2CH Sale: Play by the rules or get out of broadcasting says Brad Smart

Former regional radio network owner Brad Smart believes Macquarie Media should “play by the rules” or get out of radio.

In an opinion piece on his blog this week, Smart says under no circumstances should Macquarie Media be allowed to retain 2CH.

“John Singleton and Alan Jones’ recent public attacks on ACMA have concerned me greatly,” he says in his opinion piece.


“Using mass media to sell your displeasure or contempt of anyone, who dares to is stand in the way of a deal, seems to be regarded as standard negotiating practice by many business people these days.

“You may recall when negotiations for the purchase of the Fairfax stations stalled several years ago, John Singleton launched a highly publicised verbal attack on the-then Chairman of Fairfax, Roger Corbett[and] Mr Singleton’s ‘guest’ appearance on the Alan Jones Show, where he used his own station, 2GB, to vent his frustrations over those Fairfax negotiations.”

Smart says Macquarie Media knew what it was doing when it negotiated to buy three stations in Sydney under the current rules, and should respect the regulator’s requirements.

“Singleton’s Macquarie Radio did, of course, end up striking a deal with Fairfax Radio and the two companies merged; MRN effectively acquiring the stations they had been so eagerly coveting.

“However, right now, they have found themselves saddled with all the legal obligations resulting from that merger process.

“It should be remembered, MRN went into the merger with their eyes wide open; they had the best of legal advice.

“Looking for a sensational headline by screaming “who do they (ACMA) think they are” to a bunch of reporters, to my mind, is not the most appropriate way to handle a complex legal situation that should be clearly dealt with in private discussions.

“WHO they are, Mr Singleton, is your broadcasting regulator, and, as such, they deserve some respect…

“Unfortunately, the targets of the Singleton and Jones’ attacks are the professional public servants, who administer ACMA, and, they don’t have the luxury of getting into a public slanging match or fighting back when they’re publicly criticised.”

Smart goes on to analyse the legalities fo the deal and comments that broadcast licences belong to the people of Australia.

“Here is the reality under which all broadcasters operate. While you may own the business that operates a radio station, you never ‘own’ the licence.

“It’s only ever yours, on loan, no matter how much you perceive that you paid for it.

“Commercial radio licences actually belong to the people of Australia.

“As a radio station operator, you are simply the trustee of the licence, until the next licensee takes over.

“The regulator’s role is to make sure all broadcasters play by the current rules and within the limitations of their licence.”

Brad Smart should know, he has owned a network himself, eventually selling it to Macquarie Media in a deal that did not go smoothly.

The last line of Smart’s opinion piece has some advice for Singleton and the network owners:

“If Macquarie Media and its shareholders don’t want to play under the current laws and regulations that bind every other commercial radio operator, then, the solution is simple – get out of broadcasting.”

A disclosure line at the bottom of the opinion piece says: “Brad Smart and several of his companies have had commercial dealings with Macquarie Radio Network (MRN Ltd) in the past (2011). As a result of those dealings, Smart and one of his companies initiated legal proceedings against MRN Ltd. in 2015.”


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