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CRTC approves eight new Quebec radio stations and denies Astral ownership shift
7/2/2003

OTTAWA-GATINEAU - Residents of the Montréal, Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivières regions will soon be able to enjoy new radio services, while Astral Media is once again forced to re-evaluate its radio station ownership position in its home province.

Late today, the CRTC released decisions today approving four new radio stations in Montreal, three in the Sherbrooke area and one in Trois Rivieres. As for the Saguenay region, "after conducting a full review of the economic environment and radio market in the Saguenay region, the CRTC has concluded that for the time being, the region cannot absorb a new commercial radio station," says the CRTC release today.

However, the Commission also denied an application to transfer Astral Media's Quebec AM stations and CFOM-FM Quebec City to a corporation which was to be controlled by TVA Group.

As for the new stations, the Commission hear the applications in February this year, and granted licenses to:

Montreal:
* Radio-Nord Communications et la Société Spectra Scène (91.9 FM). This French-language specialty radio station will offer mainly jazz and blues music, and is aimed at adults between the ages of 35 and 64.

* Gilles Lajoie and Colette Chabot (1570 AM). This French-language station from Laval will operate on the basis of a nostalgia radio format geared to listeners 50 and up. It will broadcast music from the 1940s through the '70s, and 126 hours of local programming per week.

* Canadian Hellenic Cable Radio (105.1 FM). This station will provide ethnic programming intended principally for the Greek community, but also for the Armenian, Croatian, Serbian, Russian and Filipino communities. It will broadcast world beat and international music.

* Aboriginal Voices Radio (AVR) (FM). This is a new Aboriginal FM station that will be part of the AVR network. Programming will be principally in French and English but will include segments in various Aboriginal languages, Spanish, as well as other languages.

Sherbrooke:
* Cogeco Radio-Télévision (93.7 FM). This French-language station will be part of the Rythme FM network. It will broadcast adult contemporary music, comprised of hits from the '70s to today aimed principally at a 25-to-54-year-old listenership.

* André Gagné (Groupe Génération Rock - 104.5 FM). This French-language station will broadcast classic, soft and new rock, geared to the 18-to-44-year-old demographic.

* Radio Communautaire Missisquoi (FM). This is a new community station. The principal language of broadcast will be English, but the station will offer 15% French and 5 percent German programming. The station, to be located at Lac Brome, will broadcast at least 84 hours of local programming per week in the first year, increasing to 105 hours beginning in the second year.

Trois-Rivières:
* Cogeco Radio-Télévision (100.1 FM). Like the new station in Sherbrooke, this French language station will be added to the Rythme FM network, and will broadcast adult popular contemporary music.

The Commission denied applications presented by Astral Media, on behalf of a corporation to be controlled by TVA Group, holding a 60% voting interest, and Radio Nord Communications, with a 40% voting interest, (TVA/RNC), for TVA/RNC to acquire eight AM stations, two digital radio stations, three radio networks and CFOM-FM Quebec City.

The stations were among 19 French-language stations in Quebec and New Brunswick that Astral Media Inc. bought from Telemedia Communications Inc. for $225 million in 2001.

The CRTC approved that deal originally, but the Competition Bureau contested it on the grounds it would give Astral too much dominance in several regions.

Astral then agreed to sell seven of the stations to Quebecor Media subsidiary TVA, the leading private-sector television broadcaster in Quebec, for $12.75 million. TVA has a minority partner in the takeover, regional broadcaster Radio Nord Communications.

However, some complained that the deal would then give TVA parent Quebecor Media too much control over media in that province. For background, click here.

"These applications raised concerns with regard to concentration of media ownership and media cross-ownership in Quebec. The CRTC was not persuaded that the potential benefits that would flow from TVA/RNC's strategy for renewing AM radio in Quebec and from the application would offset the serious concerns regarding concentration of media ownership and media cross-ownership that the application gave rise to," said the Commission today.

"In its decision, the CRTC reiterated that Astral Media remains under the obligation to divest itself of CFOM-FM to a third party not associated with Astral Media, as required in Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2002-90."

Astral responded today in a short release, saying: "As agreed with the Competition Bureau in September 2002, Astral will now look towards other potential buyers for these stations, with the intention of concluding a sale as quickly as possible."

For the full release and decision, go to www.crtc.gc.ca.

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