Dear Graeme,

I read in the Oz that you’re seeking submissions by this Friday on whether your ACCC should allow News Ltd to buy Michael Hannan’s suburban newspaper group, FPC Community Media. Please consider this one such a submission.

The Murdoch mob are used to twisting governments and regulators to their way of viewing the world, so I’m sure you’ll be receiving lengthy and well-argued submissions by highly-paid lawyers explaining the insignificant role of FPC’s few suburban throw-aways in the total advertising markets and how there’s not much overlap between the markets of individual FPC papers and those of Murdoch’s Cumberland operation.

On the other hand, this is just a short and poorly-paid note dashed off on Crikey’s deadline, but the essential truth is that News Ltd already dominates newspapers in this country to an extent that is only rivalled by the propaganda organs of totalitarian states.

With about two-thirds of the entire Australian fishwrapper market, plus an enormous related on-line operation, Rupert already is by far the dominant player. For that reason alone, you shouldn’t give him more.

Oh, he’ll tell you that there’s a whole pile of new media, but all the evidence shows the old media ends up grabbing the prime real estate there too. It’s announced News Corp policy.

And Rupert’s ever-obedient minions will say there’s ease of entry into the suburban market anyway. Don’t believe them – they have all the credibility of the company’s general counsel in the C7 case.

Look instead to the reality of how News Ltd has thrown the kitchen sink at the little wannabe start-ups in Adelaide, or how it successfully forced Fairfax to back off launching a free commuter paper in Sydney. Like just about every red-blooded champion of free enterprise, there’s nothing Rupert likes more than the chance of a monopoly.

And then there’s the less measurable matter of ideas. While the metropolitan newspapers continue to decline, the suburbans thrown over everyone’s fence are doing very nicely indeed. They could well end up becoming the prime expression of the printed word. Frightening, but true.

Graeme, please look a little further down the track at where media is going and realise that any further increase of the reach and power of the world’s most influential man in a market he already dominates can’t be a good thing. Sure, the suburbans now are mainly about the local council and real estate ads, but the business is changing and will change more.

Diversity of opinion, diversity of ideas, helps make for a healthy society. By Rupert’s own admission, the opinions of all his organs are “aligned”. Please don’t spread that alignment any further. Consumers of ideas as well as advertisements can only lose.


Michael Pascoe