Posted in Opinion, TV

Some truth about Sun TV News

Sun TV News, the new specialty channel being proposed by Quebecor, is in the news again because their second attempt at CRTC approval has been released to the public.

After the previous application for a Category 1 specialty channel was outright rejected by the CRTC, Quebecor has decided to put forward an application for a Category 2 channel, just like almost every new specialty channel in the past few years.

Both categories are digital channels, meaning they won’t be on analog cable and aren’t part of the basic package. The difference is that Category 1 channels must have a minimum of 50% Canadian content, and in return all digital cable and satellite providers must make the channel available on a discretionary basis. For Category 2 channels, the dealings with television providers are mostly unregulated. They negotiate carriage fees with each other, and the providers can choose whether or not to make the channel available.

But while the Sun TV News application is technically a Category 2 channel, Quebecor is asking for an exception that grants it the biggest advantage of Category 1: mandatory availability, at least for the first three years.

In both the previous and current applications, media coverage and left-wing reaction has confused the nature of what Quebecor is asking for. That’s partially understandable. CRTC’s regulations can be overly complicated sometimes, particularly when it comes to what channels providers have to carry.

This Canadian Press article, for example, states three times that the new channel would be “funded with money from cable TV fees”, even though that’s not what the application is requesting. The statements are attributed to activists, but aren’t challenged in the article, leaving readers to assume they are true. This report uses the term “must-carry”, which has a special meaning at the CRTC that doesn’t apply in this case. Quebecor isn’t asking for must-carry status. This Globe and Mail story also uses the term “must carry”, as does this National Post report.

“Must carry” vs. “must offer”

In an effort to reduce the confusion, let me explain a bit how this works.

There is a list of channels that all cable and satellite providers must provide as part of their basic packages. In addition to the local television channels, this also includes things like CPAC and APTN. Other channels like CBC News Network and the Weather Network are also included in basic packages. Fees, set by the CRTC, are charged to all subscribers to pay for these channels.

Beyond that, there are levels of discretionary tiers that have different statuses at the CRTC. Some are allowed on analog cable on a discretionary basis or can be part of the basic package. Some, like Category 1 channels, are offered only on a digital basis unless an exception is warranted.

Category 2 channels are the least regulated type, and the one preferred by both the CRTC and new channel applicants because of how easy it is and how low the minimum requirements are.

Though it might seem like your cable or satellite company has every channel in existence, it doesn’t. Bell TV, for example, doesn’t carry MuchMoreRetro. Videotron doesn’t carry Fox News Channel (somewhat ironically, if you think Quebecor is an evil right-wing empire). Shaw Direct doesn’t carry Court TV (now Investigation Discovery) or TFO. There is no regulation requiring these companies to make these channels available. They decide what their users might be interested in, based on what the channels offer and what they want to charge the TV provider. The channels, meanwhile, ask people to “call your cable or satellite provider” to pressure them into adding the channel to their lineup.

What Quebecor wants with Sun TV News is to bypass this process, and require that all digital TV providers have the channel in their lineups. The wholesale price would still be negotiated between the provider and the network, and the provider could package the channel and charge for it however it feels.

Kory Teneycke, the former Harper aide who is behind this application, calls it “must offer” to distinguish it from “must carry”. I’ll use that expression for lack of a better one.

In short, Quebecor is asking that this channel be available on all digital cable and satellite providers, but the choice to take it would be entirely up to the consumer. Nobody would be forced to pay for the channel if they didn’t want it.

The package exception

One scenario that might see people paying for Sun TV News without wanting to would be if they got it as part of a package. It would make sense for a news channel theme pack to include Sun TV News with CTV News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News Channel, BNN, CNBC, Al Jazeera English and BBC World News. Someone might select that wanting all the news channels but having moral objections to Sun TV (and, presumably, Fox News).

But this packaging is entirely up to the TV provider. It’s not regulated by the CRTC and isn’t negotiated with the channels.

