Macquarie Radio Network to sell two radio stations

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has accepted enforceable undertakings from Macquarie Radio Network Limited (MRN) to sell radio stations 2CH in Sydney and 4LM in Mt Isa after the merger of Fairfax and MRN was confirmed by the companies last week.

The undertakings arise from the merger of MRN and Fairfax Media Limited’s (Fairfax) radio interests, which took place on 31 March 2015.

The undertakings were offered in support of MRN and Fairfax’s applications to the ACMA to approve temporary breaches of the control rules in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA). As a result of the merger, MRN and Fairfax now control three commercial radio broadcasting licences in Sydney: 2GB and 2CH (both formerly controlled by MRN) and 2UE (formerly controlled by Fairfax). This is in breach of the ‘two-to-a-market’ limit under the BSA, whereby a person must not be in a position to exercise control of more than two commercial radio licences in a licence area.

In Queensland’s Mt Isa, following the merger, both MRN and Fairfax control the commercial radio broadcasting licence 4LM (formerly controlled by MRN) and the associated newspaper, The North West Star (formerly controlled by Fairfax). This means that the number of independent media ‘voices’ in Mt Isa has dropped from four to three in breach of the rule in the BSA requiring that the number of independent ’voices’ in regional licence areas should not fall below four.

The ACMA has approved: temporary breaches of the ‘two-to-a-market’ limit for commercial radio licences in the Sydney licence area and associated directorship limits—for a period of one year to 31 March 2016 a transaction that will result in an unacceptable media diversity situation (UMDS) in the Mt Isa licence area—for a period of six months to 30 September 2015.

MRN has undertaken to divest 2CH and 4LM within the approval periods granted by the ACMA in order to remedy these breaches. The undertakings have been published on ACMA’s Register of Notices and Approvals under Part 5 of the Act.       

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