The absence of intrinsic broad-line emission has been reported in a number of active galactic nuclei (AGN), including some with high Eddington ratios. Such ‘true type 2 AGN’ are inherent to the disc-wind scenario for the broad-line region: broad-line emission requires a minimal column density, implying a minimal outflow rate and thus a minimal accretion rate. Here we perform a detailed analysis of the consequences of mass conservation in the process of accretion through a central disc. The resulting constraints on luminosity are consistent with all the cases where claimed detections of true type 2 AGN pass stringent criteria, and predict that intrinsic broad-line emission can disappear at luminosities as high as ∼4 × 1046 erg s−1 and any Eddington ratio, though more detections can be expected at Eddington ratios below ∼1 per cent. Our results are applicable to every disc outflow model, whatever its details and whether clumpy or smooth, irrespective of the wind structure and its underlying dynamics. While other factors, such as changes in spectral energy distribution or covering factor, can affect the intensities of broad emission lines, within this scenario they can only produce true type 2 AGN of higher luminosity then those prescribed by mass conservation.

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Published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, v. 459, issue 1, p. 585-594.

This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society ©: 2016 The Authors. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

The copyright holders have granted the permission for posting the article here.

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Support by NASA (ME) and Israel Science Foundation grant 284/13 (HN) is gratefully acknowledged.