While media commentators argue over what might happen in the great game of musical chairs sparked by Helen Coonan’s proposed media reforms, media concentration just keeps growing anyway.

Two recent acquisitions – one by News Limited and the other by PBL – show that the key players still have voracious appetites to own more, more, more.

News Limited has just announced the acquisition of two of Queensland’s independent Ipswich papers, the Westside Weekly and Ipswich’s Own, for a figure Crikey understands is around $4.5 million, after the ACCC and the Foreign Investment Review Board last week gave the deal the all-clear.

The purchase adds to News’s dominance in the Sunshine State when added to its dailies in Brisbane, Cairns, Gold Coast and Townsville and its Brisbane suburban Quest group.

On the Packer side, Ninemsn – a joint venture between PBL and Microsoft – has just finalised the purchase of content provider HWW. The company produces mobile phone and other digital content, and is one of the largest third generation content providers to the Hutchison “3” mobile network. As companies like Telstra and Optus move towards utilising the 3G network – capable of carrying music, television and other multimedia – HWW is expected to become a valuable content provider.

All this is great news for PBL, who now have the option of beaming Channel Nine content directly to mobile phones around the country, and News, whose domination of the Australian newspaper industry just increased by another (small) notch.

All without the help of the government or the Communications Minister.

Peter Fray

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