THE proposed $4-billion merger between Fairfax Media, publisher of the Newcastle Herald, and NBN TV’s owner Nine Entertainment, is one of the biggest shakeups to ever hit the Australian media landscape.
Although both companies have long and venerable histories, both are based in the old “legacy” media world. The “rivers of gold” that once poured into newspaper coffers have been diverted by the extraordinary reach and immediacy of the digital revolution – a revolution that has made things just as hard for traditional broadcasters, who’ve had their rug pulled from beneath them by the content streamers.
Nine and Fairfax are already enjoying joint success with their streaming service, Stan, and the merger as announced will take that co-operation to a whole new level, with the owners of many of Australia’s most respected media brands joining forces to succeed in an environment that has already seen many “old” media businesses fall by the wayside.
At this stage it is too early to say precisely what the merger will mean for readers of the Herald and other Hunter Fairfax titles, including the Maitland Mercury, the Singleton Argus, the Lakes Mail and the Star. Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood says he would not be surprised if Nine conducted a review of Fairfax’s regional media business, which does introduce a note of uncertainty into the equation. But the Herald, like the broader Fairfax business, is built on quality journalism, and all at Fairfax are determined to keep on informing our readers, regardless of the final shape of the new merged entity. The print edition of the Herald is still a daily focus of our news-gathering, but our website presentations and Facebook feeds mean we now reach many more people than we did in the print-only era.
In a similar fashion, a stronger business base can only help the reporting abilities of both the Herald and its regional stablemates, and the news team at NBN.
There is no escaping the reality that these are difficult times for both Fairfax and Nine, and although this merger has been described by some as a defensive ploy, it is being undertaken as the best way of strengthening both businesses. After all, the Herald not only reports on the events affecting us, it is very much the Hunter’s voice to the wider world. In that light, a merger that helps strengthen Fairfax commercially should also be a positive for this region.