22 January 2015 – The Department of Communication, Energy and Natural Resources held a public consultation concerning draft Guidelines on Media Mergers ("Guidelines"). Minister Alex White issued the Guidelines under the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 ("2014 Act").

Matheson regularly advises parties involved in media mergers and used the opportunity to submit a response on a number of aspects of the Guidelines.

Topics addressed in our submission included:

  • Clarity: The Guidelines would benefit from further clarity and elaboration in relation to how the Minister will evaluate the 'relevant criteria' contained in the 2014 Act. Fundamentally, the role of Guidelines should be to assist parties involved in a media merger achieve legal certainty and allow for effective transaction planning.
  • Burden on business: The Guidelines require parties involved in a media merger to provide a significant level of information. The Guidelines ought to accommodate parties by limiting the level of information required in transactions which do not raise media plurality concerns.
  • Timing remains an issue: Legislative change to the 2014 Act, to delay the possibility of notifying the Minister until the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission ("CCPC") / European Commission completes its review, was signed into law on 23 December 2014 in the Intellectual Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act. Such change is important as it unnecessarily delays the media merger review process.
  • BAI to review print and online media: The Guidelines require the BAI to report on the media plurality issue in a Phase II review. Further detail in relation to how the BAI will review media mergers involving parties in the newspaper and online media sectors, given its traditional role in the regulation of television and radio, would be beneficial.

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