The CRTC has approved South Fraser Broadcasting’s purchase of the former Roundhouse Radio (CIRH-FM) Vancouver licence, but has denied its requests for exemptions to its CanCon requirements or its ask to be exempt from tangible benefits.
Roundhouse Radio, which operated as a unique urban talk format under the leadership of rock radio veteran Don Shafer, went dark in May 2018 after being on-air for about two and half years. Heard at 98.3 FM and with its studios located in Railtown on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the station had an ERP of 1.7 kilowatts.
South Fraser, which operates Pulse 107.7 FM (CISF-FM) Surrey, had asked that it be allowed to delete the station’s condition of licence requiring it to devote a minimum of 50% of its musical selections from content category 3 (Special Interest Music) to Canadian selections. It also proposed reducing the requirement to devote a minimum of 50% of its musical selections from content category 2 (Popular Music) to Canadian selections to a minimum of 40%.
In its application, South Fraser maintained that those conditions of licence would hinder the new sound of CIRH-FM and the “cohesive flow” envisioned for the revamped radio station. It also noted that the difference between content category 2 and content category 3 selections would make it difficult to attract an audience interested in both genres.
While approving South Fraser’s application, the CRTC cited its initial approval of the Roundhouse licence (Broadcasting Decision 2014-412) which considered the programming diversity achieved through its focused local spoken word programming (minimum of 50% spoken word programming), complemented by Canadian music requirements higher than the regulatory minimums, to be important factors in its decision to license Roundhouse.
“The Commission granted CIRH-FM’s licence in large part based on those commitments. The Commission considers that approving the requested licence amendments during the first licence term would undermine the integrity of the licensing process,” states the CRTC decision.
“Furthermore, the applicant’s current programming conditions of licence should not significantly hinder the vision for the revamped station, given that the station would maintain its commitment to broadcast a minimum of 50% spoken word programming in each broadcast week and that the requested amendments solely concern the remaining half of the station’s total programming that relates to musical programming. Although the applicant is seeking to achieve a particular sound and music mix for the relaunched Roundhouse station, the Commission is of the view that there should be sufficient content category 2 content, including Canadian content, to fill the remaining 50% of the station’s total programming, if the applicant were to follow through on its intent to minimize or eliminate music from content category 3.”
The commission says South Fraser will also be on the hook for CIRH-FM’s outstanding Canadian Content Development (CCD) contributions. In its original licence application, Roundhouse committed to making contributions totalling $1,327,240, over and above the minimum contribution to CCD. Those are currently outstanding for the 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 broadcast years with a combined shortfall of $580,345. The commission has given South Fraser until Sept. 10 to cover that debt.
Roundhouse shareholders applied to the CRTC last November to sell their shares to South Fraser for $600,000.
South Fraser made the case in its application that the purchase would allow the company to benefit by distributing the operating costs over two stations, with the Roundhouse studios to be co-located with CISF-FM Surrey. Its application also committed to continuing Roundhouse initiatives like the Roundhouse Discovery Project, Journalism and Media Arts Scholarships, Aboriginal Media Scholarships and the Designated Group Fund.
It’s unclear if the commission’s denial of the requested exemptions will hinder the deal. South Fraser has not responded to Broadcast Dialogue’s requests for comment.
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