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News Corp cleared to buy APN newspapers

AAP logoAAP 7/12/2016 Ethan James

News Corp's buyout of APN's regional Queensland newspapers won't hurt market diversity as readers are turning to online news regardless, according to the competition watchdog.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on Thursday gave the all-clear for Rupert Murdoch's media giant to buy APN's Australian Regional Media, which includes 12 daily newspapers, 60 smaller publications and more than 30 news websites.

The ACCC had raised concerns the $36.6 million acquisition could lessen competition in the supply of news, particularly in areas where News Corp's state-wide masthead The Courier Mail and ARM's paid regional newspapers overlap.

But after consulting readers and some 600 advertisers, it found there would be little impact.

"Feedback from readers raised very few concerns and suggested that there is not close competition between the paid daily Queensland papers published by News and ARM," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.

"ARM's paid daily regional newspapers focus mostly on regional and local news and there is limited overlap with The Courier Mail which focuses on greater-Brisbane, state, and national news."

Falling newspaper readership payed a part in the ACCC's decision, as people indicated they are getting more news online.

"Advertisers and readers are increasingly turning to other sources of news and advertising opportunities, particularly digital, which is having a significant impact on the print industry," Mr Sims said.

Most advertisers acknowledged print advertising was in decline and that they would look elsewhere if News Corp increased rates, he added.

News Corp Australiasia executive chairman Michael Miller gave a commitment that regional newspapers would not lose their community focus.

"We both share a heritage of investing ourselves in local communities, providing leadership and connection to the issues that matter," he said.

APN chief executive Ciaran Davis said the ACCC decision brought the company closer to its objective of exiting traditional publishing.

"Once complete, the sale will allow APN to pursue its strategy of focusing on the growth media sectors of radio and outdoor with a clear path forward," Mr Davis said.

ARM publishes papers in Queensland regional centres including Mackay, Rockhampton and Ipswich and a few northern NSW towns such as Lismore and Grafton.

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