Quebecor won't force news channel on Canada

CEO likely dropping request to guarantee Sun TV carriage

TORONTO -- He's sniffy about rival Canadian all-news TV stations, is an admirer of Rupert Murdoch and insists Canuck broadcasting needs shaking up.

But Pierre Karl Peladeau has also hit a wall with designs on a preferential launch of Fox News North in Canada.

Peladeau, CEO of Quebecor Media, the Quebec media giant, on Tuesday accepted that Sun TV News, an upstart right wing all-news channel modeled on the Fox News channel, will not be forced on Canadian TV viewers.

Peladeau's climb-down came as he all but confirmed Quebecor Media has dropped a request to the CRTC, Canada's TV regulator, to guarantee market carriage for the proposed Sun TV News service.

"I would say there's a possibility that we would drop the (request for the) condition," he told reporters Tuesday after addressing the Canadian Club of Ottawa, according to the Toronto Sun newspaper.

Quebecor Media earlier proposed converting Sun TV, an existing Toronto over-the-air TV station that receives mandatory carriage, into Sun TV News, a conservative all-news channel.

But the CRTC soon said no to special treatment for the upstart all-news channel.

Quebecor Media next asked the CRTC to include a "must offer" provision in an eventual broadcast license for Sun TV News that would compel domestic cable and satellite TV viewers to dangle the right wing news channel in front of potential subscribers.

The regulator looks to have turned thumbs down on the must-offer request, as well.

Quebecor Media will now have to throw Sun TV News onto the mercy of the CRTC, and Canadian TV viewers, by negotiating individually with cable and satellite TV services for market access.

That climb-down also means Sun TV News will have to compete against existing CTV and CBC all-news channels for precious subscriber dollars.

Dropping its request for the mandatory offer of Sun TV News, much less carriage, to Canadians follows Quebecor Media arguing in its application that the lack of guaranteed market access for the upstart news channel could doom the venture even before it launches, as planned, on Jan. 1.

During his lunch-hour address, Peladeau reiterated the value of Sun TV News as a conservative alternative for existing all-news cable channels run by the CBC and CTV networks.

"What we see here is an opportunity for Canadians to have another choice," Peladeau said. "In the process, we will sustain one of the largest news teams in the country. Reporters will feed newspapers, all-news channels and the wireless network, all as part of a sustainable new business model for the industry," he added, outlining a convergent strategy for Sun TV News.

But as the CRTC gets set to hold regulatory hearings into the Sun TV News application, the upstart right wing news channel continues to face blowback.

Avaaz, a U.S.-based special interest group aligned with U.S. billionaire George Soros, this week delivered 21,000 letters to the CRTC after it
completed an online "Stop Fox News North" campaign.

Kory Teneycke, a former spin doctor for Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, in mid-September was forced to resign as vp business development at Quebecor Media, charged with launching Sun TV News, after evidence surfaced that he may have tampered with an online petition opposing the conservative all-news channel.

Teneycke earlier got into hot water when it emerged that he and prime minister Harper in March 2009 had lunch in New York with Rupert Murdoch and Fox News boss Roger Ailes, and that Harper's Conservative Party had a particular interest in seeing the CRTC greenlight Sun TV News for launch into every Canadian home.