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ACCC drawn into suburban paper stoush

SUBMISSIONS from suburban newspaper proprietors alleging that the Community Newspaper Group is waging a predatory pricing campaign against them are being filed with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Herald Publishing Company publisher Andrew Smith said he was pursuing the ACCC predatory pricing action with “a vengeance” and had sent in his submission on Friday.

“We accused Community of predatory pricing on the front page of the Voice recently and that drew no reaction from them,” Mr Smith said.

“I am sick of being subjected to untenable bullying.”

It is understood Post Newspapers owner Bret Christian and Examiner Newspapers proprietor Gerald Van Rongen are also filing submissions with the ACCC.

Mr Van Rongen said he was “unable to comment at this time”.

Community Newspaper Group CEO Ian Thompson said he had received no communication from the ACCC.

“We do not practise predatory pricing,” he said.

Mr Smith’s company publishes the Fremantle Herald and Voice newspapers.

Both have been subjected to competition from reworked Community offerings.

Community’s replaced its News Chronicle with the Western Suburbs Weekly last year, which reaches into part of the Fremantle Herald’s distribution area, and recently reworked its Guardian Express, which competes directly with the Voice.

Mr Smith said the recently revamped Guardian Express had made little impact on his Voice newspaper.

“In the past two Roy Morgan survey periods the Voice readership has risen from 19,000 to 28,000. The Guardian Express readership fell from 19,000 to 15,000 in the most recent survey period,” he said.

Fremantle Herald editor Brian Mitchell recently sent out a press release announcing the creation of mock industry watchdog BBCC, the Beware Big Cracks Council.

In the release he says recent make-overs to papers such as the Guardian Express were trying to cover the “big crack” of 13,000 readers difference between it and the Voice.

“Community have only done make-overs on papers they run that have intense competition,” Mr Mitchell told WA Business News.

“At the same time we’re keeping our sense of humour about it all.”

Mr Thompson said Community’s revamped papers were all going well.

“We’ve even give the Fremantle Gazette a facelift,” he said.

“Our research shows that we were not delivering what our market wanted and we’re setting about changing that. We will be doing this with all of our mastheads.”

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