Maybe Sun News is seeing the writing on the wall for its application to be a mandatory part of Canadians’ basic cable, because it appears the network is now trying to negotiate with the CRTC.
In a response to opponents of its bid for “mandatory carriage,” filed with the CRTC, the Quebecor-owned network suggested a five-year limit to the licence it’s seeking, which would require all cable and satellite TV operators to make the controversial, right-leaning current affairs network a part of their basic packages.
A five-year limit “is consistent with the recent ruling on The Weather Channel ... where the Commission noted that the ‘rapidly evolving broadcasting landscape’ made it appropriate to issue the mandatory distribution order only for a limited time (also five years),” Sun News said in its submission.
Sun News spokespeople have been arguing for months that CBC News Network and CTV News Channel enjoyed mandatory carriage on basic cable in their first years of operations. Neither of those news channels enjoy that privilege today.
The network also said it had 53,000 signatures on a petition asking for the network to appear on basic cable, and “thousands more wrote personal letters to the CRTC describing why they love Sun News and how it reflects their values and view of Canada.”
That’s in contrast to a petition against the Sun News, run by Avaaz, which the grassroots group recently said had garnered 20,000 signatures.
Sun News elicits strong responses from viewers and non-viewers alike, largely because of its often inflammatory content. Sun host Ezra Levant just this week apologized for characterizing Roma immigrants as criminals who are taking advantage of Canada’s refugee system.
“The sign of a confident media outlet is one that is willing to make corrections and endavour to rectify mistakes,” Sun said in its submission.
“When we believe we have violated the CBSC’s we have voluntarily issued a correction and apology [such as] in the case of comments made on The Source in relation to Roma people.”
Sun News lost $17 million in 2012, and projects it will lose even more in coming years -- the main reason it applied last fall for carriage on basic cable.
The company says it reaches only 40 per cent of Canadian TV-viewing households.
“In the case of Sun News, are [cable and satellite TV companies] living up to their obligations to promote Canadian content?” Sun News asked in the submission.
The CRTC begins public hearings into Sun News' application on April 23, along with applications from nearly two dozen proposed or existing channels that would like to be a mandatory part of basic cable.
A Brief History Of Sun News
Controversy surrounding the Sun News Network began even before the network went on the air in April, 2011. The Globe and Mail reported in the summer of 2010 that <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/lawrence-martin/is-stephen-harper-set-to-move-against-the-crtc/article1677632/">CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein was under pressure from the Prime Minister's Office to resign</a>, in order to pave a smooth path for Sun News to be granted a licence by the regulator. Finckenstein denied the allegations.
'Stop Fox News North'
With concerns swirling about the possibility of a PMO-driven political agenda at Sun News, the activist site Avaaz launched "<a href="http://www.avaaz.org/en/no_fox_news_canada">Stop Fox News North</a>," a campaign to pressure the CRTC to deny a licence to the news network. The network responded by citing Avaaz's U.S. roots and noting that left-wing billionaire George Soros has contributed to the group, in an apparent effort to discredit the petition as a "U.S. import."
Soros Threatens To Sue
Future Sun News personality Ezra Levant went further than most in his criticism of Avaaz and its links to George Soros (pictured above). Levant suggested in a column that Soros, who is Jewish, aided the Germans in the Holocaust as a teenager. After receiving a letter from Soros' lawyers threatening to sue, <a href="http://www.torontosun.com/comment/2010/09/17/15388356.html">the Sun newspapers ran a retraction</a>.
Sun News was on the air for only about six weeks when its first major controversy erupted. The CRTC received a record 6,676 complaints from viewers after host Krista Erickson aggressively challenged dancer Margie Gillis over the issue of whether artists should receive taxpayers' money in the form of grants. The Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council eventually ruled <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/02/03/krista-erickson-margie-hills-sun-news_n_1253421.html">Erickson was within her rights to express her opinions during the interview</a>.
Sun News vs. CBC
Sun News has made the CBC's public funding a signature issue, repeatedly attacking the network for taking $1 billion per year in taxpayers' money while competing against private-sector broadcasters. But the CBC is fighting back. It put out a press release noting that Quebecor, Sun's parent company, enjoyed $500 million in subsidies over five years, and argued that -- unlike the CBC -- it is not publicly accountable to taxpayers.
'Chinga tu madre'
Ezra Levant got himself in trouble again in December, 2011, when he responded to Chiquita Bananas' declaration it wanted to avoid oil from the oil sands. "Chinga tu madre," Levant said to Chiquita -- a phrase that translates as "f--k your mother." The Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/13/ezra-levants-chiquita-chinga-tu-madre_n_1594452.html">declared Levant's outburst a violation of ethics standards</a>.
Fake Citizenship Ceremony
Canadian journalism reached an embarrassing nadir in the spring of 2012 when it emerged that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/tag/sun-news-fake-citizenship-ceremony">a citizenship reaffirmation ceremony broadcast on Sun News had been partially staged</a>. Six federal bureaucrats had posed as newly-sworn Canadians during the event that had been reportedly requested by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. Kenney's office apologized to Sun News. Government officials later alleged Sun News was aware of the bureaucrats posing as new Canadians.
In your home, like it or not?
Sun News <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/11/13/sun-news-mandatory-carriage-crtc_n_2122391.html">applied for a "mandatory carriage" licence in the fall of 2012</a> that would require cable and satellite operators to carry the network as part of their basic cable package. Though neither CBC News Network nor CTV News Channel currently enjoy mandatory carriage, they did when they first started out, as Sun News has pointed out.
Millions in losses
Sun News reported in January, 2013, that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/21/sun-news-loss-crtc-basic-cable_n_2522396.html?utm_hp_ref=canada">it lost $17 million in 2012</a>, due to weak revenue because the channel is only carried in 40 per cent of Canadian homes. Parent company Quebecor is saying the network will continue to lose money unless its request to the CRTC for mandatory carriage on basic cable is granted. Pictured: Quebecor CEO Pierre-Karl Peladeau
'The Jew vs. the Gypsy'
Sun News personality and well-known right-wing pundit Ezra Levant issued a formal, on-air apology after a September, 2012, segment in which he declared that the Roma were not a race, and were rather "a shiftless group of hobos" who "rob people blind" and whose "chief economy is theft and begging." The Toronto police reportedly even launched a hate-crimes investigation into the segment, at the request of a local Roma group.