Seven years after the Sun News Network shut down, Canada once again has a fifth national news network in the eyes of the CRTC.
On Tuesday, the commission determined that The News Forum, a conservative low-budget news discussion channel that tries to be a bit more serious than Sun News was, can be classified as a national mainstream news network, and get the same class of licence as CBC News Network, CTV News Channel, RDI and LCN. The big perk of that licence class is that all licensed Canadian TV providers must now add The News Forum to their systems, offer it to their subscribers, and package it with other news services.
Subscribers are not forced to add the channel to their packages, but this will undoubtedly increase the total subscriber base, especially since not all Canadian providers have added TNF to their systems so far. (Bell, Rogers, Telus and SaskTel have, but Cogeco and Videotron haven’t yet.) And more subscribers will mean more revenues, especially as this status gives TNF more power in negotiating wholesale rates with providers.
In May, the CRTC denied a similar application from TNF, finding that its schedule did not show it providing updated news reports at least every 120 minutes. TNF adjusted its schedule and applied again for the status.
While the schedule has been adjusted, not much has changed with the channel. Looking at its YouTube channel, it’s still mainly talking heads having long conversations on various public affairs topics. There are no actual journalists or news stories per se, and the bent is still right-wing with former Conservative politicians like Tony Clement and Tanya Granic Allen hosting shows. And it relies very heavily on repeats to fill the schedule, with just a couple of hours of original programming a day, though they have added new shows recently.
There’s a chance that with some new revenue The News Forum could invest in its programming, hire journalists and start looking more like an all-news channel that provides an alternative to CTVNC and CBCNN. But with video views on YouTube in the single and double digits, it has a long way to go before attracting people’s attention.