GATINEAU - At last week's CRTC hearings into the planned asset swap between Astral Media and Corus Entertainment that would give Corus ownership of the six stations in the Radiom�dia network, Corus presented details of its plan to breathe new life into AM radio in Quebec.
"AM radio has lost significant ground during the past ten years," says Corus. "Audience share, earnings, and profit have all dropped to such an extent that the number of French-language AM radio stations in Canada went from 27 to 16 between 1997 and 2003. What's more, the Radiom�dia network-for all intents and purposes ownerless for three years and managed through a trusteeship-has run up big deficits."
"We've got to act now to save our AM stations in Quebec, and we're the ones to do it. We believe in AM radio, in talk radio, and in local radio. Corus owns 50 radio stations across Canada. Our vision, expertise, and financial health give our team a big leg up in breathing new life into the Radiom�dia network," said Pierre Arcand, general manager of Corus Radio Quebec.
The Quebec Federation of Labour has put up a fuss in the Quebec media, complaining about Corus' plans for the stations it wants to take control of, that it plans to abandon the stations' roots.
For its part, Corus says it plans to create the Corus News Network. "Its vision is to create a strong Quebec voice with news as the core mission of this new entity," says the release.
"CKAC is an institution that has shaped the history of Montreal. Corus knows how attached Montrealers are to CKAC, and shares their love for the station. But to remain on top, CKAC must modernize and adapt to new industry trends. The station has already begun the process, and Corus' proposal will fit right in. CKAC will continue to be the radio it is today and still offer the specialty coverage of sports and health/lifestyle it is known for," says the Corus statement.
"In regional markets, local news will be broadcast under the 'breaking news' format. Local content will make up at least four hours a day, at peak listening periods, and thus represent 85% of all listening hours. Outside these time slots, things will continue somewhat like at present, with network broadcasts tailored to regional needs. Under this 'pick and choose' formula, local managers can adjust programming for their requirements. Listeners will thus still be able to tune into favorite shows like 'Doc Mailloux' and 'Amateurs de sport,' to name only two.
CKRS in Saguenay/Lac Saint-Jean will undergo the fewest changes, says Corus. It is the most successful Radiom�dia station at this time, and draws impressive audience numbers. Its core mission as public affairs leader in the Saguenay will be maintained.
"With this transaction, the number of journalists on staff at the stations in question will rise from 65 to 70 with the creation of the Corus News Network-the biggest private radio news network in Quebec-and the newly minted news division at Astral Media. "This transaction, if approved, will increase radio reporting in Quebec, which is great news both for the regions and the province as a whole," added Arcand.
If the transaction is approved by the CRTC, Corus Quebec will acquire
seven AM stations and one FM station: CKAC Montreal, CHRC Quebec City, CKRS Saguenay, CHLN Mauricie, CHLT Estrie, CKTS Sherbrooke, CJRC Outaouais, and CFOM-FM Quebec City. In return, it will cede five FM stations to Astral Media: CJOI-FM Rimouski, CIKI-FM Rimouski, CFVM-FM Amqui, CFZZ-FM Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, and CJDM-FM Drummondville.
Given the trouble Astral has had in selling the stations (due to objections from the CRTC and the Competition Bureau to a previous deal with Quebecor), look for this particular transaction to be approved.
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