Sun News Network wants to cut a deal with Canada's broadcast regulator, suggesting that it be included on digital basic cable for five years to give it a chance to win over Canadians with its mix of "hard news and straight talk."
The fledgling news channel is asking to be included on digital basic television subscriptions to deal with losses nearing $17-million a year. Guaranteed placement means guaranteed subscriber revenue, and is a highly coveted designation reserved for channels that offer unique content to Canadians.
Sun News – in its response filed Monday to the country's cable and satellite companies who filed interventions to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ahead of a spring hearing – says that inclusion on digital basic would be "more of a present day remedy than a long-term solution" as it proposed the five-year limit.
"In an ideal world, Sun News would not have to make such an application," the company stated. "As a channel that is 100 per cent Canadian and produces 96 hours per week of first-run Canadian content, our broadcast system was envisioned in a way that channels like Sun News would be distributed widely, without intervention by the regulator."
The filing stated that Canadian cable and satellite companies haven't been willing to include the channel in attractive packages, and have placed the channel on high channels that are difficult to find. That's why it wants the five-year term, it said.
Forty per cent of Canadian households now subscribe to Sun News. However, it is available in more homes.
"Granting Sun News Network a [mandatory carriage] would send a clear message to distributors that their obligations to Canadian content are not mere words on a page," the filing stated.
The cable and satellite companies have argued against including the channel, saying it doesn't offer anything that isn't already available to their subscribers. The companies are generally against any new services being added, because they add up to higher bills for their customers.
The channel – which has been controversial since its launch (on Monday, its star host Ezra Levant made an on-air apology for denigrating the Roma population during a show last year) – said 53,000 Canadians signed a petition supporting its application after the company launched a heavily advertised push with on-air pleas and mail outs to viewers in its database.
There was also a counter campaign to Sun News', which drew some 20,000 signatures. Sun News said the counter campaign was trying to silence the network because of its right-wing bent.
"We submit that the silencing of voices in the media, in the way suggested by these opponents, runs counter to both freedom of speech and freedom of the press," the filing stated. "It is impossible for any single media outlet, regardless of its size, to reflect the views of all Canadians. Canada is a far too large and diverse country for that."
Sun News also responded to letters that suggested the broadcaster acts irresponsibly when reporting news. It said Canada's broadcast regulator received 6,963 complaints about Sun News, but the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council found it acted inappropriately in two cases (both findings centred on Mr. Levant). And 6,676 of those complaints were about an interview between former host Krista Erickson and choreographer Margie Gillis that didn't lead to a finding of fault.
"Like every media organization in the world, from time-to-time Sun News makes a mistake, the filing stated. "The sign of a confident media outlet is one that is willing to make corrections and endeavor to rectify mistakes so they do not happen again."
The CRTC will hold a hearing at the end of April to consider the application.