On June 15th, 2010, Quebecor Inc. announced that its companies Sun Media Corporation and TVA Group Inc. would be asking for CRTC approval to launch a new 24 hour news channel on January 1st 2011. As part of the process, Toronto SunTV station CKXT-TV would initially carry Sun News in simulcast, but would later be converted from a broadcaster to a national Category 1 digital speciality channel, with a requirement for cable and satellite distributors to carry the channel on at least one tier of their services.
By the time the hearing took place on November 19th, the application had been amended to withdraw the request for mandatory access, and on November 26th the CFTC approved the application for a Category 2 licence.
Sun News Network was launched on April 18th 2011 at 4:30pm EST. The format, reportedly based on Quebecor’s French language news channel, Le Canal Nouvelle, offered news coverage during the day, with more in-depth features, commentary and analysis after 5:00 pm.
The plan to present a more conservative approach to news coverage, in line with the political leanings of the Sun Newspaper group, met with opposition from some quarters, but the licence was nonetheless granted. In making the announcement, the CRTC referred to its Broadcasting Public Notice 2008-4, wherein the Commission “…reiterated the importance of enhancing the plurality of editorial voices in local and national markets, and ensuring that Canadians are exposed to an appropriate plurality of those voices.” The Commission went on to say that it was “…of the view that the licensing of additional competitive mainstream national news services is one means of achieving this objective.”
Featured performers at the time of the launch of the channel included David Akin, Brian Lilley, Charles Adler, Krista Erickson, Tobias Fisher, Pat Bolland, Ezra Levant, Theo Caldwell and Caryn Lieberman.
On August 8th 2013, the CRTC announced that they had denied an application by Sun News Network for their channel to be mandatory for carriage by cable and satellite Broadcast Distribution Undertakings, because, in the Commission’s view, they had not “….successfully demonstrated to the CRTC that they met the criteria for a mandatory distribution order.”
However, in a separate news release, the CRTC said, in part, “The Commission considers there is merit to the arguments raised by Sun News regarding the barriers to entry when launching a national news service and that these barriers constitute a significant obstacle to the exchange of ideas” .
The Commission further said that it would like to solve the problem by forcing every cable and satellite operator to carry all news channels, instead of having each channel negotiate to get access to a company’s subscriber base. The CRTC asked for public comments by September 9th, with a view to issuing a ruling by the end of the year.
On December 19th 2013, the Commission issued an Order requiring licensees of broadcasting distribution undertakings (BTUs) to distribute the Category C national news specialty services known as CBC News Network, CTV News Channel, Le Canal Nouvelles, Le Réseau de l’information and Sun News Network.
The Order included the following specific conditions which BTUs would be required to observe:
– A requirement to include the programming services in the best available discretionary package consistent with their genre and programming;
– The option to subscribe to these services on a stand-alone basis when they were available in a discretionary package; and
– Requirements for the filing of affiliation agreements, dispute resolution mechanisms and factors to be considered in the negotiation of wholesale rates for those services.
Despite this Order, Sun News were unable to generate enough subscriptions to sustain their national news service, and on February 13th 2015 Quebecor Inc., of which Sun Media was a subsidiary, issued the following statement:
“After attempting to establish Sun News as a viable news channel in the Canadian broadcasting landscape and encountering a series of barriers to carriage, Sun Media Corporation regrets to announce today that it is closing the station. At the time of this release, Sun News Network is already off the air.
“‘This is an unfortunate outcome; shutting down Sun News was certainly not our goal,’ said Julie Tremblay, President and CEO of Media Group and Sun Media Corporation. “Over the past four years, we tried everything we could to achieve sufficient market penetration to generate the profits needed to operate a national news channel. Sadly, the numerous obstacles to carriage that we encountered spelled the end of this venture.’
“Sun Media Corporation spent months actively seeking a potential buyer but no party capable of taking over the channel was found. Therefore, in view of the financial losses, there was no alternative to closing Sun News.”
On March 4th 2015, the CRTC issued the following decision:
1.Quebecor Media Inc., on behalf of Sun Media Corporation and TVA Group Inc., partners in a general partnership carrying on business as Sun News General Partnership (Sun News), filed an application requesting the revocation of its broadcasting licence for the national, English-language specialty Category C service Sun News.
2.Given the licensee’s request and pursuant to sections 9(1)(e) and 24(1) of the Broadcasting Act, the Commission revokes the broadcasting licence issued to Sun News for the above-mentioned undertaking.
Written by Pip Wedge – February, 2015
Ownership: Sun Media Corporation, TVA Group Inc
Start Year: 2011 to 2015