The CRTC only regulates packaging to ensure that porn channels and single-view religious channels aren’t forced on consumers as part of packages. Theoretically, the CRTC could require the same thing for Sun TV News that it requires for Playboy TV, but that seems a bit excessive.

Of course, if cable and satellite providers did away with such packages, or offered people à la carte options, this wouldn’t be an issue. But so far, only one major TV provider offers that kind of à la carte service: Quebecor-owned Videotron.

Ignorance breeds fear

What gets me most about the reaction to this application is how much people are willing to oppose it without knowing what it is. There has been no proposed program grid, not even any confirmed hosts. All we know about Sun TV News is that it wants to be a mix of news and opinion, that its creators consider the other news channels “boring”, and that those creators are Conservatives who want to create a channel based partially on Fox News.

A group of activists has already started a petition that has 68,000 signatures on it (we’re not sure how many of those are real people). It repeats the non-truth about forcing people to pay for the channel, and throws in some drama that makes it seem as if Stephen Harper is trying to force his ideological agenda into our brains through the CRTC.

Sun Media had a field day with this, saying that the petition is based out of New York and that author Margaret Atwood and her cronies are trying to suppress free speech. Even Teneycke himself weighed in.

Fox News Cheap

It’s hard to judge something like this until you’ve seen it. Sun TV News could become a quality all-news network that bring much-needed competition to the industry. It could become a Fox News North, as critics have called it, providing news coverage to make people think it’s objective, but loading primetime hours with fearmongering blowhards who care more about expressing their opinions than seeking the truth.

The arguments from Quebecor that this isn’t Fox News North are contradicted by statements in the CRTC appliction, particularly this one:

The most comparable channel to STN is located in the USA, Fox News. Both channels’ strategy is to focus hard news and commentary that raise public debates and reactions on different topics. Fox News has been USA’s most watched All News channel for years and still is. In 2008-2009, Fox News’s audience was as high as CNN’s and MSNBC’s combined. Fox News does not have extensive distribution in Canada. Therefore, this represents a true opportunity for STN.

But while their goal is to replicate Fox News, I think the more likely scenario is that Sun TV News will be an experiment in cheap newsgathering that will quickly become a laughing stock because of its horribly small budget. According to the CRTC application, the channel plans to have a budget of about $25 million, of which $15 million would go to programming and technical costs. Though it’s hard to directly compare this to CBC and CTV, since they take advantage of their local stations and national newscasts (I’m trying hard not to use the word “synergies” here), it’s still very little money. We’re looking at a staff of maybe 100 people, including journalists, anchors, producers and technicians, advertising salespeople, marketers, etc. Anyone who thinks he can run a national news network on that kind of budget is probably kidding himself.

The feared scenario, that they’ll spend little money on news budget and focus all their efforts on opinion, makes more sense considering how little they have to spend. But even then, the big-name blowhards come at a high price, and a $25 million total budget isn’t enough to get a Canadian Glenn Beck on the air if you want anything more than a webcam and laptop in front of him.

How Sun TV News describes itself

Though it’s obviously self-serving, we really can’t judge Sun TV News based on anything other than the statements of the people behind it.

Here, verbatim from the CRTC application, is how Sun TV News describes its “hard news” and “straight talk”:

“Hard News” will almost exclusively rely on live reporting and real-time conversations with journalists covering breaking news – as opposed to the more traditional news wheel format that features a revolving set of news stories. But these headlines will be analysed, commented upon and discussed at length. The host will question the reporter and will have an intelligent exchange that will often open to further debate.

News will not be read like in a news bulletin. Daytime “hard news” will be covering a broad range of political, economic and lifestyle stories that matter to Canadians both rural and urban. So even its “hard news” portion will not be “all news” like it has traditionally been done in Canada. Short traditional news bulletin may be programmed but not more than once an hour.

“Straight Talk” will be programs featuring hosts and guests that deliver strong opinions and analysis of stories that are important to Canadians that day. “Straight talk” opinion journalism at night will be clear, intelligent and engaging – featuring a broader array of television personalities and signature hosts who will challenge viewers to think – and decide – for themselves. The challenging of ideas in itself may feed the news but at least will attempt to have Canadians make their own mind on the events occurring every day in Canada.

