Updated: CRTC launches review that could make all Canadian news channels available on the dial

The Canadian broadcast regulator is seeking feedback on a proposal that would ensure all Canadian national news services have a spot on the dial.

The Canadian broadcast regulator is seeking feedback on a proposal that would ensure all Canadian national news services have a spot on the dial.

The policy review comes as Sun News Network was denied an application for mandatory carriage by the CRTC. The application, if successful, would have put the channel on the dial for every cable carrier for the next five years and helped offset its $17-million losses last year. Under the new proposal, while subscribers would still have to opt in, every cable provider would have to carry all news channels instead of having individual news channels negotiate their carriage. 

Earlier this year, Sun News executive Kory Teneycke told the CRTC that anything short of mandatory carriage would spell a “death sentence” for the channel. Now the network’s fate hangs in the balance as the CRTC completes its review of the way news channels are regulated.

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The CRTC decision, released on Thursday, stated that “the difficulties faced by Sun News and other parties that appeared at the public hearing are however indicative of a larger, more systemic issue with respect to ensuring that Canadian national news services have the opportunity to obtain fair and equitable distribution.”

"We are disappointed that the CRTC did not rule in favour of our application for a mandatory distribution order," Teneycke said, according to a Sun News Network article. "However, we are encouraged they have found merit in the main arguments laid out by Sun News on price, channel placement and distribution, and have provided a mechanism to address these issues."

"Television news channels provide an important public service by ensuring that Canadians are exposed to different opinions and perspectives on matters that concern all citizens,” CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said in a statement released Thursday. “We are concerned that, under the existing rules, Canadian news services are not being given a pride of place in our broadcasting system."

The CRTC is proposing that:

  • distributors must offer all Canadian national news services (not necessarily on basic service).
  • distributors must place Canadian news services in close proximity in their channel lineups.
  • national news services must be available in a package and on a stand-alone basis.
  • national news services should be offered in the most appropriate packages according to their content.

"We intend to participate fully in those proceedings, and will continue to operate pending an outcome," Teneycke said in the article.

According to the CRTC, nearly 12 million households subscribe to cable or satellite television services and Canadians collectively watched more than 138 million hours of news programming in 2011-2012, 45 per cent of which was on specialty news services.

The CRTC promised to “act swiftly” and is accepting feedback on its proposal until September 9.

Here is some of the Twitter response to the CRTC decision on Sun News: