Competition commission to probe media

The Competition Commission is investigating “information-sharing and market allocation between the major publishing groups” in KwaZulu-Natal.

This was contained in the commission’s report about its investigation into Naspers’ Media24 division planning to buy a 50% stake of the Natal Witness, according to Business Report.

The commission said it had found evidence that the major publishing groups in KwaZulu-Natal were sharing information and market allocation.

The commission’s report reads: “The coordination seems to be centred on the paid-for market but may also extend into the free newspaper market.

“This finding may not be merger specific but it is indicative of a possible history of coordination in this market and it will be investigated further by the commission separate to the merger investigation.”

In 2000, Media24 acquired 50% of the issued-share capital of Natal Witness from the Craib family, which had controlled the newspaper from 1942.

Last July, Media24 signed an agreement to buy the remaining 50% of The Natal Witness Printing and Publishing Company, the holding company of the Witness.

The Competition Commission has recommended conditional approval for this deal.

However, it would start investigating “very soon” the possible information sharing between KZN media companies, said Martin van Hoven, manager of mergers and acquisitions at the commission, according to Business Report.

The commission was concerned that media companies were sharing their provincial circulation figures with each other.

This could lead to a lessening of the competitive environment, which would force advertisers to buy advertising space across product and geographic space.
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