With sale approved, 103.9FM could be back on Kelowna airwaves by spring

Sale of 103.9FM approved

If all goes to plan, Kelowna’s 103.9 CKOO-FM could be back on the air by the spring.

The Canadian Radio and Television Commission has approved the purchase of the radio station's broadcast license and assets by Paul Larsen for $500,000.

His company, Radius Holdings, is purchasing the license from trustee Grant Thornton, which took possession of it when Soft 103.9 went bankrupt on March 31. 

“I was happy to see the CRTC see the value in maintaining a locally-owned radio station independent of the large corporations,” Larsen told Castanet on Friday.

“My intent is to just bring something back that had already existed. I think there is a listenership demographic that got underserved when the station went off the air.”

Larsen says he hopes to have the station back on the air by the spring, offering similar music and programming to Soft 103.9, but under a different brand.

“The station was really gaining some traction with that 45-plus audience, so what I proposed to do is bring back similar to what it was doing before and pick up where we left off,” he said.

The Jim Pattison Broadcast Group and Stingray Radio Inc., which both operate competing stations in Kelowna, filed paperwork to oppose Larsen’s purchase of CKOO-FM.

The large broadcasters argued that the Kelowna radio market cannot support the number of commercial stations presently licenced, even with CKOO-FM off the air.

Excluding CKOO-FM, there are six commercial stations in Kelowna. Two are owned by Jim Pattison Broadcast Group, one by Stingray and three by Bell Media Inc.

In 2019, the market generated revenues of $9.3 million with a profit before income and tax margin of -19 per cent. 

In its decision, the CRTC acknowledged that the Kelowna radio station market has been hit hard by the pandemic, but “it is of the view that approval of the acquisition of CKOO-FM by Radius is unlikely to further exacerbate the situation.”

“The Commission also notes that the interveners are part of large broadcasting groups with significant resources and synergies while CKOO-FM under Radius would be an independent player,” the CRTC’s decision says.

Larsen is a career broadcaster with 30 years in the industry. He grew his company Clear Sky Radio over the course of a decade to five FM stations in small and medium markets in Alberta and B.C. before selling them off in 2018. He has lived in Kelowna since 2013.

“I thought if there was an opportunity to get into the business that I know, in the town that I live — that was really my motivation [for making the purchase],” he said.

Soft 103.9 was owned by Nick Frost when it went bankrupt. It was originally supposed to be purchased by Glacier Media alongside the sale of Castanet in April 2019, but the transaction never gained CRTC approval prior to the station going under.

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