Satchelnomics: Australian media ownership update

Satchelnomics: Australian media ownership

By Liz Burke

Having once been laughed out of a computer lab for inquiring as to who or which group owned the internet, I can confidently say these days such a query regarding the Australian media would hardly be greeted with such raucous laughter; but be prepared for a complicated answer. After recent announcements of major U.S. news site mergers and buy-outs, perhaps even the former query would be excused.

Name changes, mergers, big sales and public floats... Though not as black and white as the business-page-dominating store wars, there are a few major players who control what we hear, see, read, and gossip about.

This week's front page fodder regarding Kerry Stokes' and U.S. private equity group Kohlberg Kravis Roberts' proposal to sell privately-owned Seven Media Group (comprising Seven Network, Pacific Magazines, Yahoo7) to publicly-owned Western Australian Newspapers (of which Stokes is the biggest shareholder) means the formation of the biggest Australian media enterprise (Seven West Media), comprising a decent chunk of the nation’s television and print media.

With Seven having been in a bit of a bad way after enduring a few years of losses, WAN will absorb $2.1 billion of the company’s debt, though Stokes has assured that WAN won’t be hurt by Seven’s financial shortfall – it’s now benefitting from strong growth in television advertising and has returned to profit*. With Seven in a neat position, poised for expansion, shareholders have seemed to react well with shares closing 21c higher.

Nine Entertainment Co, previously PBL media, is reportedly heading towards a public float, which would see its assets Nine Network, ACP Magazines, and Ticketek, among others, in the hands of shareholders rather than CVC Capital Partners, the private equity firm now controlling Nine Entertainment Co.

Fairfax Media still has a firm grip on Australian newspapers, publishing The Australian Financial Review, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times, as well as other smaller and community newspapers, in addition to online ventures, while Murdoch’s global media conglomerate News Corporation takes care of The Daily Telegraph, The Courier Mail and The Australian. News also holds News Magazines (Vogue, GQ, Donna Hay), as well as controlling interest in Foxtel, 20th Century Fox, and, like the other major media players, has a stake in Sky News**.

And Aunty is still looking after us, or we’re looking after her. ABC radio, television, and online are all proud products of Australian tax payers.

*Seven today posted a first half 2010 after tax net profit of $128 million. Revenue from the Seven Network rose by 14% to $665 million but was tempered by Pacific Magazines results with revenue falling 3% to $160 million.
**News Corp is buying Elisabeth Murdoch's Shine Group, which produces Network Ten's MasterChef and The Biggest Loser.

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