Macquarie Radio Network Limited (MRN) has been forced to sell two of its radio stations – Sydney’s 2CH and 4LM in Mount Isa – as part of its recent merger deal with Fairfax Media.
The merger between the two was officially rubber-stamped in 31 March 2015. The undertakings were offered in support of MRN and Fairfax’s applications to the ACMA.
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 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 and 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.