MEAA says ACCC must protect diversity in WA media
The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), the union and industry advocate for Australia’s journalists, believes the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) statement of issues has correctly highlighted serious concerns regarding the sale of News Corporation’s The Sunday Times and PerthNow digital news web site to Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media (SWM).
MEAA is pleased that the ACCC has acknowledged the proposed sale may leave West Australians with a lack of genuine diversity in a media market that is already dominated by Stokes’ business and media interests.
Even before the sale has been granted approval to continue, 37 editorial jobs have been lost from The West Australian in recent weeks, with 12 of those positions gone through forced redundancies.
As has been demonstrated in other media markets, the loss of “boots on the ground” to cover important local news leaves the community worse off.
If the proposed sale is allowed to continue, particularly without due consideration to the resultant lack of competition and diversity in the WA media market, the community will suffer.
MEAA’s WA regional director Tiffany Venning said: “The journalists who work on these newspapers and the communities they serve are the losers from any sale. Allowing increased concentration of media ownership trashes diversity by silencing voices, reduces much-needed competition, and undermines the role of the fourth estate to scrutinise the powerful.
“In a community where the dominant media player is also a powerful business conglomerate, that’s not good for democracy and it’s not good for the people of Western Australia who rely on their media to keep them informed and entertained. The loss of 37 journalists at The West Australian only exacerbates this problem by both reducing resources needed to fully cover local issues and intensifying the workload of those who remain.”
AS MEAA’s WA media section said in its the submission to the ACCC inquiry: “The transaction would make Perth a ‘one-newspaper’ town. By its very nature, the sale will lessen competition. We believe readers will suffer from a reduction in the quality of content, perhaps in both print publications, if staffing levels are reduced and journalists, photographers and artists have to do more with less (something that is already happening across the media industry). The proposed transaction would create business and media power in WA that is not replicated in any other part of Australia.”
MEAA added: “It will put incredible power in the hands of one mogul, Kerry Stokes, whose business interests in WA extend far beyond the media. SWM shareholders and senior executives are also heavily involved in the Perth business scene at large and in dealings with the State Government. These dealings not only involve the customary regulatory approval and lobbying that is normal business practice, but also include attempts to acquire significant assets or significant contractual benefits through those dealings with the State Government. There is an obviously greater potential for problems in objectively reporting or analysing these business activities, especially involving government, when that same group controls all the daily newspapers in town.”
MEAA will be making an additional submission to the ACCC on the sale, and, in the meantime, urges Seven West Media to
• urgently adopt a charter of editorial independence across all its media business
• halt redundancies and explore opportunities for staff to be redeployed to other editorial areas.
For more information, contact:
MEAA WA regional director Tiffany Venning