In August, as RNC Media announced the sale of 10 of its 15 radio stations in Quebec to Cogeco, the chair of its board said the remaining stations were “not on the market.”
Four months later, two of those stations — the most prominent, arguably — have been sold.
CHOI Radio X, the most famous of the Quebec City populist talk radio stations, as well as Montreal’s 91.9 Sports, are being sold to Leclerc Communication, for a price that hasn’t been disclosed.
If both transactions — which require CRTC approval — go through, RNC Media would be left with three stations that don’t form much of a network anymore:
- 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
You would have to think those are also for sale for the right bidder.
The Leclerc transaction would face a major hurdle at the CRTC: Its common ownership policy says a single owner can have no more than two radio stations in the same market in the same language on the same band. Leclerc already owns WKND 91,9 (CJEC-FM) and BLVD 102,1 (CFEL-FM), so adding Radio X would put them over this limit. RNC’s press release says an exception will be requested.
Exceptions have been made (notably for Cogeco to allow it to own Rythme FM, CKOI and 98.5 in Montreal), but a strong case — and some serious commitments — would have to be made to get the CRTC to accept. Cogeco committed to establishing a news network across its stations to be able to keep 98.5.
And it’s not like CHOI has demonstrated a great deal of respect for the broadcasting system lately. There will also be concerns that BLVD, which got into the talk business with shows by Nathalie Normandeau and (until recently) André Arthur, would have the same owner as a direct competitor.
Ironically, Leclerc Communication was formed in 2012 and bought its two Quebec City stations out of required divestments from the Cogeco purchase of Corus’s Quebec stations. Corus at the time owned CFEL and CFOM-FM (M102.9) and Cogeco owned CJEC and CJMF-FM (FM93).
The CRTC is holding a hearing (as a formality — there won’t be any oral presentations) on Sept. 6 to consider the Cogeco-RNC deal. The CRTC request for the Leclerc purchase will be filed “in the coming weeks.”