Mr Waistliz said red tape needed to be lifted to allow for a “historical change” in the way regional newsrooms work, emphasising the need for greater pooling of facilities and resources.
“The government should adapt the media laws to allow for that in order to give integrity, sustainability and viability for local, regional and rural media,” he said.
We will have communities living in the dark. The industry needs to consolidate.
His business partner Antony Catalano argued it was “critically important” for the government to allow media mergers in regional areas, which were currently governed by rules that were “20 years behind technology”.
“Without it, we will have communities living in the dark,” he said. “The industry needs to consolidate.”
In September, Mr Catalano said the regional media industry was in the middle of a “crisis”, urging the government to get rid of regional television licence fees and allow more mergers.
Interests associated with Mr Catalano and Mr Waislitz have acquired a 12.9 per cent stake in Seven West Media’s regional affiliate Prime Media Group, which Seven is seeking to take over. Sources close to Mr Catalano previously said he wants to reshape the merger and potentially include ACM in the metropolitan broadcaster’s takeover of the rural network.
Mr Catalano has stated Seven’s recent offer of 0.4582 of its shares for each share in Prime was “unfair” and he wanted “a good deal for everyone”.
Mr Waislitz said ACM would be open to a takeover if it “made commercial sense”, but these comments came at odds with Mr Catalano who said he hadn’t discussed such a deal with his business partner and was “not interested in an offer”.
The pair said they had been “openly lobbying” the government for change, but Mr Waislitz said he had not personally attended the meetings.
“We’re only a new acquirer of our assets but people within our organisation, my partner Antony Catalano have been expressing their views in Canberra.”
But the billionaire investor said he was not confident in the pace of change in the industry.
“I think it’s urgent and needs to happen now,” he said.
Charlotte is a reporter for The Age.