BUSINESS

Sun News: Mike Duffy Didn't Pressure CRTC On Our Behalf

05/17/2013 10:01 EDT | Updated 05/17/2013 10:01 EDT
Sun Media/CP

Sun News is denying a report that scandal-plagued Senator Mike Duffy inappropriately pressured the CRTC into approving its bid to be a mandatory part of cable and satellite TV.

Senator Duffy does not, nor has he ever, been employed as a lobbyist for Sun News/Sun Media. Nor have we asked Senator Duffy act as an agent on our behalf,” network vice-president Kory Teneycke said in a statement published by Sun Media national bureau chief David Akin.

CTV’s Robert Fife cited an anonymous source Thursday to allege Duffy -- who resigned from the Conservative caucus on Thursday over a growing expenses scandal -- “approached a Conservative insider with connections to the CRTC three weeks ago to discuss Sun Media.”

“You know people at the CRTC,” the source quoted Duffy as saying. “This is an important decision on Sun Media. They have to play with the team and support Sun Media’s request.”

Duffy is well connected in Canadian media. He worked at CBC’s Parliament Hill bureau for more than a decade before becoming host of CTV/Baton Broadcasting’s Sunday Edition, which ran from 1988 to 1999.

He has been accused of political partisanship before. In 2008, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council ruled Duffy had violated broadcasting ethics during the election by airing a series of “false starts” to an interview with then-Liberal Leader Stephane Dion. The Conservatives went on to trounce Dion’s Liberals in that election.

Duffy’s ties to the Prime Minister’s Office appear to be closer than many observers had believed. The revelation this week that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright, cut Duffy a $90,000 cheque to cover expenses the senator had been ordered to repay is raising questions about the PMO’s involvement in the controversy.

It may also raise questions about the prime minister’s role in the alleged effort to pressure the CRTC into approving Sun News’ “mandatory carriage” licence.

Sun News’ Teneycke told the broadcast regulator last month rejecting the application would amount to a “death sentence” for the controversial, right-leaning current affairs channel, which has been struggling with low ratings and reluctance from cable companies to carry its signal since its launch in 2011.

The company recorded a loss of $18.5 million for the year ending in August, 2012, and predicts a loss of $19.5 million for 2013.

Sun News is asking for 18 cents per TV subscriber per month, which is estimated to bring in about $18 million in annual revenue.

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