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The Radio-Canada CBC building is seen Wednesday, June 5, 2013 in Montreal.

Paul Chiasson

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."

Frequency breakdown

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. AM revenue declined by 1.6 per cent to $306-million.

CBC's FM challenge

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.

Local is where it's at

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The bulk of radio revenue comes from local advertising – car dealerships, restaurants and other local businesses that have no interest in reaching listeners in other markets (as opposed to large brands that buy chunks of advertising to run across the country without a particular local pitch).

Local time sales accounted for $1.13-billion in revenue, while national sales came in at $453-million. National sales may account for a smaller portion of the market, but it did gain by 2.7 per cent compared to the year before while local sales were 0.4 per cent lower.

Syndication breakdown

The stations have earned less on syndication over the last five years, as the industry consolidates and fewer players hold more stations. This allows the larger players – such as Bell Media, Astral Media, Corus and Cogeco – to share more of their own content with their own stations in other markets rather than buying programming produced elsewhere.

The stations earned $3.8-million from syndication in 2012, down 34 per cent from a year ago and 55 per cent from 2008.

Salary gap

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Anyone reading the report could be forgiven for dropping whatever they are doing and racing to their local radio station in search of a job. There were 10,050 workers in the industry last year, with an average salary of $67,759 including benefits (that's AM/FM, in all languages).

Those numbers swing wildly from market to market – the average salary for Montreal is $104,000, Calgary $91,000, Ottawa $80,000 and Toronto $72,000. But large salaries for the big names that pull in the ratings, managers, and higher wages at the unionized CBC pull the average up.

The country's stations said 54 per cent of their expenses are for employees, up from 52 per cent in 2008.

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