NL Broadcasting, one of B.C.'s last independent radio stations, has been sold to a Nova Scotia-based corporation with assets in B.C. and across the country.
Newfoundland Capital Corp., which operates as Newcap Radio, announced it is purchasing 100 per cent of shares of NL Broadcasting Ltd. from the local partners. The sale price was not disclosed, but will eventually be available through the CRTC if and when the national agency approves the transaction this summer.
NL Broadcasting operates CHNL (Radio NL at 610 on the AM dial), CKRV The River at 97.5 FM and CJKC-FM Country 103 at 103.1 FM.
"There's a great feeling of accomplishment we grew a company sought after by Newcap and other broadcasters," said station manager Garth Buchko, who became a partner three years ago. "They see value."
Radio NL traces its roots to its founding by John Skelly in 1970. It has been independently operated for several decades. The current ownership group that is selling its shares to the publicly traded Newcap include Buchko, retired president and majority holder Robbie Dunn, semi-retired news head Jim Harrison, Jim Reynolds, Dave Coulter and original partner Rudy Morelli.
As one of B.C.'s last independents, Buchko said corporations have long expressed interest in purchasing NL's assets. A major factor this time is interests of the local partners.
"Three shareholders are 70 and older. Age had a part to play in it," he said.
Newcap has 95 radio stations across Canada, including three in Vancouver and one each in Kelowna and Penticton. It has a large presence in Alberta and in the Maritime provinces. The company also runs two television stations in Lloydminster, Alta., and has a market capitalization of about $215 million.
Buchko said the message from Newcap to employees was one of stability.
"When Ian Lurie [chief operating officer with Newcap] was in last week, he said there's no foreseeable changes. We have a strong, profitable business," Buchko said.
In an interview, Lurie said he's been interested in purchasing NL Broadcasting in previous positions with Standard Radio and Astral Media.
"Newcap has always wanted to expand in B.C. . . . When we looked at the stability of the economy, growth of the university, development going on, migration of people from Vancouver finding opportunities -- we love the prospects for the town and the entrenched position NL has," he said.
While Lurie acknowledged challenges of traditional media in the age of social media, he said radio has fared better than newspapers and television.
Rick Arnish, a retired executive with Jim Pattison Group who can trace his roots in radio locally to 1969, said the sale comes as little surprise. Pattison operates Broadcast Centre and competing radio stations B-100 and 98.3 CIFM.
"There's clearly not a lot of independents left in B.C. NL, I'd say, without having all the sheets in front of me, was probably one of the last independents in B.C." Arnish said.
Arnish said the city's broadcast and media market is mature, with five distinct commercial radio formats.
The newest competitor is CBC Kamloops, which has emerged as a competitor to NL's flagship 610 AM, according to industry statistics.
Arnish said one of Newcap's challenges will be the status of its 610 AM station, which ranked second in the city in share percentage in a fall 2016 Numeris rating available online (CBC Kamloops was not available in that rating).
"They do a great job in the community, no doubt," he said. "But AM radio is kind of going the way of the dodo bird. AM audiences are older and not as strong as the two FMs."
Lurie said Newcap has proved the durability of news and information on the AM dial in other markets and believes 610 AM here will continue to provide strong local content.
Buchko said he will remain at NL Broadcasting and "will run it in the same fashion as when I was an owner, for now and as long as I want to do it."