Media company Stuff and its former owner Nine Entertainment are opposing the release of redacted information in a court judgment.
Last month, the High Court declined to grant fellow media company NZME's interim injunction application over negotiations to buy Stuff from Nine.
Nine said it felt the process had been frustrated and terminated negotiations with NZME.
In her redacted judgment, Justice Sarah Katz said allowing NZME to maintain exclusive due diligence may increase the risk of Stuff ceasing operations, leading to significant job losses and reducing competition in the media marketplace.
"The courts have consistently emphasised that the impact on third parties (here, Stuff's employees) is a 'highly significant factor' that should be given 'significant weight'. Both the public interest and the interests of third parties therefore weigh against granting the orders sought," she said.
Today the case returned to court as a fourth news media company, BusinessDesk, sought access to the file and a debate was held over whether the redacted material would be publicly released.
Stuff's lawyer, Mark O'Brien QC, opposed the release and the application for access to the court file, a position broadly supported by Nine's counsel, John Dixon QC.
"Your Honour's judgment is perfectly readable without [the redacted material]," O'Brien submitted to Justice Katz.
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Stuff was sold by Nine late last month to Stuff's chief executive, Sinead Boucher, for a nominal $1.
The deal ended years of speculation about the company's ownership and lengthy unsuccessful attempts by NZME, owner of the New Zealand Herald, to buy or merge with the company,
Boucher has said she plans to develop "an ownership model which will give staff a shareholding stake in the business".
O'Brien said it was common knowledge that media companies have been in a difficult financial environment for some time and Covid-19 has only made the situation worse.
"We aren't in any way anywhere near to normal," he told the court, adding the well-known fact that advertisers had stopped spending with media companies when Covid-19 hit.
Dixon also talked generally about the financial state of media firms.
"Small things can have large consequences," he said. "Media companies are on a knife's edge."
NZME's formal position was to abide by the decision of the court, but its lawyer Jack Hodder QC said NZME was a "sceptical, non-opposition" party to today's proceeding, which drew laughter by those in the courtroom.
"NZME doesn't have a transactional interest, [but] it does, as a media company, have an interest in fair and accurate reporting," he said.
Hodder argued the high threshold to continue suppression of the redacted material has not been met.
Justice Katz said it was "pretty rare" to suppress material in a civil proceeding.
"It's a very serious matter that we take very seriously, it certainly doesn't happen on a monthly or even yearly basis," she said.
Much of the evidence and submissions heard during today's hearing were also suppressed by Justice Katz, who will deliver a decision on the redacted material and access to the court file at a later date.
After Justice Katz's May judgment, NZME withdrew its new application to the Commerce Commission for clearance to buy Stuff.
The judge said her decision did not determine which party was correct, but rather whether it was in the overall interests of justice to make the interim order sought by NZME.
She said the stronger argument appeared to favour holding Nine to the exclusivity agreement, but the "balance of convenience" weighed against granting the order.