That could easily describe either Fox News Channel or MSNBC. Or a bunch of other networks. But it gives a bit of an idea what they’re going for.

What the CRTC should do

The CRTC doesn’t have the luxury of watching this network and judging whether it’s good for Canadian TV watchers. It has to go on the application itself.

Based on that application, I would argue the CRTC should accept the network, maybe even with the exception they’re requesting (particularly since it’s only temporary).

The reason is simple: The channel proposes to create all its content. It says it will have zero foreign content. That alone should put it on a level higher than those Category 2 channels that air little but Family Guy reruns, 80s music videos, Star Trek movie marathons and ancient sitcoms.

The fact that Sun TV News wants to add to both news coverage and political debate in this country should certainly count for something as well, even though we may not agree with it.

The potential for abuse is there, but the CRTC already requires broadcasters to adhere to a code of ethics through the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. Sun TV News has already accepted that it would be subject to those rules. The CRTC can’t prohibit someone from starting up a channel because fearmongers disagree with the political leanings of its creator.

Sun TV News made sure to suggest in its application that without mandatory availability for at least the first three years on air, its business case would fall apart:

If mandatory access for a maximum period of three years is not granted to Sun TV News, one or more major cable or satellite providers might decide to not offer this service. This would be fatal to our business case as shown in Appendix 1, and would likely result in the cancellation of the Sun TV News project.

The CRTC shouldn’t let itself get bullied. But it should set policy encouraging new channels to include as much original, Canadian content as possible. Sun TV News, which seems to put this figure at 100%, should be rewarded for that, just like any other channel should.

Sun TV News’s suggestion that it get a break from closed-captioning requirements, though, should be ignored. Broadcasters routinely request exemptions from obligations to CC programming, like a high school student who wants an extension on a term paper.

Though it doesn’t specifically request relief from CC requirements, it gives this quote: “However commendable this obligation is, the sums that need to be invested in such an amount of closed captioning means a lower amount is left for Canadian programs.”

I’m pretty sure everyone else could make a similar argument.

By the numbers

Looking through Sun TV News’s CRTC application, I found some interesting financial projections I thought would be worth sharing.

  • Though the wholesale fee would be negotiated between the broadcaster and TV provider, Sun TV News uses a base fee of $0.25 per subscriber per month in its analysis, and seems to suggest that they would aim for this. (That doesn’t mean the channel would cost $0.25 to consumers though – providers charge consumers far above the wholesale rate.)
  • If the mandatory availability or “must offer” requirement is given, Sun TV News expects 17% penetration in the first year and up to 50% penetration by the end of the seven-year license at $0.25 per month. (“Penetration” defined as the number of cable/satellite subscribers who pay for the channel.)
  • Based on this analysis, the channel would get $15 million a year in subscriber revenue, which would be combined with $10 million a year in advertising to reach the $25 million budget.

Quebecor survey shows Sun TV News wouldn’t be popular

The CRTC application includes some survey data from polling they conducted. Though they do a good job of spinning it, the survey shows only 41% of Canadian TV watchers would be somewhat (36%) or very (5%) likely to subscribe to the channel. This makes its 50% penetration rate seem a bit far-fetched.

Similarly, a survey showed “Canadians do not find reporters to have an inherent bias in the news they report” (52% vs 7%), contradicting claims by Quebecor that Canadians are tired of the “lamestream” media’s biases.

When asked about their satisfaction with current news choices, 67% in Quebecor’s survey rate it six or higher on a scale of 1-10. Quebecor spins this as saying Canadians are “not extremely satisfied”, but when almost half are rating seven or eight on a scale of 1-10, I would argue that’s pretty satisfied. Postmedia’s Andrew Mayeda agrees.

Finally, even though Teneycke and company are pushing this as a competitor to CBC and CTV news channels, the application softens the stance and even argues that those networks won’t be seriously affected by the appearance of Sun TV News. Instead, it argues that it will bring Canadians back from CNN (which it simultaneously argues is winning Canadian viewers from CBC and CTV because it has more opinionative programming in primetime, and is losing American viewers to Fox News because its primetime programming isn’t opinionative enough).

