The official announcement of what has been unofficially termed "Fox News North" is coming Tuesday.
After reports last week that Quebecor Inc. was poised to launch a 24-hour news channel aimed at more conservative Canadian viewers, the company called a press conference at the Toronto Sun building for Tuesday morning. Quebecor president and chief executive officer Pierre Karl Péladeau will "make an announcement in regard to new investment in Canadian media," according to a statement.
The channel is expected to be built on a mix of straight news reporting and opinion, modelled on the wildly successful Fox News network in the United States. If there is an appetite for a similar platform in Canada, it could be lucrative for Quebecor. In its most recent quarterly earnings, Fox parent company News Corp. reported that revenues at Fox News increased 17 per cent in the three months ended March 31, compared with the same period a year ago.
The conservative-slanted channel brings in ratings more than twice as high as any of the other 24-hour news networks in the United States: In May, Fox News drew an average audience of 1.8 million viewers during prime time seven days a week, compared with 747,000 for MSNBC and 595,000 for CNN, according to Nielsen. Higher ratings are a powerful draw for networks seeking to woo advertisers in a tight market.
Quebecor is expected to invest roughly $100-million in its news channel over five years. Kory Teneycke, a former chief spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, will head up the project. Last week, Quebecor hired journalists David Akin and Brian Lilley to work at Sun Media's bureau in Ottawa. (On Monday, reporter Krista Erickson told colleagues that she is leaving CBC News "to pursue another opportunity," fuelling talk that she could be Quebecor's newest recruit.)
Mr. Teneycke attempted to recruit CBC comedian Rick Mercer as well, but was not successful. There were rumours that Global National anchor Kevin Newman, who announced in April that he would leave the newscast, was also on the hiring list; however in a posting to his Twitter account Mr. Teneycke denied he had attempted to hire Mr. Newman. Sources say Canadian right-wing pundit Ezra Levant is being courted to host one of the new station's opinion shows.
Quebecor submitted an application with the federal broadcast regulator more than a week ago for a licence to operate an English-language news channel. If it is approved by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the channel would compete against national round-the-clock channels CBC News Network and CTV News Channel.
Details of the licence application are also expected Tuesday; it has been suggested that Quebecor could try to secure a licence either guaranteeing that cable companies offer it to customers or secure it a more high-profile place on the dial. Such licenses are rare.
Last week, Mr. Teneycke suggested many more announcements are on the way about the channel's recruiting efforts.
With files from Steven Chase and Jane Taber in Ottawa