As the government desperately tries to fast-track its shoddy media laws through a Senate committee and into parliament, here’s further evidence why the proposed abolition of the cross-media rules is almost guaranteed to produce a Darwinian outcome.

Based on simple research by a leading media analyst, provided to Crikey, it’s now clear that under the Coonan “diversity” provisions there can only be two national cross-media mergers – and no more. As the analyst explains:

Any truly national merger under the new ownership regime runs into the fact that Brisbane and Perth are seven-company media towns and Adealide is a six-company town — therefore there can only be two national cross-media mergers.

This would mean, for example, that if News Corp announced a takeover bid for the Ten Network, and PBL launched a takeover bid for Fairfax, on the first day of the new laws, no other national cross-media merger would be permissible thereafter under the “five player minimum” rule.

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Presumably there would be some form of first mover advantage as the third person to propose a cross-media merger would have to knick out one of the first two merger proposals to have a chance of getting ACCC approval. The same “first mover” effect is also notable in regional markets.

So there you have it. Because only two national mergers can be made, PBL and News have a giant incentive to move quickly and decisively, before anyone else can gain a substantive share of the rich Australian media marketplace.

The government offers a sop to the recalcitrant National Party MPs … rams through the legislation … watches PBL and News implement the only two national deals that can be made … and the stitch-up will be complete.

Don’t adjust your sets – you’re watching media policy Australian style. Who Wants to be a Multi Billionaire?