“In the long run, we believe the impact on the existing Canadian all-news services will be negligible,” it says.

I’m sure that comes as a relief to them.

39 thoughts on “Some truth about Sun TV News

  1. snowy2004

    “In the long run, we believe the impact on the existing Canadian all-news services will be negligible”

    Seriously. That’s in their application? Wow. It’s also sad that their own numbers show they’ll have trouble finding people to care about them.

    Whatever. Let them try. They might make it work or they might fail. Worst comes to worst, I’ll have something to watch and groan at my TV.

    Reply
  2. Jim J.

    Worst comes to worst, I’ll have something to watch and groan at my TV.

    Or not. Unless I completely misinterpret one of the principal points of this article, not a single cable TV subscriber is going to be forced to pay for this channel.

    One of the very legitimate criticisms of left-leaning politics is that (compared to right-leaning individuals) they’re much more quick to offer the argument that, “well, if you don’t like it, don’t watch it.” This is, of course, unless the content offends their progressive/liberal/lefty sensibilities.

    Then, somehow, the content shouldn’t even be offered at all – even to the extent that the government should actively intervene to suppress it.

    Reply
    1. snowy2004

      I know I don’t need to watch it or that it might not even be offered in my cable package. What I meant was that if it were (I take the basic digital package from Rogers), I might watch if for a few moments just to have a bit of “fun” and groan at my TV, if the content is even groan-worthy. Like I do when I sometimes end up watching the start of The Lang & O’Leary Exchange. It can be therapeutic.

      Reply
  3. Marc

    Excellent analysis. Nothing wrong with having more voices to choose from. And that’s in spite of the leftist fearmongerers who say they’re all about free speech yet love to censor ideas they disagree with.

    Reply
  4. Nicolas

    Thanks for the balanced background information. I was not aware, for exemple, of the little budget issue. Look like a news channel version of V in English to me.

    Reply
  5. AlexH

    I think what they are counting on (but are not stupid enough to put in their application) is that cable and sat companies will put this channel in their packages in order to puff up the apparently Canadian content in their packages, allowing them to offer more US channels in the end. They could end up with signficant numbers of “subscribers” who never actually turn the channel on. That is how we end up with packages that include channels like “book” and “tv tropolis”, which the ratings I have seen are about as popular as test patterns. They have huge numbers of subscribers, but few actual viewers.

    Cable and sat viewers are milked to support unwanted and unwatched services, all in the name of Canadian content. Ain’t that a wonderful thing?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      The only Canadian content requirement for cable and satellite companies is that more than half of the channels each subscriber has must be Canadian. It’s actually pretty hard to break that rule, when you consider how many channels are Canadian vs. how many are imported.

      I watch TVtropolis quite a bit. It airs a lot of Family Guy reruns.

      BookTV, meanwhile, is a Category 1 channel, which has rules to require favourable packaging.

      Reply
      1. AlexH

        The cable and sat companies would love to add more profitable US channels, and the creation of more and more Canadian specialty channels allows for that sort of thing. If you want to have 100 US channels, you need to have 100 Canadian channels to pad out the packages. It is one of the many reasons why we get to enjoy so much of the same wonderful programming on some many different channels. They get to collection the cable fees, and the cable companies get to offer more channels from outside of Canada as part of the game.

        All Tvtroplis brings to the table is a collection of US network reruns (family guy, friends, Fraser), cable reruns (such as Hoarders and Parking Wars from A&E) and a whole big glob of programming from Food, HGTV, and other other Canadian channels). While you may enjoy the family guy re-runs, let me assure you that there are probably 50+ episodes a week aired elsewhere on your programming grid. Little is added, except the chance to throw the channel into a package and make some money from people who never actually watch the channel.

