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CRTC gives green light to Sun TV
OTTAWA - Canadians are about to get a third 24-hour English-language cable news channel, and it's one that plans to shake up the industry.
The CRTC has approved a five-year licence for Sun TV news service -- referred to by critics as Fox News North -- to go into direct competition with CBC's News Network and the CTV News Channel.
The federal regulator's green light was considered a sure thing after Quebecor Inc. dropped its request for a special licence that would have required cable and satellite carriers to offer the service.
The Category 2 competitive licence means the new station will need to negotiate with cable and satellite carriers for a place on their lineup.
Last summer, Quebecor officials argued that failing to be designated as a must-offer channel like the CTV and CBC news services would doom the enterprise.
But the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission had previously ruled that no such licences would be issued because it was dropping the category next September.
In a news release after the announcement Friday, Quebecor chief executive Pierre Karl Peladeau betrayed no sense of disappointment about receiving the less desirable licence.
"Today marks the dawn of a new era for Canadian news media," he said.
Peladeau said the new channel, which may begin airing as early as Jan. 1, will aim to "challenge conventional wisdom and offer Canadians a new choice and a new voice."
The release said the channel will feature a "hard news, straight talk" format.
The enterprise has been controversial from the beginning, in part because Quebecor's initial pick to head the operation was Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recently resigned communications director Kory Teneycke, known for his combative personality.
Teneycke's subsequent statements made it clear the new station would tilt decidedly to the right, triggering the advocacy group Avaaz to launch a petition to stop Quebecor from obtaining a Category 1 licence. Teneycke abruptly resigned in mid-September, about the same time Avaaz called for a police probe over interference with its online petition.
In a speech in Ottawa last month, Peladeau announced he was dropping his request for a preferred licence, while lashing out at his critics, calling some of the charges "shocking" and "off the wall."
In particular, he denied he had a "secret deal" with the prime minister to offer favourable coverage to the government, and said it was simplistic to call the new station right wing.
He said the station would resemble the Sun newspapers, which while on the right of the political spectrum, were also "populist, irreverent, sometimes provocative."