RNC Media is vastly decreasing its role as a major radio broadcaster, and has agreed to sell 10 of its 15 radio stations to competitor Cogeco for $18.5 million.
Affected stations are:
- Planète 104.5 in Alma
- Planète 93.5 in Chibougamau
- Planète 99.5 in Roberval
- Planète 100.3 in Dolbeau-Mistassini
- Radio X 95.7 in Saguenay (repeater at 96.3 Alma)
- Capitale Rock 104.3 in Val-d’Or
- Capitale Rock 102.1 in La Sarre (repeater at 95.7 Rouyn-Noranda)
- WOW 96.5 in Rouyn-Noranda (repeaters at 103.5 Val d’Or and 103.9 La Sarre)
- Pop 104.9 in Lachute
- Pop 102.1 in Hawkesbury
The sale leaves RNC Media with five stations in its three largest markets:
- CKLX-FM (91,9 Sports) in Montreal
- CHOI-FM (Radio X) in Quebec City
- CHXX-FM (Pop 100.9) in Donnacona (serving Quebec City, repeater at 105.5 Lotbinière)
- CFTX-FM (Pop 96.5) In Gatineau (repeater at 107.5 Buckingham)
- CHLX-FM (Wow 97.1) in Gatineau
Cogeco already has two French-language FM stations in Montreal and Quebec City, which means there was no point in Cogeco acquiring them. It has one station (CKOF-FM 104,7) in Gatineau. The acquired stations will be its first in the Saguenay and Abitibi regions.
RNC Media also owns TVA and V affiliates in Gatineau and Abitibi-Témiscamingue. It recently announced it was shutting down its Radio-Canada affiliate in Abitibi, CKRN. RNC said the Montreal, Quebec and Gatineau stations were “not on the market.”
The sale requires approval by the CRTC before it can proceed.
We should also expect some of these stations to join Cogeco’s network brands, particularly Rythme FM.
A map of Quebec’s major commercial radio networks: Cogeco Media (purple), RNC Media (red, with pending sales in reddish purple), Bell Media (blue), Attraction Radio (black) and Groupe Radio Simard (gold).
If the acquisition goes through, Cogeco’s radio network will cover the vast majority of the province’s population. Of population centres over 15,000, the only ones that wouldn’t be within 100 kilometres of a transmitter would be Rimouski and Sept-Îles.
UPDATE (June 28): The application for the purchase has been posted by the CRTC, with a (non-appearing) hearing set for Sept. 6. Among the details in the application:
- Cogeco plans no immediate change to the “vocation” of the radio stations, which will remain local.
- Cogeco plans to introduce local newscasts to the Lachute station. For other stations, the benefits come mainly through access to the infrastructure of Cogeco Nouvelles.
- Proposed tangible benefits are $1,184,217, based on a total transaction value of $19,736,958. The breakdown uses the standard formula for radio, with:
- $592,109 (3%) to Fonds Radiostar
- $296,054 (1.5%) to Musicaction
- $98,685 (0.5%) to the Community Radio Fund of Canada
- $197,370 (1%) to discretionary initiatives
- The nature of the discretionary initiatives isn’t specified, but Cogeco said it would include six-week paid internships at its radio stations. The commission pushed back on this (tangible benefits are not allowed to be self-serving), and Cogeco responded by saying it would use $10,000 a year for bursaries instead. The rest of the discretionary money would go to local initiatives, broken down as follows:
- $10,000 a year in the Saguenay region
- $5,000 a year in the Abitibi region
- $3,196 a year in the Lachute-Hawkesbury region
- The contract includes a 36-month service contract for RNC Media to continue providing local news, office space, outdoor advertising, transmitters and technical support for the stations in the Abitibi region after the deal closes. Following that, Cogeco will rent space for three transmitters at two sites from RNC for $5,000 a year each for 10 years (indexed to the consumer price index), and two transmitters at a third site for five-year renewable leases for a price to be negotiated.
- The radio stations (bought by Cogeco) and TV stations (retained by RNC Media) in the Abitibi region will continue to cross-promote for a period of 24 months after the acquisition. The exact value of these ads is confidential, but will be the same for both sides. A similar ad exchange deal is in place for Cogeco’s CKOF-FM (104,7) and RNC Media’s TV stations in Gatineau, even though those stations aren’t part of this transaction.
- Cogeco acquires the WOW brand (used by CHOA-FM in Val-d’Or) and gives RNC Media a licence to continue to use the brand for its Gatineau station. Cogeco also acquires the Planète and Capitale Rock trademarks.
- RNC Media holds on to the POP brand (used by CFTX-FM in Gatineau and CHXX-FM in Donnacona) but gives Cogeco licence to use it for the Rouyn-Noranda station.
- RNC also keeps the Radio X brand, which is used by CKYK-FM in Saguenay. Cogeco can use the KYK logo, but without any mention of Radio X. There does not appear to be transition allowance here, which means it would have to change the branding as soon as the deal closes.
- Cogeco says of the 220 on-air employees it will have if the transaction is approved, 92 (42%) are women, 4 (2%) people with disabilities, 2 (1%) visible minorities and 1 (0.5%) Indigenous person. (In the application, Cogeco gets the math wrong by two decimal places on the last three percentages there, making it look even worse.)
- About 55 employees will move with the stations — 10 in Abitibi, 44 in Saguenay and one in Lachute. Three of those employees are currently on leave.
- The deal will close on the first of the month after CRTC approval. This is listed as the only remaining condition for closing.
- The deal includes a non-compete agreement for Val d’Or, La Sarre, Rouyn-Noranda, Lachute, Hawkesbury, Amos, Dolbeau, Roberval, Alma, Chibougamau and Saguenay, for a confidential period.
UPDATE (Aug. 28): RNC is also selling CHOI Radio X and 91,9 Sports, to Leclerc Communication.