Canadian news networks must be offered to all cable, satellite subscribers: CRTC

by Steve Rennie, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – Cable and satellite companies will be required to give their consumers the option of subscribing to Sun News Network and every other Canadian news channel, starting next spring.

Thursday’s announcement by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission sets a mid-March deadline for cable and satellite companies to offer all Canadian news services either in bundles or a la carte.

“Canadian news services are an important part of our democracy,” CRTC chair Jean-Pierre Blais said in a statement.

“With the rules we are announcing today, Canadians, as citizens, will have access to the news services that are of interest to them and will therefore have an opportunity to be exposed to a variety of opinions on matters of public concern.”

The CRTC previously rejected Sun News Network’s bid for a guaranteed spot on basic cable and satellite services — known as “mandatory carriage.”

Such a designation would have forced cable and satellite companies to carry the network on all basic digital and analog services.

However, in rejecting the Sun News bid, the CRTC acknowledged there are significant obstacles facing newly launched news services trying to compete against established networks such as CBC News Network and CTV News Channel.

The CRTC also said at the time that it would review the framework for national news services in the same category as Sun News, including CBC News Network and CTV News Channel.

Some had suggested a “must-offer” designation — which would only require cable and satellite companies to make it available to their customers to subscribe if they chose to do so — might be a suitable compromise for Sun News Network.

But network executive Kory Teneycke, the former director of communications to Prime Minister Stephen Harper who helped launch Sun News, said earlier this year that a “must-offer” designation would not suffice to save the channel, which lost $17 million last year.

“Let us be very clear: a ‘must-offer’ licence would not have a meaningful impact on the current trajectory of Sun News and would inevitably lead to the closure of the station,” Teneycke told the CRTC during a hearing in May.

“Let me repeat: a ‘must-offer’ licence would be a death sentence.”

It is not clear if the network still holds that view. A Quebecor spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

In a statement Thursday, Sun News said it welcomed the CRTC’s decision.

“This was never just about Sun News, it was always about putting Canadian TV first,” Teneycke said.

“It is no longer okay to treat foreign news channels better than Canadian ones.”

The network says it will now start negotiating new cable and satellite agreements “that are in alignment with the new policy framework to ensure that Sun News is treated in a substantially similar fashion to other all news channels.”

Earlier this year, Sun News Network told the CRTC it would earn 18 cents a month from every household in English Canada — and nine cents per month from French-language markets — subscribing to basic cable if it received a mandatory-carriage designation.

It also argued current agreements — allowing the channel to be offered in only 40 per cent of Canadian homes — are inadequate.

It also said these distribution agreements were affecting their ability to raise advertising revenues.

Quebecor asked the CRTC to grant Sun News Network mandatory carriage through the end of 2017, meaning that cable and satellite companies would be required to carry it on all basic digital and analog services during that time.

It also asked for better channel placement.

Quebecor argued this would allow the network to increase its viewership in the way its main Canadian competitors — the 24-hour news networks operated by CBC and CTV — did for many years.

“We don’t begrudge our competitors in any way, we simply want the same rules that they enjoyed — at least for the next five years,” Quebecor wrote in its filings to the CRTC.




Browse

Canadian news networks must be offered to all cable, satellite subscribers: CRTC

  1. Is the CRTC correct in it’s assumption that Sun News is in the same category as CBC News Network or the CTV News Channel? I think not.

    • Indeed. Is Sun a “news” channel just because they call themselves one?

    • If this is a first step toward Sun getting full equal status, and if it isn’t, why was Kory T sent there? The Cons will have their own channel called SUN News on basic cable within a year or two.
      I guess the NDP/Libs and the Greens/ Environmental groups need to start their own cable news channels and see how it goes.

  2. If I understand this ruling correctly, Sun TV is to be made available to anyone who wishes to subscribe to it specifically (a la carte) and also must be included any news bundle.

    Does this mean that all 183 (or so) people who’ve been clamoring for access to it can now get it on a equal footing with all other news services? I sure hope this puts an end to their whining about CRTC bias.

    • I hope for an unicorn for Christmas. Guess we can compare notes on our hopes in the new year.

  3. I can’t imagine there was any doubt how this one would turn out.
    But how CRTC officials could keep a straight face while putting a propaganda channel like Sun News in the same category as CTV and CBC is beyond belief. I don’t think anyone from any side of the spectrum could claim that CBC and CTV don’t make a pretty good effort to provide a fair honest news service. There certainly isn’t an hour by hour continuous ideological slant to everything they do as you find with the so called ‘Fox North’.
    Freedom of speech is great and anyone who wants to buy extreme outlets should be able to do so they way they would access a far right magazine of online publication. But forcing every cable customer to have to shuffle look at it as they scroll along is pure Government interference in my right to choose.

    • A real indignation to have to scroll past something, better to just censor opinions you don’t like or agree with so we all think like you, right?

      • You got that right.

      • No not censor, just available to all who want it. But’s it’s not CTV or CBC as you know. I think I’ll ignore lots of news sites and channels I don’t like. But if you think SUN news is the equal in balance and fairness of those two I guess you are a buyer. But leave me out.

  4. “Let me repeat: a ‘must-offer’ license would be a death sentence.” A death sentence would be wonderful, but I suspect Stephen Harper will ensure that Sun News will get what they want.

  5. Veneer: Your cable will be unbundled! You can watch what you choose!
    Particle board: Sun News!

    And that’s a Harper cabinet.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *