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Radio stations tune in profits despite heavy competition

Canada’s 675 commercial radio stations saw their revenues increase incrementally over the last broadcast year, reaching $1.62-billion. Profits before interest and taxes increased almost 4 per cent to $323-million.

glenn lowson The Globe and Mail

It may not be the sexiest of mediums, but radio continues to churn consistent profits despite competition from competitors beaming signals from outer space and online listening services designed to pull listeners away from traditional radio.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said Canada's 675 commercial radio stations saw their revenues increase incrementally over the last broadcast year, reaching $1.62-billion. Profits before interest and taxes increased almost 4 per cent to $323-million.

Profit margins also increased marginally to 19.9 per cent, as expenses came down by $3.7-million.

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"Revenues generated by commercial radio stations are used to provide a variety of programming to Canadians, support established and emerging Canadian talent, and offer employment opportunities to thousands of Canadians," the regulator stated in a release. "In 2012, these stations employed 10,050 people and paid $681-million in salaries."

FM radio stations generated most of the money, the CRTC said. Eleven new stations were started last year, bringing the number of stations to 546. These stations earned $1.31-billion in revenue, up slightly from $1.3-billion a year ago.

There were five fewer AM stations in Canada, however, bringing the total to 129.

"This trend is reflected in the total revenues, which declined by 1.6 per cent to $306-million compared to $311-million in 2011," the report stated.

The report also provided a glimpse into the fortunes of the radio operations of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., which recently received permission to run a limited amount of advertising on its Radio 2 and Espace Musique. The publicly funded broadcaster hopes to earn as much as $10-million by selling national ads on the FM networks, but is limited to four minutes an hour.

The broadcast spent $253-million on its FM stations, most of it from its government funding. It posted a $3-million loss on the stations, however, even after cutting $5-million from its "administration and general" budget.

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