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Q4 takes shine off 2003 results at Cogeco's radio and TV division

MONTREAL - Revenue at Cogeco Inc.'s radio and television division dipped 1.3% in the fourth quarter to $23.9 million but for the whole year, that line rose 48.2% to $124.4 million.

The 2003 fiscal year, ended August 31st, was the first full year of integrating TQS's results, says Cogeco, and decreased ratings at the station in the last fiscal quarter affected income there. "During the fourth quarter, television revenue declined by 0.9% as a result of the lower spring audience ratings. To improve its fall audience ratings, TQS launched new programs (a morning news program and its own reality show, "Loft Story") and strengthened its pre-existing programming schedule," says the press release.

Overall radio revenue was also off 3.4% in fiscal 2003, which the company chalks up to the furor surrounding once-popular morning man Robert Gillet. Formerly the host of the top-rated morning show at 93FM in Quebec City, he is part of a police investigation in the city and he took a leave from the station in December 2002. According to published reports, Gillet faces charges that he paid for sex with teenaged prostitutes. He was among 44 arrests in a months-long investigation.

On a more positive note, the broadcast division's "annual operating income grew by 7%, exceeding its 5% target due to the performance of the TQS network. The competitive position of the radio operations was improved with the launch of a RYTHME FM station in Québec City in August. In addition, two other RYTHME FM stations in Sherbrooke and Trois- Rivières should be launched in September 2004," said Cogeco president and CEO Louis Audet.

The company also confirmed that its media division is maintaining its 2004 financial guidelines which were announced last quarter of revenue growth in the range of 10% to 13% and operating income margin of 12% to 13%.

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