Will Harper move against CRTC on Sun TV?

A Globe and Mail column by
Lawrence Martin suggests that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will stack
the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission with his
own people in an effort to get Quebecor’s new Sun TV network prized
Category 1 licensing.

Martin writes that last year, the Canadian Press reported that Harper lunched in New York with Fox News president Roger Ailes and owner Rupert Murdoch, as well as his corporate spokesman, Kory Teneycke. He writes: 

“Mr. Teneycke later became the point man for Quebecor’s Pierre Karl Péladeau in his effort to create a right-wing television network modelled along the lines of Fox News. The new network is a high priority for Mr. Harper, for whom controlling the message has always been – witness his government vetting program – of paramount importance.

“In this regard, he scored a fantastic coup when Mr. Teneycke became head, courtesy of Mr. Péladeau, of Sun Media’s political coverage. It’s not every day that a prime minister sees his one-time spokesperson taking control of a giant media chain’s coverage of his government. What, one wonders, will our journalism schools be telling their students about that?”

The CRTC recently told Quebecor that it wouldn’t be eligible for a Category license until at least October 2011. Martin writes:

“So the question naturally arises: Do the CRTC board members actually think they can get away with delaying or denying Mr. Harper’s wishes on Fox News North? Do they really believe they have some kind of independent power?”

He points out that CRTC chair Konrad von Finckenstein’s term doesn’t end until 2012. “But insiders report that Mr. Harper now wants him out well before that date and replaced by a rubber stamper,” Martin writes, “The independently minded Mr. von Finckenstein, who did not respond to queries on the matter, is reportedly being offered judgeships and ambassadorships, one post being Chile. So far, he’s not biting. But the bait might get bigger.”

CRTC vice-chair Michel Arpin’s term ends at the end of August, and his request to say on was denied. Martin says that rumours of replacement include “none other than Mr. Péladeau’s long-time right-hand man, Luc Lavoie. . . Replacing the CRTC’s chair and vice-chair would pretty well seal the deal for Mr. Harper and Mr. Péladeau. Mr. Teneycke has said all along that the new station would be up and running by the start of 2011 with a Category 1 licence, meaning cable companies would be required to offer it as part of a package.”

In the end of the piece, Martin quotes Ian Morrison from Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, who says that the integrity of the CRTC has to be defended: “You can’t have the Prime Minister handing out radio and TV licenses.”