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The CRTC Throws Sun News Network’s Future Into Doubt

The CRTC has denied the controversial all-news channel's bid for mandatory distribution.

Sun News Network’s website, as it appeared earlier today.

The Sun News Network’s future is in jeopardy this morning after the CRTC denied the right-leaning all-news channel’s application for guaranteed subscription revenue and a spot on basic cable and satellite TV.

The channel was seeking coveted “mandatory distrubtion” status, which, if granted as envisioned, would have given it a prime spot on every Canadian cable or satellite dial, plus a government-mandated revenue stream. Sun was asking the CRTC to impose, on carriers, a non-negotiable monthly fee of 18 cents per English-language subscriber, plus nine cents per month from French-speaking households.

Sun News executives have said that the financially troubled channel would be forced to shut down without a favourable CRTC decision (which this one most certainly isn’t). The Sun News Network lost an estimated $17 million in 2012. The channel’s overseers have blamed its abysmal market performance, in part, on the fact that it was only carried in four out of ten households as of 2012.

Sun’s pleas for government help do seem to have melted some hearts within the bureaucracy, though. At the same time it announced that it would be denying Sun’s application, the CRTC launched a public review of some new proposed policies for licensing Canadian national news television services in a more equitable way. This is apparently in deference to Sun’s argument that, without mandatory distribution, it can’t compete with major established players like CBC News Network and CTV News Channel, both of which benefited from mandatory status at various times. The review will also address Sun’s complaint that its placement in on-screen channel guides is often unfavourable.

(On the other hand, is it really so unfair for a news organization like Sun News Network, which spends its time attacking what it sees as big-government elitism and privilege, to be denied a big-government elite privilege?)

The CRTC did grant and renew some other mandatory-distribution applications today, all of them for smaller stations that serve French-language markets and niche interests. More details are in the press release.

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