March 5, 2024

NWBroadcasters

Radio and TV news

After the big news of 45 stations being sold, most won’t face big changes

5 min read

The president of Vancouver Island company Vista, who is buying 21 B.C. radio stations from Bell Media says there won’t be any closures or layoffs.

Vista Radio president Bryan Edwards says the stations — mainly in the Okanagan and provinces’s northwest, northeast and southeast corners — have a total of about 80 employees and he believes some are understaffed.

The new owner of Hamilton’s 102.9 Bounce FM and three Niagara-based radio stations says no job losses or format changes are envisioned once ownership transfers from Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) to Oakville-based Whiteoaks Communications Group.

While the radio station formats are expected to remain the same, Caine said the Bell-branded Bounce 102.9 and Move 105.7 will receive new branding following CRTC approval.

The 97.7 HTZ-FM and NewsTalk 610 monikers are expected to remain in place.

Jon Pole, president of Renfrew-based My Broadcasting Corporation, added he plans to invest in local news after he finalizes taking control of radio stations CFJR and CJPT in Brockville, and CFLY and CKLC in Kingston.

He has assured that staff at the newly acquired stations will not face any changes, a stark contrast to the turbulence currently experienced by Bell Media employees.

Durham radio Inc is purchasing CKPT and CKQM in Peterborough and CKLY in Lindsay. The only changes expected would be the Bell branding would disappear.

It was announced Thursday that ZoomerMedia was purchasing the local station from Bell Media, subject to Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approval and other closing conditions. The station is the only one being purchased by the multi-platform media company of the 45 regional stations Bell Media has announced it is selling.

ZoomerMedia operates an office in Collingwood out of which it publishes On The Bay magazine four time a year, and broadcasts The Classical Jukebox 5 with local host Daniel Vnukowski on southern Georgian Bay’s The New Classical 102.9 FM, the GTA’s 96.3 FM and eastern Ontario’s 103.1 FM.

When asked about the possibility of another name change, format change or the impact to local employees at the Owen Sound station, ZoomerMedia senior vice-president of communications Leanne Wright replied via e-mail, “the station is not yet in our hands, so it’s steady as she goes.”

Arsenal media in Quebec is purchasing 7 stations from Bell.

The company is therefore divesting its Énergie and Rouge stations in Bas-Saint-Laurent and Centre-du-Québec, as well as its Boom FM frequencies in Montérégie.

The seven stations will be transferred to Arsenal Media, which already has 18 antennas in Quebec, mainly in regional markets. The transaction, financial details of which have not yet been disclosed, must still receive CRTC approval. 

The company is therefore divesting its Énergie and Rouge stations in Bas-Saint-Laurent and Centre-du-Québec, as well as its Boom FM frequencies in Montérégie.

The seven stations will be transferred to Arsenal Media, which already has 18 antennas in Quebec, mainly in regional markets. The transaction, financial details of which have not yet been disclosed, must still receive CRTC approval. 

“It’s good news for regional news that a group like ours is acquiring these stations. We have a very decentralized approach. We believe that radio must remain a local media. It’s not about firing journalists and trying to make economies of scale; journalists, on the contrary, there is a lack of them,” specified in an interview with Duty Sylvain Chamberland, CEO of Arsenal Media. 

Mr. Chamberland wanted to be reassuring, especially since the seven stations that Arsenal Media is acquiring are among the last sources of regional information in their respective markets. Local newspapers have indeed suffered hard from the media crisis of recent years.

Regional radio is also experiencing a decline in listeners, but Mr Chamberland is optimistic about its future. “Everyone is talking today about Bell, which sells 45 stations. But what is not said enough is that these 45 stations have all been bought by smaller groups, like ours. Radio is returning to something more local. We realize that it costs less than large national structures that are complicated to manage,” he maintains.

Bell is selling all five stations to Halifax-based Maritime Broadcasting Systems, which already owns 24 stations across the Maritimes. 

Subject to CRTC approval, MBS Radio will buy CIKX in Grand Falls, CJCJ in Woodstock, CKBC in Bathurst, and CKTO and CKTY, both in Truro. 

The Maritime stations’ listeners won’t notice a difference in the coming months, said David Pace, chief operating officer of Maritime Broadcasting Systems. 

That’s mostly because the sales are still subject to the approval of the CRTC, the regulatory body. 

Once the sale is finalized, however, Bell branding will disappear from the stations, said Pace, meaning the “Bounce 104” tag in Bathurst, for example, can’t be used by MBS Radio. 

So it’s likely the branding will revert back to what it was before Bell Media bought the stations, he said. But ultimately, MBS will “rebrand the stations as ours.” 

“We’re not making any decisions now,” said Pace. “We’re just excited about the opportunity. We’re hopeful that the CRTC will approve these and we can get to work.”

Pace said MBS certainly isn’t buying the stations to close them. He said the plan is to improve them and make them even more local than they were under Ontario-based ownership. 

MBS, said Pace, is a family-owned, Halifax-based company that focuses on local stations. 

“We had a strategy a long time ago that if you want to operate local radio stations, you have to stay close to those local radio stations. … So from a strategic perspective, we always said that we were never going to go over to Newfoundland, we were never gonna go to Quebec or Ontario.” 

Overall it sounds like there will be no jobs lost anywhere, but probably position added. Currently on the Move, Bounce and Pure formats there is a lot of shows that are broadcast nationally. Tarzan Dan does the midday show on the Bounce radio network that is being split up to 5 different companies. Ashley Greco hosts a midday show on Move radio. So most of the stations that are bought by other companies will most likely shuffle programming around or hire hosts to replace the Bell employees that will stay on with the respective stations.

One takeaway from everything is that all the Move, Bounce, Pure and Virgin names that get sold to other companies will all change. The only Virgin being sold is in Kelowna, but Pure, Move and Bounce are part of the sales to all the other companies pretty much. In Quebec all the stations will most likely see name changes. But not much else.

All the cuts I currently am seeing in radio seem to be on the stations Bell is keeping. So far I can only confirm Tim Day has been let go from Pure Country Regina and Brandon, and the Toby and Warren show with Warren and Toby was cancelled on The Bear Edmonton as part of the cutbacks.

Here’s hoping that over the next year or so a lot of new jobs open up and these stations getting sold become a lot more local and better than they have been over the last several years.

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