Rogers Media is shutting down its CityNews Ottawa radio station effective immediately, the company confirmed to OBJ on Thursday.
“We’ve made the difficult decision to close CityNews Ottawa (1310 AM) due to low audiences, declining revenue and restrictive regulatory policies for AM radio,” a spokesperson for Rogers Sports and Media said in an email on Thursday afternoon.
“We deeply appreciate and thank our listeners, and all the employees and contributors for their dedication over the years.”
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The spokesperson said Rogers has laid off fewer than 10 employees at the all-news station, including on-air personalities such as Sam Laprade, producers and anchors. Workers were told their employment with the station was terminated as of Thursday morning.
Rogers said the company’s other radio stations in the region, which include CHEZ 106, COUNTRY 101 and KiSS 105.3, are not affected by the move.
“News and information (traffic and weather) will continue to air across our Ottawa music stations, and we maintain a strong local presence in Ottawa through the CityNews Ottawa website and its social channels,” the company said in a statement.
Rogers will continue to employ two reporters to cover Parliament Hill as part of its Ottawa news bureau, and digital reporters will continue to work for CityNewsOttawa.ca, the statement added.
A source said CityNews Ottawa’s licence is being returned to the CRTC, which regulates broadcasters in Canada.
The closure marks the end of a century-long run for the city’s oldest radio station, which was originally launched in 1922 under the call sign CKCO.
Rogers gained control of the station then known as Oldies 1310 in 1994 when it acquired media company Maclean-Hunter, which previously owned the station.
The station switched to an all-news format under the name 1310 News in October 2010 and adopted its current branding three years ago. Its past employees include current Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, who hosted a talk show on the station for several years, and former CTV Ottawa news anchor and city councillor Carol Anne Meehan.
The move marks the latest hit to local news this year, after BCE Inc. announced it would close or sell nine radio stations and slash six per cent of Bell Media’s workforce in response to unfavourable policy and regulatory conditions.
The closure also follows Metroland Media Group’s decision last month to end the print editions of its community newspapers, including those in Perth, Renfrew, Arnprior, Smiths Falls and Kemptville. The company is seeking bankruptcy protection after sustaining years of financial losses.
In addition, the Eastern Ontario media sector suffered another blow last month when The Glengarry News closed after 131 years covering the communities of North and South Grenville.
Publisher Richard Mahoney told OBJ the publication’s closure was sudden but not entirely unexpected, as revenue sources had eroded significantly in the past five years.
News outlets have been under increasing pressure as online giants like Google and Facebook owner Meta have scooped up advertising dollars.
Earlier this year, the federal government passed the Online News Act, which will force digital giants to pay media outlets for content they share or repurpose on their platforms.
Carleton University associate professor Ian Lee said CityNews Ottawa’s demise is a sign of the times as media organizations, particularly those catering to local audiences, struggle to retain market share.
“The whole news ecosystem is clearly in decline because of the changing viewership and digitization of everything, including media,” said Lee, who teaches at Carleton’s Sprott School of Business.
“Nonetheless, it’s still a very sad day. I understand the logic of the economics. At the same time, (CityNews Ottawa) was filling a niche that I thought was important.”
Lee said when local media outlets close, residents have less access to news that directly affects them.
“We should all be worried about this,” he said. “You’re not going to get local Ottawa news streaming from Buffalo, New York or some other part of Canada or the States. When a newspaper or a station disappears, that’s an absolute reduction in the value of the (news) coverage to the people of the region.
“We’re going to have almost no media whatsoever at the local level reporting on local issues, and I just think that’s a tragedy.”
– With files from the Canadian Press