Competition watchdog clears acquisition of local newspapers

Competition watchdog clears acquisition of local newspapers

Newspaper company Formpress Publishing, which owns 20 regional and local newspapers across Ireland, has been cleared to acquire The Midland Tribune and The Tullamore Tribune.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has cleared the proposed acquisition, subject to binding commitments to address concerns raised around Formpress owner Mediaforce also owning a company responsible for channelling national advertising to local and regional newspapers.

The CCPC identified concerns that the company in question, Mediaforce Ireland Limited, could potentially discriminate in favour of its own group newspapers and digital titles by channelling national advertiser’s budgets allocated to local and regional newspapers and digital newspaper titles to its own group titles, to the detriment of competing titles.

The watchdog also identified a concern that any overlap in management, employees or roles/functions between Mediaforce Ireland and Formpress would create the potential for the exchange of commercially sensitive information about competitor newspapers and digital newspaper titles.

To address these potential competition concerns, both Mediaforce Ireland and Formpress submitted proposals to the CCPC.

Mediaforce Ireland committed to directing the advertising business received from advertisers and advertising agencies to newspaper titles on a strictly fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory basis and to apply equivalent conditions in equivalent circumstances to all Formpress newspaper titles and non-Formpress newspaper titles.

The parties also committed to a separation of management and non-disclosure of information. This commitment is intended to prevent the exchange of commercially sensitive information about competitor newspaper titles between Mediaforce Ireland and Formpress.

To ensure compliance with these commitments, an independent monitoring trustee will be appointed, which will have all the rights and powers necessary to monitor compliance with the commitments. The role of the monitoring trustee also includes consideration of how Mediaforce Ireland addresses any issues raised by third parties in relation to the non-discrimination commitment.

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