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Ownership in hands of a few

MEDIA ownership in WA is limited to a small number of mainly national companies that dominate ownership across print, radio and television.

Where big networks have assumed ownership, independent owners have typically been pushed aside.

The radio landscape has seen the biggest changes in recent years, with national players Austereo and Southern Cross Broadcasting dominating the airwaves since the departure of Perth-based Jack Bendat.

Generally, print remains far more staid with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp competing with WA Newspapers at the mass market end of town. Though Perth has a lively specialist publishing scene, with the likes of Business News moving to home delivery from this week, the mass market has not seen the innovation, which has taken place in other States.

In Victoria, for instance, News has cut prices to assault listed group Fairfax, owner of Melbourne daily The Age, and the two companies have gone to war in recent days with the launch of free afternoon commuter dailies.

Television remains in much the same hands as it has done for years, though WA’s Kerry Stokes has increased his hold on Seven Network over the past 18 months.

Changes in radio ownership followed a revision of the Broadcasting Act in the early 1990s, creating a market dominated by the big networks, according to Mix 94.5 and the All New 92.9 managing director Gary Roberts.

Those networks have gradually tightened their grip on Perth.

“The radio market is now deregulated to a stage where one network can own two stations in the one metropolitan market, but I think it’s in keeping with everything that’s happening in the world,” Mr Roberts said.

Consequently, the major commercial radio stations in Perth are divided between two major networks.

96fm and 6PR are both owned by Southern Cross Broadcasting and the All New 92.9 and Mix 94.5 are part of the Austereo group owned by Village Roadshow.

Previously owned by entrepreneur Jack Bendat, both 92.9 and 94.5 were sold to Austereo for $100 million.

Village Roadshow has launched a $460 million float of the Austereo division, in response to falling cinema revenue and a $730 million group debt.

Mr Roberts said network domination in the radio market had had the effect of reducing the variation in radio formats for listeners

“Networks look to the most successful format in the market and duplicate that format, you can have six to eight stations in the one market with one format,” he said.

6PR and 96fm general manager Shane Healy said this network domination of the industry eroded the local content in radio programming.

“I think you do lose a bit of local content, one of the good things about our two stations is that they are autonomous in the Perth market and all our programming comes out of Perth,” Mr Healy said.

Print media in Perth is dominated by listed company WA Newspapers with major masthead The West Australian. Against this News pits its national daily The Australian, its weekend paper the Sunday Times, and weekly publications like its Perth Weekly and the 14 Community News titles in which it has a majority stake.

Rural Press, owned by Fairfax, is the biggest contender in the rural areas with 11 regional titles in WA including the Avon Valley Advocate, Bunbury Mail and the Mandurah Mail.

Rural Press owns 70 newspapers and magazines in Australia, New Zealand and the US and five radio licences in South Australia and one in Queensland.

WA Newspapers also owns numerous regional titles under the South West Printing and Publishing banner.

Channel Nine Perth is the only commercial television station in Perth that is not part of the network controlled by Kerry Packer’s Publishing and Broadcasting. Channel Nine is an affiliate of the Nine Network and is owned by Eva Presser and Sunraysia Ltd.

Channel Ten is a listed company in its own right, as is Seven Network

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