Kevin Rudd gave Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chair Rod Sims a hard kick up the backside yesterday in a piece expressing scepticism about the government's media bargaining code. (For reasons unclear, Rudd's piece had briefly surfaced on the AFR website last week before rapidly disappearing until yesterday.)
Sims, Rudd suggested, had presided over a significant reduction in media diversity and regional news by allowing News Corp to acquire APN in 2016. "Sims' experience as an economist is acknowledged," wrote Rudd, "but he is way out of his depth on the critical question of media diversity. The APN sale wasn’t just about transfer pricing or market capitalisation; it was about preserving the flow of copious, accurate, local information."
The problem for Rudd is that Sims isn't paid to look after media diversity or local information. He's the competition regulator, not the media regulator. There are separate laws covering media diversity administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. The ACCC assesses media acquisition and mergers for their impact on actual markets -- primarily advertising. It has limited powers to make any other kind of assessment that would prohibit acquisitions.