        It’s a simple system, and it explains why the smart players (like Quebecor) play both sides of the deal, as both a broadcaster and a distributor. They get money on both sides, and don’t have to fight to hard with themselves to get carriage and “forced” income.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          The cable and sat companies would love to add more profitable US channels, and the creation of more and more Canadian specialty channels allows for that sort of thing.

          Not quite. Providers can’t just add foreign channels to their lineup until they have been approved for distribution in Canada by the CRTC. Most of the U.S. ones that have been approved (certainly the most popular ones) are already being provided.

          Plus, the fact that providers (particularly satellite providers) are limited in the number of channels they can provide at a time means the last thing they want to do is add a bunch of useless channels that nobody wants.

          Reply
          1. AlexH

            As you said yourself, not all cable and sat companies are carrying all possible channels, for various reasons. Old analog systems did have a problem of a shortage of channel space, but as they all move to digital / set top boxes, the number of potential channels carried is limited only by their ability to obtain them and get permission from the CRTC.

            Even BellTV, which is “limited” by the number of available transponders on their birds can easily whip up a fair number of new channels to cover special events and the like.

            Not all systems carry all possible US channels.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              Even BellTV, which is “limited” by the number of available transponders on their birds can easily whip up a fair number of new channels to cover special events and the like.

              Yeah, it’s funny how that works. Not enough room for local stations in small markets, but plenty of room for NFL games in HD.

              Reply
  6. Jeremy Ell

    Thanks for clearing up the clutter around this issue. I have to Fox News disgusts me but, as you’ve pointed out, that’s not a good reason to oppose this channels creation.

    The one thing I find kind of funny is that, even if they’re only trying to get must offer status, isn’t the Fox News crowd supposed to be opposed to that kind of government interference with free market capitalism? Presumably (based on nothing but what I’ve read of their application in this post), once they hit they air they’re going to be raving about the evils of big government yadda, yadda. If they want to practice what they preach, it should be up to the distributors themselves if they want to offer the channel or not, not the CRTC.

    I think the CRTC should offer STN a category 2 license without the special must offer provision.

    Reply
  7. ATSC

    I think this is really just a major snow job so that CKXT-TV 52 in Toronto gets out of it’s over the air license. This channel has been around for over a decade. Not much of a channel. Almost always ended up picking up the leftovers of US programs once CTV, Global & Rogers’ CITY are finished over bidding for. The stations digital signal has been on the air for a year or two now, CKXT-DT. It managed to also place several digital re-transmitters in Southern Ontario. Including Ottawa on channel 20. Just as we approach Canada’s digital conversion date, CKXT is announcing that it wants to go all news on cable only. What does that mean? Cable access fees. An easy way to make money. After all, when CHCH-TV 11 in Hamilton, ON was purchased by Channel Zero, they turned CHCH into a all news during the day news channel. They didn’t go barking about a cable only channel. They committed to having CHCH offer it’s new programming free over the air. But not CKXT. They failed in their programming, and opted for cable access only news. CKXT has even dropped what leftover US programs they even had. Thus committing themselves to this all news format under their SUN TV name tag. And who picked up those US programs? The good folks over at CHCH-TV. Which by the way is also running a Digital signal at the same time in the area. Plus has analog re-transmitters all over Ontario. Including Channel 11 in Ottawa. So to me, this is really a abandon over the air TV plan for CKXT for cable access fees. All the noise about a FOX style news channel in Canada is just marketing noise to attract attention by both those right and left of the political spectrum.

    Channel Zero also owns CJNT-TV 62 in Montreal. So, some of the US shows that CHCH-TV 11 in Hamilton picked up from CKXT-TV 52 are also showing up on CJNT-TV 62 in Montreal.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Quebecor hasn’t tried to hide the fact that CKXT in Toronto isn’t profitable and they want to shut it down. And their suggestion that you can just swap a broadcasting station with a specialty channel is a bit silly.

      There are differences between CKXT and CHCH. CHCH is based out of Hamilton, and previously had a large amount of local content (and a large number of employees). Its new business model isn’t just all-day news, but all-day local news, with movies (and soon U.S. TV shows) in primetime. With CP24 already providing wall-to-wall local news for Toronto (and, arguably, every other Canadian network doing the same), CKXT trying a similar model would almost certainly fail. So it’s trying for a national news network, funded mainly by subscriber fees.

      Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Other than making use of Sun Media reporters at Sun papers in Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto and Ottawa, and QMI Agency journalists from across the country, it’s not clear.

      Reply
  8. Fassero

    “Of course, if cable and satellite providers did away with such packages, or offered people à la carte options, this wouldn’t be an issue. But so far, only one major TV provider offers that kind of à la carte service: Quebecor-owned Videotron.”

    Uh, Steve – I’m more than sure Bell is now offering extensive a la carte options. In fact, you even wrote an article about it at the time of launch.

    Actually, it’s funny with Bell. They used to have two news packages. Now if you want to put one together, you have to go all over the map. CBC Newsworld is mandatory in the “Basic Package” you have to take. CTV Newsnet…er…”News Channel” and Fox News are available a la carte. To get CNN though, you have to take it in a “favorites” bundle at a cost of over 5 bucks a month. Al Jazeera is called and “Add-on” that you pay another 3 bucks a month for (although it’s bundled with CNN International.)

    I won’t enter the debate about TVTropolis. It probably sucks now that it’s thrown in a bunch of Canwest’s productions for Food Network and HGTV. Mind you, I’ll give them a new moniker – “We might suck but, compare with CTV’s butchering job on TVLand, we’re pure television gold!”

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Uh, Steve – I’m more than sure Bell is now offering extensive a la carte options. In fact, you even wrote an article about it at the time of launch.

      Bell does offer à la carte, but as I wrote at the time, it’s only in Quebec, as an obvious answer to Videotron. And it doesn’t include a bunch of popular channels.

      I don’t think that qualifies as “extensive”.

      Reply
      1. Fassero

        No more “extensive” than Videotron’s national availability. Last I checked, their TV service is only available in one province and it’s not like it has some kind of monopoloistic stranglehold in said territory either. Nor have I ever heard that a factual point can be dismissed because of the “motivation” as to why it exists. Oh well – i guess I’ll leave journalism to the journalists… :)

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          No more “extensive” than Videotron’s national availability. Last I checked, their TV service is only available in one province and it’s not like it has some kind of monopoloistic stranglehold in said territory either.

          You think Videotron should be dismissed because it’s a regional cable company? By that definition, Rogers and Shaw cable should be dismissed as well. But I don’t see how that makes any sense.

          Nor have I ever heard that a factual point can be dismissed because of the “motivation” as to why it exists.

          You said: “Bell is now offering extensive a la carte options” – My point is that offering something in one province – and for only some channels – is hardly “extensive”, and without Videotron it wouldn’t even be there.

          Reply
  9. Must carry vs. Must offer

    On this particular issue I would just like to point out that neither term has any real regulatory meaning. You will never see the CRTC use “must carry” or “must offer” in any regulatory decision. I did a word search in Quebecor’s Sun TV News application and they do not even use the term “must offer” in any of the official documentation.

    I don’t think either term is technically incorrect when used in the Sun TV News context although it is true that one could infer a different meaning from each term.

    The way I see it, however, is that it becomes a matter of semantics and sort of a chicken and egg argument. For Rogers, Shaw, etc. to offer a channel to their customers they have to carry it on their cable (or satellite) systems. Do they not? So when you look at it from this point of view, you could argue that Quebecor is indeed applying for a three year “must carry” guarantee.

    Of course, “must offer” sounds much nicer from a public relations standpoint and is also an acceptable way to describe the application. Perhaps more acceptable but that is up for debate… As I have already said both terms have no real regulatory meaning.

    Reply
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  13. Rita

    Thanks for the balanced piece. It’s certainly given me more to consider since my initial reaction to the channel coming Canada was quite negative.

