2CH sale deadline passes, station not sold yet.
Last week Macquarie Media Limited (MML) celebrated its first birthday with two non-events.
The first was the non-sale of 2CH. The deadline, which had already been extended by the ACMA once, passed last Thursday, leaving Macquarie Media Limited the proud owners of not two but three stations in the Sydney market: 2GB, 2UE and 2CH.
Of course, two is legal, three’s a crowd – an unlawful gathering, if you like – as the law currently stands. Happily for MML, the ACMA has graciously agreed to extend its special waiver for a further six months.
The second non-event was the non-retirement of the company’s Executive Chairman Russell Tate who was due to step down from the position after 12 months. His most likely successor would appear to be the network’s COO, Adam Lang but no news has emerged as yet from the MML bunker about any leadership changes – although there’s been plenty of changes, mainly downsizing, among middle management. Meanwhile Mr Tate leads on… leading some pundits to speculate whether there’s a John Howard, Peter Costello scenario developing.
Back to the non-sale of 2CH. Those close to upper management at MML are adamant that they would comply with the law but were just as keen to hang on to 2CH and the other two stations if they could.
The only way that they could do that would be if the law changes to allow three stations in one market. But even if the proposed media law changes are brought into effect within the next six months, they are not anticipating any changes to the current two station rule.
Sources at MML were tight lipped about how and on what grounds they managed to persuade the ACMA to grant an extension. By now MML would have found any number of buyers for 2CH – not at a price they’d like, of course – but that’s not the ACMA’s concern according to a spokesperson for the watchdog who told radioinfo, “The ACMA did not have regard to any financial disadvantage that compliance may cause (as per subsection 68(5)).”
The ACMA also provided the following statement:
In considering whether to grant the extension, the ACMA had regard to the following matters as required under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992:
- the endeavours that the applicant made in attempting to comply (subsection 68(5)(a));
- the difficulties that the applicant experienced (subsection 68(5)(b)).
Whatever the reasons for the extension the ACMA also states “The applicant must divest assets to remedy all its breaches within a set timeframe (up to two years).” Which means with the initial one year extension plus this six months.