Fox News North eyes mandatory Canuck market access

Being denied could be fatal to Sun TV News' prospects

TORONTO -- Fox News North may not be forced on Canadians, but Quebec media group Quebecor Inc. wants cable and satellite TV operators to be compelled to offer the right-wing Canadian news channel to its subscribers.

The CRTC, which earlier denied a "must-carry" license for Sun TV News, on Wednesday said Quebecor reapplied for a broadcast license with a new request for the 24/7 conservative news channel to receive "mandatory access."

That way, Canadians will be able to freely choose whether or not to subscribe to the new all-news channel, dubbed Fox News North in local media circles, from Jan. 1, 2011.

Quebecor, in its revised Sun TV News application, argued that financial projections for the upstart news channel are based on Quebecor receiving mandatory access to the Canadian market.

Being denied market access could prove fatal to Sun TV News' prospects out of the gate, the media group warned.

"If mandatory access for a maximum period of three years is not granted to Sun TV News, one or more major cable or satellite providers might decide to not offer this service ... and would likely result in the cancellation of the Sun TV News project," the application stated.

The Quebec broadcaster earlier proposed converting Sun TV, an existing Toronto over-the-air TV station that receives mandatory carriage, into Sun TV News.

That rebranding exercise aimed to spare Sun TV News from applying for regulatory approval, and competing against the CTV and CBC all-news channels for precious subscriber dollars.

The payoff for Canadians, Quebecor argued, was TV viewers will receive a hard-news channel by day and "straight-talk" opinion shows at night to counter the apparently smug and politically correct CBC and CTV cable news channels.

But the CRTC didn't play ball, prompting Quebecor to reapply for a broadcast license for Sun TV News, ahead of a public hearing to be held on Nov. 19.