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CRTC approves Cogeco's acquisition of Corus stations

Cable and media company Cogeco Inc. has more than tripled its radio holdings in Quebec after winning regulatory approval Friday for the $80-million acquisition of 11 stations in the province.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said in a ruling that the purchase from Toronto-based Corus can go ahead, bringing Montreal-based Cogeco's total stations in Quebec to 16.

However, it also noted that Cogeco has agreed to sell the CJEC-FM and CFEL-FM stations in the Levis-Quebec City market so that it meets ownership requirements.

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"This transaction will ensure the maintenance and diversity of information and public affairs programming in Montreal and the regions, which will benefit the entire broadcasting system in Quebec," the CRTC said in its decision.

The CRTC also approved a request by Cogeco that allows it to maintain a third FM station in the Montreal market airing talk-radio programs.

But the regulator nixed Cogeco's request to transform a radio station in the city of Sherbrooke into a rebroadcasting transmitter for a Montreal station, saying the region would lose a local voice.

The regulator also noted that Cogeco has agreed to establish a local news agency that will feed its stations.

"The use of Cogeco Nouvelles content by local stations will enable them to focus their resources on local coverage," the CRTC said.

"The agency could also exchange content with small private independent stations and community stations, allowing for a better coverage of regional issues."

Corus had said when it announced the sale last April that it couldn't see making "adequate" returns in the Quebec market in the current economic, business and regulatory environment.

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Corus had operated radio stations in the province of Quebec for the last 10 years.

Astral Media Inc. , Canada's largest private-sector radio broadcaster and the dominant player in Quebec's radio market, had said it was opposed to the transaction.

Cogeco asked the CRTC to relax rules that restrict the number of similar broadcast outlets owned by the same company within a single market.

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