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Macquarie Media granted extension for sale of 2CH days after denying it needed one

Lang last month denied that Macquarie had sought an extension.

Lang last month denied that Macquarie had sought an extension.

Australia’s largest talk radio network Macquarie Media has been forced to ask the media watchdog for a six month extension on the sale of radio station 2CH, Mumbrella can reveal.

While Macquarie’s management had earlier denied it would need an extension to the March 31 deadline to find a buyer for the Sydney-based station, the Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) has told Mumbrella it has approved an application for one from the company.

If the extension had not been granted before the March 31 deadline the ACMA could have forced through a sale of the station, as the company is currently in breach of broadcasting rules by holding three licences in one market, with 2GB and 2UE also in its stable.

The ACMA issued a statement saying: “The Australian Communications and Media Authority approved an extension of six months – to 30 September 2016 – for Macquarie Media Limited (MML) and Fairfax Media Limited (Fairfax) to remedy the temporary breach of the ‘two-to-a-market’ limit for commercial radio licences in the Sydney RA1 licence area.”

Asked on February 26 if it would seek an extension Macquarie Media chief operating officer (COO) Adam Lang denied it telling Mumbrella: “Your sources are incorrect.”

However it is understood the extension was granted in-principle just three days later on February 29, and approved by the Authority members at a meeting last week.

Macquarie Media declined to comment on the extension.

The rebranded Magic 2CH logo.

The rebranded Magic 2CH logo.

Macquarie Media is required to sell the station following its merger last year with Fairfax Radio, which put the station in breach of media ownership laws which impose ‘two-to-a-market’ limit for commercial radio licences in the Sydney licence area. The broadcaster currently owns the licences for 2GB, 2UE and 2CH in Sydney.

Following the new extension if no deal is reached by September 30 the ACMA can theoretically force the sale of the station.

The radio broadcaster has been actively looking for a buyer for the station for over a year, with the likes of Grant Broadcasters/Capital Radio, a NSW clubs player and the NSW Council of Churches (NCC) all rumoured to have expressed an interest in buying the station.

It is thought that Grant’s offer was around $4m short of the $10m price tag that Macquarie was rumoured to be seeking.

One of the challenges of selling the station is that former owner, the NSW Council of Churches (NCC), imposed legal caveats on the station in 1994 with the requirement that it must air religious programs on Sundays and reject certain advertising, such as alcohol and gambling.

Tate: running 2CH and 2GB wouldn’t be hard for us to do.

Tate: running 2CH and 2GB wouldn’t be hard for us to do.

Back in February Macquarie Media rebranded Radio 2CH to be part of its national Magic easy listening network, fuelling speculation that the company either had a buyer who was willing to allow them to operate it or that it would seek an extension on the sale time from media watchdog the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Macquarie chairman Russell Tate previously told Mumbrella the company was open to continuing to run the station.

“In the last few years we’ve operated 2GB and 2CH as one entity, so it wouldn’t be hard for us to do,” he said in January of 2015.

Nic Christensen 

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