High Court appeal against NZ media merger

High Court appeal against NZ media merger

New Zealand’s largest publishers, Fairfax NZ and NZME, have spent the last two weeks before the nation’s High Court to appeal the rejection of their merger by industry regulator, the Commerce Commission in May.

The appeal began on October 16, with the publishers arguing the decision to reject the merger failed to take the changing nature of news consumption and distribution into account.

“We have other fora for debating things like media ownership rules and how much money should be spent on producing public-good information that markets will not generate,” said Fairfax and NZME High Court representation David Goddard QC.

“Those are political choices to be made by the institutions that are responsible for those.”

Mr Goddard also started that there is “not a shred of evidence” that editorial matters would be affected by the proposed merger.

But the commission is standing by its May decision, in which it stated that the merger of New Zealand’s two largest publishers would not be in the public interest.

The commission’s lawyer, James Farmer QC, continued this argument in court, stating: “If you’re concerned about whether the merger will see a substantial lessening of competition, it’s market structure you look at.

“You don’t just rest content and say this firm has got a history of behaving responsibly and we can be content with that. What’s important is the extent constraint that our law says the Commerce Commission has to have regard to when it considers merger appeal proposals”.

The appeal, presided over by Justice Robert Dobson, is expected to conclude today. There is currently no indication when a decision will be handed down.