Competition watchdog to probe media
Johannesburg - The Competition Commission was investigating
"information sharing and market allocation between the major publishing
groups" in KwaZulu-Natal, Business Report said on Monday.
This was contained in the commission's report about its
investigation into Naspers [JSE:NPN] Media24 division planning to buy the 50%
of Natal Witness which it does not yet own.
The commission said it had found evidence that the major
publishing groups in KwaZulu-Natal were sharing information and market
"The co-ordination 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 co-ordination
in this market and it will be investigated further by the commission separate
to the merger investigation," says the commission's report.
In 2000, Media24 acquired 50% of the issued share capital of
Natal Witness from the Craib family, which had controlled the newspaper from
Last July, Media24 signed an agreement to buy the remaining
50% shares in 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
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.