting power in a significant public medium," says Peter Thompson from the Coalition for Better Broadcasting.

Fairfax New Zealand publishes a host of newspapers including the Dominion Post and the Sunday Star Times, along with news website Stuff.

NZME oversees the New Zealand Herald, and has a number of radio stations in its stable including Newstalk ZB, Radio Sport and ZM.

Between them the companies employ more than 3000 staff, and the possible merger could spell job cuts.

"There will a reduction in the staffing for sure," says media commentator Tim Murphy.

"These models don't just come together, the business and the finance guys who sit around and scheme these things. There has to be synergy, there has to be reductions."

The merger is still subject to approval by the Commerce Commission, but the Greens fear that won't be much of a hurdle.

"When you look at our weak rules that don't specifically look at media ownership issues, when you look at the past track record, I think they have a strong case for the Commerce Commission," says Green Party MP Gareth Hughes.

"But of course that's bad news for a diverse media environment for Kiwis."

Mr Hughes wants the Government to step in, but Broadcasting Minister Amy Adams appears to be taking a hands-off approach.

In a statement, Ms Adams says it's not up to her to comment on the merits or otherwise of the potential merger.

She says ultimately it's up to the Commerce Commission to decide on any competition issues.

"We're not talking about selling widgets in the economy or selling bananas in supermarkets," Mr Hughes says.

"We're talking about New Zealanders' access to information and our media environment. I think it's important we don't just leave it up to competition law.

"We don't want to see media monopolies form in New Zealand."

An application is expected to be lodged with the Commerce Commission in the coming weeks, and if it gets the green light the deal could be confirmed by the end of the year.

Newshub.

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