The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has agreed with Fairfax Media Limited interim arrangements relating to the operations of community newspapers in the Newcastle area which are designed to ensure the competitive viability of the community newspapers recently sold by Fairfax.
In April 2007, the ACCC decided not to oppose the proposed acquisition of Rural Press Limited by Fairfax. It did so following the ACCC's acceptance of an undertaking by Fairfax which addressed concerns about competition for advertising in the community newspaper sector in the Newcastle and Hunter Valley area.
The undertaking required Fairfax to sell The Newcastle and Lake Macquarie Post and The Hunter Post, which are free weekly newspapers circulating in the Hunter Valley and the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie region. Fairfax retained The Newcastle and Lake Macquarie Star and The Lower Hunter Star, which are free weekly newspapers with a similar circulation area to the Post, and which prior to the merger were owned by Rural Press.
Immediately prior to the sale of the Post in November 2007, a number of changes were made to the format and content of the Post, which the ACCC considered were inconsistent with the terms of Fairfax's undertaking, and which may have affected the viability of the Post. The ACCC raised its concerns with Fairfax, which has now agreed to take steps to restore the Post to its pre-sale position.
The ACCC will continue to make inquiries into this matter and monitor the situation, to ensure that the Post is able to operate as a viable, competitive going concern.