DAILY NEWS Jul 25, 2006 9:06 AM - 0 comments

Rogers Says Radio OK in Alberta

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2006-07-25
Rogers Communications, long seeking a radio presence in Edmonton and northern Alberta, has found its channel, with a $39.8-million acquisition of OK Radio's Sonic Radio 102.9 FM and World Radio 101.7 (CKER FM).

The deal also includes two stations and a transmitter in Fort McMurray, a station in Grande Prairie and transmitters there and in Peace River and Tumbler Ridge, B.C.

"The market we desired to get into was Edmonton and those non-metro markets," said Gary Miles, president and CEO of Rogers Radio. It will bring to 51 the number of stations Rogers has in Alberta, B.C., Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

A date of Sept. 11 has been set for a hearing by the CRTC, where the sale is expected to be approved. Rogers anticipates taking control and ownership by year's end.

"These stations are such a perfect fit, for the major market we weren't in, Edmonton and for northern Alberta, which we have a strong belief in," Miles said from Toronto.

It's yet another media consolidation deal, although dwarfed by the $1.7 billion agreement by Bell Globemedia to acquire CHUM. That deal sees local TV stations City TV, and Access Alberta joining the same company that owns the CTV network. Of the large players, Rogers, Bell Globemedia and CHUM are based in Toronto.

Rogers says it intends to leave formats as is at the stations and it will follow a corporate philosophy of serving and getting involved in the communities where it operates.

Until now, Rogers has operated seven radio stations in Alberta, all in the south. They include four stations in Calgary, one in Canmore, and two in Lethbridge, in formats ranging form classic rock to adult contemporary, to sports, news and talk radio.

OK Radio was founded in 1973 by partners Roger Charest and Stu Morton with a station in Fort McMurray. The Edmonton-based company expanded across northern Alberta over the ensuing 33 years with stations in Westlock, St. Paul-Bonneville, Edmonton, Grande Prairie and Victoria, B.C.

In Edmonton, it launched ethnic station CKER in 1974 and modern-rock Sonic in 2005. Sonic went on the air last year, initially broadcasting out of construction trailers until studios were built at OK's offices on Gateway Boulevard.

In the last broadcast ratings period, Sonic held seventh place out of 16 Edmonton stations with a 6.3 share of listeners, up from 6.1 earlier this year.

There are about 95 employees between the four OK stations that Rogers is acquiring.
"We were also very fortunate with this group of stations, with the operating philosophy of Roger Charest and Stu Morton, so similar to how we operate our stations which is service to the community and to make sure we're involved all aspects of it," Miles said.

Rogers said in its regulatory filing that it intends to operate the stations under the same terms and conditions in effect under current licence agreements.

OK's two Victoria, B.C., radio stations were sold to Jim Pattison Broadcast group earlier this year. The OK Group's remaining stations were put up for sale in April, after owners Morton and Charest, both in their 60s, decided to retire.
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