25 March 2014
The Australian Financial Review
Copyright 2014. Fairfax Media Management Pty Limited.
Changes to Australia's media-ownership laws would just be rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic, says prominent investor Mark Carnegie.
Mr Carnegie said the prospect of changes to media ownership was to some extent driving share-price rises in traditional media companies, but loosened laws would not guarantee their survival. "The whole thing here is that the media that people talk about is becoming smaller and smaller and smaller, compared to the media that is SEEK, Carsales.com.au and REA,'' Mr Carnegie said. ''They get on with making money day after day."
Mr Carnegie is an investor in Sydney radio business Macquarie Radio Network, and was an investor in Alan Kohler's Australian Independent Business Media, which was sold to News Corp for $30 million in 2012. He and business partner John Singleton recently sold their small stake in Fairfax Media, publisher of The Australian Financial Review, after failing to agree on a merger of respective radio assets. The long-running talks turned into a public war of words, although Mr Carnegie has recently stated that he is still interested in a tie-up.
Mr Carnegie said businesses such as Twitter, YouTube and eBay were the most likely media companies to grow.
"But the most likely ones are the ones you've never heard of," he said.
Regarding television, Mr Carnegie said it was highly unlikely that Australia's networks would be able to "create a walled garden" to keep out innovations such as Apple TV and US-based studios directly distributing their content. The comments come as the federal government reviews whether to scrap reach rules, thereby allowing metropolitan television broadcasters to buy regional broadcasters.
It is also looking into whether one company should be able to own more than two of a newspaper, TV station and radio licence in the same market.
With media companies such as Fairfax, Ten Network Holdings and Nine Entertainment Co Holdings publicly backing changes, speculation is rife about what tie-ups could emerge. Seven West Media on Friday declared it was not in talks with Fairfax, and court documents last week showed that Seven West Media executives believe Rupert Murdoch's News Corp Australia is planning to buy Ten.