Ex-Foxtel boss leads consortium bidding to save AAP newswire

A consortium of philanthropists and media executives has emerged as a bidder for the national newswire, Australian Associated Press.

May 25, 2020, updated May 25, 2020
ACCC chair Rod Sims.

ACCC chair Rod Sims.

It was announced on March 3 that major shareholders News Corp Australia and Nine would shutter the 85-year-old news agency in late June, saying it was no longer commercially viable.

A couple of weeks later, it was announced that several parties were interested in bidding for AAP.

On Sunday a consortium, including former Foxtel and News Corp executive Peter Tonagh, announced it was in talks with the AAP board.

Tonagh said in a statement that AAP played a vital role in the Australian media and they believed they could turn the business around.

Other members of the consortium include Fred Woollard, managing director of Samuel Terry Asset Management and Kylie Charlton, managing director of Australian Impact Investments.

Tonagh said hundreds would lose their jobs and the media in Australia would become more concentrated if AAP was not saved.

“The investors in our consortium know it’s a tough time to invest in the Australian media, but they also know that if AAP is unable to provide a daily stream of high-quality news, then dozens more independent news outlets are likely to fail.”

He said the consortium had raised a significant amount of money, but the clock was ticking.

“The more money we can raise from philanthropists, impact investors and from government, the more jobs we can save and the more diverse the Australian media will be.”

AAP chairman and News Corp Australia executive, Campbell Reid, said the offer was being considered, but would not go into detail.

“We are treating the conversations as confidential but our primary concern remains for the AAP staff,” he said on Sunday.

The sale process has drawn the attention of the competition watchdog.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Rod Sims said he doesn’t expect any positive offer to the buy AAP would be rejected by its current shareholders, but if it was, he would be keen to look at the issue.

“I really don’t expect it to happen, but if it did happen, then that would be an issue worth looking at under the competition provisions of our act,” he told AAP.

Sims stressed AAP’s continuation in some form would be “extremely good for media diversity and competition”.

“We certainty have spoken to a lot of media organisations for various reasons recently, and the common issue raised was that AAP was important both to help new players into the market and small players grow,” he said.

“So the evidence is there that AAP continuing on in some form is important for both competition and diversity.


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