Corus, Astral get regulatory approval of Quebec radio station swap

Canada's broadcast regulator gives its to approval to $11M Quebec radio deal involving Corus Entertainment, Astral Media.

Canada's broadcast regulator gave its approval on Friday for Corus Entertainment Inc. to buy eight Quebec radio stations from Astral Media Inc.

In return, Astral will get five FM stations in Rimouski, Amqui, St. Jean-sur-Richelieu and Drummondville from Corus as part of the $11 million deal.

Corus gets six AM stations, one AM repeater station and one FM station in Quebec City.

Many intervenors objected to Corus's plans for CKAC

The approval came despite protests over plans by Corus to change CKAC, a French-language AM station in Montreal, into a mainly all-sports station.

CKAC is the oldest private French-language radio station in the world (established in 1922) and now employs more than 20 journalists. The Corus proposal would reduce that to three journalists. Instead, Corus said it would create a pooled news arrangement involving 17 journalists at three stations it owns in the Montreal-area.

Under terms of its approval, the CRTC stipulated that CKAC must provide 60 hours of local programming per week in 2005-2006, growing to 80 hours a week in two years.

The other seven stations being picked up by Corus must provide at least 27 hours a week of local programming in 2005-2006, rising to 37 hours a week in two years.

Corus had been offering to provide up to 40 hours per week of local programming on CKAC, the main asset in the deal.

"Corus Entertainment is pleased to receive the CRTC's decision today regarding the swap of radio stations with Astral Media," said Pierre Arcand, the president of Corus Quebec, in a statement.

"But it will require some analysis before we make further comment. The conditions are new and financial circumstances have changed since the hearing, so we need to assess the matter carefully," he said.

Corus sells two Alberta radio licences

Corus also said Friday that it has struck a $9 million deal to sell its Red Deer radio stations Zed 99 FM (CIZZ-FM) and KG Country (CKGY-FM) to Newcap Inc., a subsidiary of Newfoundland Capital Corporation.

The deal is subject to approval by the CRTC.