Mike Hosking: Commerce Commission must rethink NZME-Stuff merger

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Wed, 26 Feb 2020, 3:59PM
Mike Hosking says the Government should reconsider allowing the merger. (Photo / NZME)

Mike Hosking: Commerce Commission must rethink NZME-Stuff merger

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Wed, 26 Feb 2020, 3:59PM

It's a funny old business, isn't it? When the answer is right in front of your nose and those who can make it happen won't.

NZME, the company that runs this radio station, still wants to buy Stuff.co.nz. Stuff is for sale, no one wants to buy it, apart from NZME. NZME can make Stuff work because the synergies are there for all to see.

No one argues media isn't in trouble in this country. No one argues bottom lines are being raided by the Googles and Facebooks who basically uplift others content, put it on their stream for nothing, and clip the ticket and repatriate it all off-shore while making minimal, if any, contribution to the tax base here.

So if no one argues any of this, why hasn’t it happened? Because the Commerce Commission didn’t let it.

The Commerce Commission couldn't, or wouldn’t see the logic. They saw a reduction in competition and worried. This decision has been to court and been rejected.

NZME has been to the government, are still engaged with the government, and there seems some sort of hope the government might come to the party and do what's required to deal with the Commerce Commission and let logic prevail.

New Zealand First has already thrown its weight behind the deal, but New Zealand First is but one cog in the coalition and New Zealand First has a world of worries right now that might well occupy them all the way to election day.

The government is also busy with TVNZ Radio NZ doing god knows what by way of a merger. They're building a business case as we speak. But if nothing else, surely the plight of their own broadcasters reminds them of the plight of the other broadcasters.

And surely it would appear grotesquely unfair and unbalanced if the government sured-up their broadcasting concerns, while leaving the private sectors to the wolves, or at least the vagaries and inadequacies of the Commerce Commission - a commission directed by the government.

As I have asked all along: Given Fairfax, as it was then, and Channel 9 as it is now, said at the hearings around the potential merger that there is no Plan B, does the Commerce Commission consider it is a job well done if, by blocking the merger, they then watch Stuff go bust?

If jobs are lost, a major player in the market is lost, because the market simply cannot sustain it? How has that served the wider business and communications landscape? And given it hasn’t, how is it your Kris Faafois can’t see that and want make this thing happen?

The answer is sitting there ready to be enacted. The problem has a solution. In a world complicated enough right now, why is the simple stuff made harder than it has to be?