    However, I do take issue with 2 of your points:

    1. “must carry” vs. “must offer” – having worked for (both digital and analog) specialty channels for many years, I know that most of the battle to make the business plans work is getting BDUs (cable, satellite operators etc.) to at least offer the channel and this during times when operators claimed not to have space available for the channel. I’m sure all of these channels would have loved a “must offer” option. Instead, business plans had to reflect this reality and a few channels came up with smart and innovative approaches to getting carriage (e.g. Teletoon Retro). While I’m certainly not a proponent of having the BDUs be the sole determinants of what we do and do not get t watch, I find it difficult to understand why Fox News North deserves any preferential treatment.

    2. the Avaaz.org petition – perhaps I have it wrong but I believe the real crux of the opposition to the application is the idea that Harper might be somehow involved and that the PMO’s office might be putting undue pressure on the CRTC (either directly or indirectly) to approve the application. Our current gov’t does seem adept at getting rid of public servants who don’t bend their way. And finally, why the flippant comment on the legitimacy of the 68,000 signatures. I know many people (full disclosure – I’m one of them) who did sign it and I know many more who also did. And no, it wasn’t because I don’t agree with FNN’s politics but because I would hope it would prevent or PM from becoming unduly involved in the process.

    Thanks again for your intelligent piece.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      1. It’s obvious that getting onto the channel grid is a huge advantage, otherwise they wouldn’t be asking for it. But I’d like to think that Sun TV News, with its all-original content (or at least all-Canadian content) contributes more to the broadcasting system than some of the Category 2 channels that have come up recently, like Teletoon Retro or Global Reality Channel. Maybe that’s not enough to get special treatment, but I think it’s something to be encouraged.

      2. The petition also condemns political interference into the CRTC process, a rumoured scandal that the chair of the CRTC categorically denies exists. It’s all based on a single speculative piece that quotes anonymous sources, and fuelled by people’s biases against the Conservative government and Stephen Harper.

      Reply
  14. Jim J.

    perhaps I have it wrong but I believe the real crux of the opposition to the application is the idea that Harper might be somehow involved

    I’m sorry, but I have to call bullshit on that. If you go to the Avaaz webpage:

    http://www.avaaz.org/en/no_fox_news_canada

    First off, I’ll note that the webpage isn’t titled, for example, “preserve the CRTC’s independence” or “support von Finkenstein” or “hands off the CRTC, Mr. Harper.” I’m guessing this isn’t an accident.

    After that friendly title in big red letters, there are two explanatory paragraphs.

    The first paragraph is so incredibly inflammatory in its language (I’ll note here that I am no fan of Fox News or of right-wing commentary generally), I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a pretty hefty percentage of the alleged 68,000 petitioners probably skipped right past the second paragraph. Even if they did read the second paragraph, if you think that most of the petitioners took that into consideration when they plugged in their info, you are giving far too much credit.

    Bottom line is, a lot of people who support this petition would be perfectly happy to tell someone who gets offended by a song that uses the word “fuck” in its lyrics to change the radio channel. However, somehow television is different; we mustn’t let people with whom we disagree about politics to use television to propagate any kind of opinion or alternative explanation of current events.

    IMHO, the vast majority of people who signed this petition couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the government meddling with the CRTC or Mr. von Finkenstein. They want to keep this channel off the public airwaves because they disagree with its editorial viewpoint before they’ve ever even seen any of its content, point finale. Other issues are nothing more than red herrings.

    Reply
  15. AlexH

    I was thinking about all of this, and I ended up framing this against the “local channels count” campaign that was waged over the last year or so.

    I can’t help but think that Quebecor is maybe testing the waters in the conversion of broadcast assets from over the air to cable, walking away from the need to maintain transmitters and all of the over the air regulations. In it’s place, they take the technology that exists (in this case the channel 52 in Toronto) and turn it from a money loser into an almost assured money maker, especially if they can get 3 years of the category 1 status to bring assured income into the process. Perhaps on the way around, they will prove that cable channels are much more profitable than over the air operations.

    More bloat on the cable and sat bills, more indirect taxation of the public, all to fund a media company that is already one of the country’s largest, all while removing local services.

    Anyone see the trend?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I can’t help but think that Quebecor is maybe testing the waters in the conversion of broadcast assets from over the air to cable, walking away from the need to maintain transmitters and all of the over the air regulations.

