Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Oh SUN NEWS; How Can We Miss You When You Won't Go Away?

Apparently the SUN still hasn't quite set yet. According to SUN News anyway. Last May the SUN News Network applied to the CRTC to ask for "Mandatory Carriage", which would mean that every cable subscriber would be forced to pay for SUN News whether they wanted it or not. Seeing as how SUN News had specifically promised never to apply for any such subsidy and has long been engaged in a jihad on behalf of the sainted taxpayers against the CBC and any artist who got any arts grant, people were not exactly supportive.

SUN's made no apologies for their rush to the trough though. Because they need it. Since starting up in 2010 they have garnered generally disdainful revues, literally broken records for the number of viewer complaints, actually been investigated by the police for hate speech, gotten truly pathetic ratings and manged to lose over $18 million dollars last year. So mandatory carriage would be a desperately needed yearly windfall that could this sinking ship afloat.

After hearings in May SUN's application got shot down. But putting on a brave face SUN boss Kory Tenycke swore he saw a silver lining in the black cloud over the SUN. In announcing their rejection of SUN's application the CRTC also announced that they would be taking a look at how news channels were delivered on cable carriers.

SUN News saw this as lifeline and grabbed it desperately with both hands, making a submission calling for better placement for Canadian news channels (which basically means themselves since there aren't any others, at least right now) in cable packages.

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After another round of considerably lower key hearings the CRTC announced their not-exactly-surprising ruling.

All those news channels must now be offered both as part of a bundle – the “best available discretionary package” – and a la carte, while fees paid to the news networks by television providers must be “fair and commercially reasonable,” the CRTC said. Ultimately, the CRTC has the power to resolve any disputes.

The rule changes will force Telus and MTS – the only providers not offering Sun News – to begin carrying it by March 19. Those deals could then influence new contract terms with providers already carrying the network.


"Canadian news services are an important part of our democracy," CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said in a statement Thursday. "With the rules we are announcing today, Canadians, as citizens, will have access to the news services that are of interest to them and will therefore have an opportunity to be exposed to a variety of opinions on matters of public concern."

The decision does not mean that all cable and satellite subscribers will automatically get every Canadian news channel in their basic package. Still, it does mean that Canadians will at least have the option to subscribe to them - a choice many Canadians have not yet been able to make with Sun News since it wasn't being carried by Telus and MTS. This is called a "Must Offer".

The regulator says distributors don't have to group Canadian news channels together, but if they do decide to create such a group, they won't be able to include some channels and leave others out.

And the CRTC also says all Canadian news channels must be available to customers either as part of a package or as a standalone channel.

SUN News was quick to claim victory;

“It means we are now operating with the same rules as everyone else, in practical terms,” Sun News spokesman Kory Teneycke said, adding Thursday’s changes “absolutely” bolster the network’s business case. “It puts everyone, in practical terms, operating under the same rules, which was not the case before. It forces cable companies to come to an agreement with us, and forces them to come to a reasonable agreement,” he said."

"For a lot of people who don't have access to Sun News today as part of their cable, they will have it in the future," Teneycke said. "We can no longer be locked off the airwaves."

The article in the SUN newspapers began triumphantly;

"The CRTC is shaking up the broadcasting landscape, with a major decision that will make more news channels available to Canadians."

However this is still positively muted compared with the over-the-top hyperbole and non-stop boosterism that SUN News is best known for. After all the CRTC's changes, while still helpful to SUN News, are exactly what the very same Kory Teneycke rejected at the previous hearings. At the time some commissioners had suggested that a "Must offer" designation would be a suitable compromise solution. Teneycke was quick to dismiss this out of hand;
“Let us be very clear: a ‘must-offer’ licence would not have a meaningful impact on the current trajectory of Sun News and would inevitably lead to the closure of the station, Let me repeat: a ‘must-offer’ licence would be a death sentence.”

That's right he said "A death sentence". That sure doesn't sound good. Now they are claiming this ruling as "shaking up the broadcasting landscape", although but the standards of SUN News that's pretty restrained self-praise.

A Canadian Press report dryly commented "It is not clear if the network still holds that view. A Quebecor spokesperson was not immediately available for comment."

A report in The Star was more sober than The Sun's usual crowing;

"Gregory Taylor, an expert on broadcasting policy at Toronto’s Ryerson University, did not anticipate the change affecting consumers’ pocketbooks unless they wanted to sign up for additional news services.

Rather, he saw it as “lifeline” for Sun News that will buy it some time as it tries to build up a subscriber base.

Michael Geist, an expert on broadcasting policy and regulations at the University of Ottawa, said the change will also be an opportunity for Sun News to actually prove Canadians are interested in what it has to offer — if that is indeed the case."

Did I mention the SUN's dismal ratings lately? While SUN News has been complaining that they are currently only available in 40 percent of Canadian homes that still means potentially several million subscribers. Yet they only manage several thousand. If people weren't interested in their crappy product before why would that change now? Especially since amongst those places in Canada that haven't actually seen SUN News in all it's tacky glory yet are in Quebec, The Maritimes and the Far North, exactly the places where SUN's patented brand of right-wing extremism, plutocrat ass-kissing, partisan Tory hackery, race-bating, conspiracy theories, pro-war worship of Israel and shameless self-puffery are least likely to find a receptive audience.


Reverting to form, Teneycke's also took the opportunity to paint himself as Captain Canada;

“This was never just about Sun News, it was always about putting Canadian TV first,” Teneycke said.

Yeah right; this would explain why SUN has always been supportive of Canadian media and culture wouldn't it? Oh wait...they aren't.

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