OTTAWA - Quebecor says its television network Sun News suffered a projected $17-million loss in 2012 and will continue to record unacceptable losses unless the federal regulator requires cable and satellite companies to carry it on their basic service.
The media giant says the current distribution agreements are inadequate to support the channel, which is only offered in 40 per cent of households.
It says these distribution challenges also hurt advertising revenues.
In its filings, Quebecor forecasts that Sun TV will lose $19.5 million in 2013, $18.9 million in 2014 and $18.1 million in 2015 — with losses in the tens of millions carrying on each year through to 2020.
Quebecor (TSX:QBR.B) called the situation "clearly unsustainable."
"The current distribution agreements Sun News has with cable and satellite providers are inadequate to support the channel," it said.
It claims the addition of Sun News — dubbed "Fox News North" by its critics — to the basic service would be "negligible" to consumers, adding only $2.16 annually to each household — $1.08 per Francophone household — if the costs are passed on to subscribers.
"Obviously a preferable option would be for (cable and satellite providers) to remove an American or foreign content channel (and associated distribution fee) from their basic lineup and include Sun News on a zero cost to consumer basis."
Quebecor wants the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to require that Sun News be carried on all analog and digital basic services in Canada through the end of 2017. It would then be treated like other "Category C" services.
"Our plan would allow Sun News to establish an audience under similar rules and regulations to those afforded CBC Newsworld and CTV News Channel for 21 and 13 years respectively," the company said in filings to the CRTC.
"We don't begrudge our competitors in any way, we simply want the same rules that they enjoyed — at least for the next five years."
Sun TV launched in April 2011 and its on-air personalities include conservative pundit Ezra Levant.
The CRTC approved a five-year licence for the channel in November 2010 after Quebecor dropped its request for a special licence that would have required cable and satellite carriers to offer the service.