Fighting for air: Local radio and tv stations face a battle for survival on two fronts

Carmela Laurignano, vice-president and radio group manager at the Evanov Radio Group, at the head office in Etobicoke, on Dec. 21, 2020.

by Alexandra Posadzki

The Globe and Mail

December 25, 2020

There was a bitter irony to what befell Canada’s local television and radio broadcasters when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Just as the need for local news and information rose, the advertising revenue that broadcasters rely on plunged as large sections of the economy were shut down to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.

“We became more of an essential service, because people were looking to us,” said Carmela Laurignano, vice-president and radio group manager at the Evanov Radio Group. “And at the same time … revenues were diminishing by the hour.”

Between April and August, advertising revenues at the country’s local television and radio stations fell by about 52.7 per cent compared to last year, according to data from the Canadian Association of Broadcasters. In order to adapt, many stations were forced to lay off staff, reduce the amount of local programming that they produced and, in some instances, shut down entirely.

Evanov Radio – which owns and operates more than a dozen stations in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and Quebec – went line by line through its expenses to see which ones could be reduced. The company also called up each of its suppliers – from software companies to cleaners and landscapers – asking for help, Ms. Laurignano said. Many stepped up, offering price reductions or deferred payment options. “It proved to be a really good and worthwhile exercise and I think we’re going to benefit from that into the future.”

Still, the company had to make some difficult decisions. It laid off 10 employees, out of its workforce of about 300, and took AM980 CHRF, a French-language station in Montreal, off the air. The station was already underperforming prior to the pandemic due to market conditions, said Ms. Laurignano. “We decided to cut our losses.”

Soft 103.9, a station in Kelowna, B.C., has also gone silent since the start of the global health crisis, and others may follow. A report published in August by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters predicts that as many as 200 of the country’s 737 private radio stations could close their doors over the next year; roughly 2,000 jobs could be lost as a result. AM radio stations and those in smaller markets are at greatest risk. Almost half of the country’s private television stations could also be in jeopardy, according to the report.

“It’s been carnage out there,” said Daniel Bernhard, executive director of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, a journalism advocacy group. “There are an increasing number of Canadian cities and towns and areas that now have no local media at all – no newspaper, hardly no local broadcaster.”


  1. Next will be the cable companies – “hurting” because people are cutting the cord.

    Why on earth do I have to pay for 4 US stations that I CANNOT watch due to simulcast regulations? All I need is PBS, but I HAVE to take and pay for the other 4.

    And would it KILL the “Canadian” stations to produce their own programs instead of rushing to Hollywood every year to buy – at inflated prices – the most vacant, offensive programming known to man?

    THEN, these same broadcast outlets complain that advertisers don’t support them. Could it be that advertisers are waking up to the fact that viewers are not content to sit through a 44 minute program stretched out to 60 minutes – interrupted by constant automobile ads and medical device ads and toilet paper ads?

    I mean, really – how many cars and stair elevators can you possibly buy?

  2. “essential service” It would fit that definition if it was investigating and telling the truth. Otherwise, the media is simply a propaganda tool, which is the antithesis of essential service.

    Consider this thought: The media investigates and tells the truth and provides sufficient information to allow people to discern for themselves what is real and what is bull$hit. Listeners and watchers find it of value to listen/watch in order to make actionable decisions and thus continue to listen/watch. Stations are able to convey to advertisers that they have such a listenership/viewership. Advertisers pay money to stations.

    If this scenario took place in March of this year, people would have seen that the UN, WHO, Tam, Henry etc are globalist apparatchiks and Trudeau, Ford, Horgan etc are either globalist stooges are are too weak-kneed to be real leaders. Thus, efforts would have been directed to looking after long term care facilities and the rest of us would continue to work, pay our bills, pay our taxes, purchase items that advertisers advertise on the radio and tv.

    Amazing how that works. A positive gain from being truthful. Who knew?

    We all knew. We have known right from the first bite of the apple that lies and deceit are pathways to destruction.

  3. Oh no! Poor broadcasters! Seemingly at risk to becoming irrelevant like poor factory workers when technology outdates their factories as has happened thousands of times!

    Boo hoo!

  4. This line caught my eye in the article:

    “A report published in August by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters predicts that as many as 200 of the country’s 737 private radio stations could close their doors over the next year”

    200 stations?

    Should we start a list of potential candidates?

  5. Why isn’t Mr. Pattison buying these up at 10 cents on the dollar ? He paid over $15 million for the
    Q/Zone and $ millions for the Vancouver Island stations ?

  6. The formula is simple. Beg the CRTC for more licences, stock the stations with mindless drivel, hope the product will sell, and if it doesn’t, go back to the CRTC and ask for financial (taxpayer) aid. Most markets are over-saturated, and should be culled. The pandemic has done what common sense didn’t.

  7. HAHAHHAHA – FAKE NEWS broadcasters/TEE VEE stations and FAKE NEWS websites all “struggling” to stay alive.

    I can’t possible think of one reason why these FAKE NEWS media outlets are struggling so hard.


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