Sun News must be offered by all cable/satellite companies: CRTC
The CRTC is shaking up the broadcasting landscape, with a major decision that will make more news channels available to Canadians.
The broadcast regulator says it will require all cable and satellite companies in Canada to offer Sun News Network, along with all other Canadian news channels, to all their subscribers as of March 19.
"Canadian news services are an important part of our democracy," CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said in a statement Thursday. "With the rules we are announcing today, Canadians, as citizens, will have access to the news services that are of interest to them and will therefore have an opportunity to be exposed to a variety of opinions on matters of public concern."
The decision does not mean that all cable and satellite subscribers will automatically get every Canadian news channel in their basic package.
Still, it does mean that Canadians will at least have the option to subscribe to them — a choice many Canadians have not yet been able to make with Sun News.
The CRTC is also putting in place other changes that follow its August decision to deny several applications, including one from Sun News, mandatory carriage in basic packages.
By May 20, cable and satellite companies will have new rules to follow for news channel packages in their subscriptions.
The regulator says distributors don't have to group Canadian news channels together, but if they do decide to create such a group, they won't be able to include some channels and leave others out.
And the CRTC also says all Canadian news channels must be available to customers either as part of a package or as a standalone channel.
Kory Teneycke, vice president of Sun News, welcomed the rule changes.
"For a lot of people who don't have access to Sun News today as part of their cable, they will have it in the future," Teneycke said. "We can no longer be locked off the airwaves."
Teneycke has argued in the past that foreign news services such as CNN and al Jazeera are treated better and get more lucrative distribution deals than Canadian news services — something he expects will change now.
But he warns the fight for Sun News is far from over as the channel tries to work out new revenue deals.
"You still have to negotiate agreements with cable and satellite providers," Teneycke said. "Our hope is that cable and satellite companies will negotiate or renegotiate their agreements with us on terms that are consistent with this new framework."
Any deadlock in those negotiations would mean both parties would have to go to the CRTC for arbitration.
"But our hope is to reach voluntary agreements as opposed to having to drag cable or satellite companies before the CRTC again," he said.
The regulator's new rules mean the agreements between Sun News and distributors will have to be in place by May 20.
Quebecor Media owns Sun News Network, QMI Agency and the Sun Media newspaper chain.