Comment from Peter Saxon
Yesterday morning, we woke to the news that Nine Entertainment Co had finally made a firm offer to purchase the rest of Macquarie Media, including 2GB, 3AW, 4BC and 6PR for $275.4 million. It would allow John Singleton to trouser around $80 million – short of the $100 million he reportedly wanted – but a nice payday just the same.
Pointing to a perceived influx of Nine personalities including Karl Stefanovic, Erin Molan, Deb Knight and Phil Gould to MacRadio’s airwaves, an article in The Australian (subscription) suggested that this has “led to industry speculation that 2GB hosts would be forced to align with Nine newspapers, which include The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, rather than those of rival News Corp (owner of The Australian) to allow Nine to extract better value out of the deal.”
As I’m not aware of anyone else making such an outrageous speculation, I’m proud to plead Mia culpa – to a point. Back in May, I wrote that the new owners at Nine would be keen to maximise efficiencies between its media outlets. However, I stopped short of suggesting that they would change the station’s conservative stance.
I was listening to George and Paul on 2GB one recent Saturday morning and was surprised to hear Sydney Morning Herald Political and International Editor, Peter Hartcher in the regular guest spot, normally reserved for the likes of The Australian’s Dennis Shanahan or Greg Sheridan.
2GB presenters have generally shared a closer affinity with News Corp’s conservative publications such as The Daily Telegraph and The Oz and have viewed its own majority shareholder’s Fairfax offerings, SMH and The Age, as far too left wing for the tastes of their audiences. In the name of editorial independence, or perhaps in the maxim, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” Fairfax turned a blind eye to the frosty relationship between its siblings, thus forgoing valuable opportunities to cross-promote its news outlets with its radio stations, allowing its competitors to benefit instead.
Sources suggest that Fairfax’s new owners, Nine Entertainment Co, with its powerful television network in the mix, is not prepared to allow such leaking of the company’s valuable resources to continue. Much of the business case for the merger was predicated on the cost efficiencies of combining newsrooms and cross-promoting the various platforms under the new entity’s banner.
The new entity is reported to expect to realise around $10 million in savings from shared resources. Nine Chief Executive Hugh Marks sent a memo to Macquarie staff to reassure them that it was business as usual, “While they are different brands, often speaking to different audiences, there are also clear opportunities for all of you to collaborate and make even better content when the story fits.
“The dedicated and talented people who bring the airwaves to life each day will continue today as they did last week, but with the certainty and support of the broader Nine business to enable them to be bold and speak to and for their audience each and every day,” Mr Marks said.
As if to prove that Nine won’t interfere with 2GB’s editorial independence, Ray Hadley appeared in the Murdoch owned The Australian to say that he doesn’t believe Nine would risk “ruining our business” by forcing its stations’ hosts to include more Nine content on their shows. He said, he’ll always be “more Daily Telegraph than SMH”.
Who could argue with that?