      I think they’re being pretty open about that. It’s clear that specialty channels are far more profitable than over-the-air local stations. Quebecor has admitted that CKXT in Toronto is bleeding money and has to be shut down, and they’re gambling that a new all-news network would make money.

      More bloat on the cable and sat bills, more indirect taxation of the public, all to fund a media company that is already one of the country’s largest, all while removing local services.

      As I tried to explain many times above, no one is being forced to buy this channel, unless the cable company requires you to buy it in order to buy something else.

      As for local services, the Toronto station is going to die either way. At least here there’s an all-news network and a net increase in Canadian jobs, Canadian journalism and Canadian programming.

      Reply
      1. AlexH

        You don’t think that Quebecor will have the channel packaged up with popular channels like CNN as quick as they can? Do you not think that perhaps a trade will be made between BCE, Rogers, and Quebecor to make sure that each of them gets their pet channel pushed into a package that pretty much assures that the vast majority of users end up paying, even if they aren’t viewers?

        With these three companies owning all sides of the game (networks, stations, production, and distribution methods), do you not think that situation screams out “triopoly”? It is clear that they have figured out that the best way to make money in the TV game in Canada isn’t to produce what people want, but rather to produce a channel that can be packaged up with popular services that people will pay for, and as a result will pay for the (unwatched) Canadian service.

        Yes, Sun News will lead to more jobs, but honestly, they might as well just tack $1 a month on to every cable and sat bill and use as journalistic welfare payouts. With so little actual demand for the channel, the only way this one floats is if consumers are put in a position to pay for it even if they don’t want it (because they want other channels in the package).

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          You don’t think that Quebecor will have the channel packaged up with popular channels like CNN as quick as they can?

          Aside from Videotron (which already has most of its channels available à la carte), Quebecor doesn’t have the power to “have the channel packaged up”.

          Do you not think that perhaps a trade will be made between BCE, Rogers, and Quebecor to make sure that each of them gets their pet channel pushed into a package that pretty much assures that the vast majority of users end up paying, even if they aren’t viewers?

          The CRTC wouldn’t look kindly on such a deal. And if you assume some quid pro quo it would mean Videotron eliminating its à la carte offerings. I don’t see that happening.

          With these three companies owning all sides of the game (networks, stations, production, and distribution methods), do you not think that situation screams out “triopoly”?

          Yes, I do. But that has as much to do with Sun TV News as it does with Space or Showcase.

          It is clear that they have figured out that the best way to make money in the TV game in Canada isn’t to produce what people want, but rather to produce a channel that can be packaged up with popular services that people will pay for, and as a result will pay for the (unwatched) Canadian service.

          Well, actually the best way to make money in the TV game in Canada is to setup a Category 2 channel with a vague enough nature of service that you can air a bunch of cheap reruns and pocket the ad money. Sun TV News would be entirely original content, which is the opposite of what you’d want to do if your goal was to make a quick buck.

          And I don’t know of any channels whose business model depends solely upon people who don’t watch it being forced to pay subscription revenue.

          Reply
          1. AlexH

            “And I don’t know of any channels whose business model depends solely upon people who don’t watch it being forced to pay subscription revenue.”

            BNN. :)

            Reply
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  17. Mendel Potok

    If you guys have spent any amount of time in the states, you’ll soon realize the terrible impact Fox News has had on what’s considered “news”. It isn’t another opinion being offered, rather a blatant attack on reality. They don’t present facts as so much as insult and demean the other side, and frankly I don’t think that is for Canadians at all.

    Reply
    1. Pâko Dallaire

      If the mainstream media weren’t so left-wing, we wouldn’t feel the need to have one that tells the other side of every story. I love Sun News, I used to watch it all the time until we switched to Fiber-Op and they will not offer it in their line-up, so I am considering changing from Fiber-Op. I only have access online and I keep up with the truth online. As CBC is paid by us the taxpayers, they should be obligated to serve all Canadians. We are not all Liberals or NDP.

      Reply

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