Mon, April 9, 2007
Sale will be good for local programming, expert says
By HANK DANISZEWSKI, SUN MEDIA
Rogers could bring revival to London’s A-Channel, says a media expert at the University of Western Ontario.
Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) is paying $137.5 million for the A-Channel group of stations, which is being spun off by CTVglobemedia Inc. as part of its $1.7-billion acquisition of CHUM Ltd.
London’s A-Channel, with satellite operations in Windsor and Wingham, has been buffeted by a series of owners, format changes and cutbacks in recent years says David Spencer, a professor of media and information studies.
He expects the takeover by Rogers, known as a cable and cellphone giant, will be good news for the station, which was founded by Free Press publisher Walter Blackburn in 1955
Spencer expect Rogers will strengthen the local programming, especially in news.
“I think they will be a welcome addition to this market. They’ve learned a lot or hard lessons . . . and I think they will be out there in the community finding out what people want,” he said.
Spencer said Rogers is a relatively new player in broadcast television but did a good job building the Toronto-based Omni multicultural TV station and has added Omni 2, a second channel.
Rogers also operates a community cable operation in London, but Spencer said there is probably not much scope to combine the two operations because they have a different focus and advertising base.
A-Channel London station manager Donald Mumford says he had no information on any changes planned by Rogers but the news of the sale will put an end to months of uncertainty for the station, which has about 154 employees.
Although the station has gone through several owners in the past 20 years, Mumford said each change has had a positive impact.
“In each instance we have always benefited from ownership change. It has brought new vision and new resources.”
The sale to Rogers must be approved by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which regulates the broadcast industry — but another analyst that should not be a problem.
“The CRTC will love it,” said John Henderson of Scotia Capital. “They want less market concentration and this adds to the level of competition in the market, and I don’t think the CRTC would have any problem with this.”