This year, a decision of the German Competition Authority made headlines, titled “Competition concerns about the acquisition of a daily newspaper in the Zollernalbkreis district”. The remarkable thing about this case is that it was scrutinized at all. The Zollernalbkreis is tiny and consists of a handful of small towns and villages. The daily newspaper in question has a circulation of less than 17,000 printed copies with a monthly subscription price of approx. 45 EUR. But : its acquisition was subject to a merger filing and raised competition concerns to a degree that the German Competition Authority blocked one potential buyer. The case is somewhat indicative for merger cases in the media sector : the significance of media companies often is considered to exceed their turnover and economic weight ; they are being reviewed with a particular scrutiny and they attract a considerable amount of public attention. The patterns that may be deducted from the cases in this Special Issue, show a worrying result : The understandable wish for control over competition in media businesses might lead to suffocating the economic development of the ‘Fourth Estate’. These patterns are : Mergers in the media sector are subject to special scrutiny (see 1.) ; markets continue to be (mainly) defined narrowly (see 2.) ; and regulation is applied rigorously despite the decisive influence of digitalization and the role of Big Tech players on the continuance of media markets (see 3.).
Dr. Sabrina Frank is senior legal counsel for Axel Springer and is based in Berlin. She advises on German and European antitrust law as well as on national and international litigation cases and M&A transactions with a focus on the media sector and digital markets. Previously, Sabrina was an Associate at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in Frankfurt am Main and Brussels. She obtained a PhD for her thesis on cross-border investigations from the University of Heidelberg where she also graduated in law.
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