Purchase of Brandon radio stations approved


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Pattison Media’s acquisition of 94.7 Star FM and Q Country 91.5 FM will finalize on Canada Day after receiving permission from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission earlier this week.

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Pattison Media’s acquisition of 94.7 Star FM and Q Country 91.5 FM will finalize on Canada Day after receiving permission from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission earlier this week.

The deal to purchase the radio stations from Westman Communications Group was first announced last August pending CRTC approval.

Both organizations confirmed Thursday operations would be handed over to Pattison Media effective July 1. The company, owned by billionaire Jim Pattison, is headquartered in Kamloops, B.C.

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Pattison Media's purchase of 94.7 STAR FM and Q Country 91.5 FM radio stations from Westman Communications Group was approved by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission on Tuesday for a reported value of around $5.5 million. (File)

A copy of the approval posted to the CRTC’s website Tuesday lists the value of the sale at $5,549,079.

Two outside groups, the Forum for Research and Policy in Communications and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, filed interventions on the approval applications.

The PIAC expressed a desire for more specific commitments from Pattison Media on increasing the number of reporters it employs and the amount of original local news it produces in Brandon.

“In its reply to the FRPC’s intervention, Pattison Media committed to continue to build on the strong local focus and flavour of the two stations,” the CRTC’s says.

“It added that it would continue Westman Radio’s commitment to cover news, sports, weather, and local events … Pattison Media also stated that while it respected the FRPC’s desire for a further quantitative commitment for local news, it was not prepared to accept any conditions of licence beyond those of the current owners because of the uncertainty around the recovery of the economy and advertising revenues.”

When the deal was first announced last year, Pattison Media president Rod Schween told the Sun the company had no plans to reduce its staff at the stations and would instead seek to expand the number of people they employ.

The hope then was the deal would be approved either late last year or early this year, which did not happen.

Speaking by phone Thursday, Schween said hiring additional staff is still the company’s plan. A new general manager has been hired and is getting established in Brandon to help with the changeover. The company will also hire a new programming director.

“We’re very pleased to receive that [approval],” Schween said. “It took a little longer than we would have like, but we’re happy the commission agreed it was in the public interest. We’re looking forward to having at least two stations join our other 48.”

Now that approval has been granted, Schween said his company can finally start working on the ownership transition it had been holding off.

“We have some strategy that we’re working on for that market,” he said. “We looked at Brandon and we looked at those operations because they were well run, they operated in a similar philosophy that we like to use at our stations.”

When the sale was first announced last August, WCG president Bud Keys said it would allow the organization to focus on its core business of providing telecommunications services.

In an interview Thursday, Keys said three years ago WCG provided services to 35 communities. Now that number has reached 62 and the funds received will help expansion continue.

“We’ve put in tens of millions of dollars into expansion over the last number of years,” Keys said. “We still have some places we’re working on. Right now you put it in the bank and you make prudent expenditures as time goes on.”

The decision to sell the stations to Pattison Media, he said, was because of a sense that of the major players in Canada’s radio market, it was the closest fit to the way WCG operates.

» cslark@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @ColinSlark

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