Media war in suburbs

THE eastern suburbs has become a property classified advertising battleground with two separate publications being launched within weeks of each other.

The Perth Real Estate Guide, a paper controlled by northern suburb real estate agencies, claims it had produced three editions of a new publication for the eastern suburbs when News Corp’s Sunday Times launched its Readers MART Real Estate Eastern last week.

The similarities between the publications, with both being letterbox dropped in much the same areas, has already prompted bitter recriminations from one side.

PREG chairman Russell Poliwka from First Western in Joondalup is now crying foul, accusing the Sunday Times of being anti-competitive.

Mr Poliwka said he was prepared to take the case to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission if it was found that the Sunday Times was abusing its market power.

“It seems to me that they are acting anti-competitively. I would have thought that it was an ACCC matter,” he said.

“We are only a small fry, they are a substantial market influence and if they intend to target us they have to be an-swerable to the powers that be.”

Mr Poliwka said PREG was already talking with lawyers and had had preliminary discussions with the ACCC, although no formal complaint had been made at this stage.

But Sunday Times managing director David Maguire said the new edition was part of bigger plans for the company’s well known Readers MART brand and he not heard any complaints from competitors.

“I have not spoken to these people so I know nothing about the ACCC,” Mr Maguire said.

“We put it (the new publication) out as a continuation of our real estate growth strategy.”

Mr Maquire said the new Readers MART edition had attracted paid advertising, dismissing claims by his new opposition that it was entirely free.

Mr Maguire also dismissed speculation that the Sunday Times had plans for another Perth daily newspaper alongside its sister News publication The Australian.

“I have not heard those rumours, I have no knowledge of another daily,” he said.

Responding to earlier reports in Business News, Mr Maguire acknowledged the impact of changing leisure patterns on readers’ habits as a key reason for falling circulation figures among mass market newspapers but he believed the Sunday Times had held up better than most.

He said a circulation dip of about 0.6 per cent during the past year was the first fall in two years and compared favourably to bigger circulation falls for rival The West Australian both on Saturday and during weekdays – underpinning the paper’s faith in promotions.

“We work the market very strongly as far as our promotions are concerned,” Mr Maguire said.

“I think we are seeing benefits from that.”

He said advertising was down compared to the previous year.

An ACCC spokesman said they could not comment on the case but a breach of Section 46 of the Act occurred when a monopoly misused its power.

This could be done through lower prices or free offers, but depended on the circumstances, the spokesman said.

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