The proposed $36 million purchase of APN News and Media’s regional daily and other papers (housed in Australian Regional Media, or ARM) by News Corp may not be the done deal many (including News and APN) think it should be. The competition regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said this morning is looking for feedback from advertisers and users of the News Corp and APN’s regional newspapers before making a final decision on the takeover, and sees competition problems in some areas, including Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast regions.

In a statement of issues released this morning, the commission gave a very strong hint that it is worried by the lack of any competition in the print and news websites in parts of Queensland and northern NSW should the takeover proceed. It is also worried (“concerned”) about advertising.

Significantly the issues paper from the ACCC says:

“The ACCC’s preliminary view is that the proposed acquisition may be likely to substantially lessen competition in the supply of local news and information to consumers/readers in Caboolture/Bribie Island, south west Brisbane, Brisbane northern bayside, Logan, and, Tweed Heads/southern Gold Coast.”

The ACCC is also worried the deal could “substantially lessen the supply of local advertising opportunities” in those same areas.

The use of the phrase “substantially lessen competition” is significant because it indicates a higher level of concern at the ACCC to the basics of this takeover. It means News and APN will have to come up with some proposals to alleviate this concern. But it also means that if no one really complains about the deal from outside News and APN, it still could give it a tick. — Glenn Dyer