ACMA approves temporary ownership breach as MRN sells off stations

Rachael Micallef
By Rachael Micallef | 2 April 2015
Image from 2CH's Facebook page.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has accepted temporary licence breaches by Macquarie Radio Network (MRN) in Sydney and Mt Isa, as the network moves to divest two radio stations.

ACMA accepted enforceable undertakings from the network which arose from the merger of MRN and Fairfax Radio Network (FRN) which took place earlier this week (31 March).

As a result of the merger, MRN will be selling off 2CH in Sydney and 4LM in Mt Isa to avoid breaches of control rules.

The merged entity now controls three commercial radio broadcasting licences in Sydney; 2GB and 2CH – both formerly controlled by MRN – and 2UE – formerly controlled by Fairfax.

This ownership breaches the “two-to-a-market' limit under the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) 1992, “whereby a person must not be in a position to exercise control of more than two commercial radio licences in a licence area”.

ACMA has approved temporary breaches of the “two-to-a-market” rule for a period of one year to 31 March 2016.

It has also approved an “unacceptable media diversity situation” (UMDS) in Queensland's Mt Isa for a period of six months to 30 September.

“ACMA has the discretion to approve temporary breaches of media ownership and control rules brought by media transactions,” ACMA said.

“Such approval must be sought from ACMA in advance (that is, before the transaction takes place) and the applicants must demonstrate that a proposed course of action to 'cure' the breach will be implemented in a suitable time frame.”

In Mt Isa, the merged entity controls radio station 4LM – formerly controlled by MRN –, and newspaper The Northern West Star – formerly controlled by Fairfax.

Other media assets in the Mt Isa region include Hot FM and Southern Cross Television, both controlled by Southern Cross Austereo, and Imparja, controlled by Imparja Television.

Under the “minimum voice rule”, at least five independent media voices must be present in metropolitan commercial radio licence areas.

ACMA noted: “Following the merger, both MRN and Fairfax control commercial radio broadcasting licence 4LM and the association newspaper, The North West Star.

“These media operations are therefore counted as one group/voice, which means that the number of media diversity points in Mt Isa has dropped from four to three.”

ACMA noted it approved the breaches in line with the time frames requested by the applications.

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