The federal broadcast regulator, the CRTC, has awarded Quebecor’s Sun TV News a category two broadcasting licence to operate a national English-language 24-7 news-and-opinion channel. Unlike the category one licences enjoyed by competitors—CBC News Network and CTV News Channel—Sun TV News had to settle for a category two licence, which is granted to most “specialty” channels, such as Animal Planet, National Geographic Channel, the NHL Network and Fox News Channel.
“We welcome a diversity of voices. We want to have as much news out there as possible, as many different voices.
“As a Category 2 licence, there’s absolutely no problem. If their [Quebecor’s] original application had been in this format, we would have sent it [the licence] to them by return mail, basically.”
– Konrad von Finckenstein
A category one licence would have guaranteed Sun TV News a place among the default channels for all cable subscribers, i.e., must-carry status. Unfortunately for Quebecor, the CRTC is not considering new category one applications until October 2011, the deadline for the switchover of Canadian TV from analog to digital. Quebecor then requested a “must-carry” exemption for its Category 2 licence bid, but announced in October it was dropping that request. As a result, cable and satellite providers have a choice as to whether or not they will carry the new network.
Since its initial announcement that it intended to launch an all news-opinion channel to replace its Toronto-based Sun TV station, Quebecor has announced it has hired several personalities, including Krista Erickson, Charles Adler, David Akin, Brian Lilley and Ezra Levant.
Sun TV News is widely expected to model itself after the right-leaning and opinion-heavy Fox News Channel, earning itself the nickname, “Fox News North.” Progressives became apoplectic over the prospect that such a right-leaning news service might become available in Canada, leading prominent members of their group, including Margaret Atwood, to sign their name to a petition to block the channel’s licence. So much for free speech.
According to Sun TV head Luc Lavoie, the new service is expected to go on air in March 2011, and will present “hard news” from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., and then switch to what he called a “straight talk” format of opinion and commentary.
Congratulations to Sun TV News and good luck.