07 September 2010

Sun TV News AKA Fox News North (for application click here)

There's been a lot of kerfuffle about the application by TVA to begin a news 24-hour news service in Canada. Much of the controversy centres on reports that it will be a Canadian version of US based Fox News: all commentary and no content. People with more knowledge have raised the point that TVA has applied for their station to get 2 things: 1) to be put on equal footing with CBC & CTV as a news channel and 2) to be granted special status for its first 3 years and made mandatory for carriage by cable/sat providers. My opinions on the matter I will reserve for later, but I have noticed how few people have actually read TVA's application.

So here it is. The important bits anyway. If you wish to read the whole package, click here. The entire application, regulations et al, comes as a zip file of pfd docs from the CRTC, available to all. The link above will take you to the application page, which includes instructions on how to file your comments, pro or con. The CRTC is the broadcasting regulatory body and serves the public interest. Not business. Not Government. Us. And if you don't believe that, look up a few of their past decisions.

(The plain language explanation of the station. Edited for juiciness but quoted verbatim. FYI: 'BDU' stands for Breadcast Distribution Unit, a cable or satellite provider)


4.1. When the number one all-news channel in Canada is a struggling cable news laggard

from the United States, CNN, it is time for a change; it is time to shake up the current

players of the Canadian broadcasting system. It’s time for a new choice, a new voice,

a new all-news specialty service for Canadians. A new information specialty service

committed to leading its American rivals, not following them. A new specialty service

that is given the same fair chance to succeed as the two existing, national all-news

specialty services – specialty services that, taken together, merely match their top two

American rivals in viewership.

4.2. Television remains a vital source of news and information for Canadians. And allnews

specialty services play a vital role in keeping Canadians well informed on a

minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour basis and ensuring that news coverage is both broad

and deep. However, being well informed means more than being exposed to dry

news. MSNBC and Fox News have understood this. Sun TV News proposes to go

beyond the obvious day-by-day headlines and to cover the full range of stories that

impact our society, our democracy and our economy.

4.3. Unfortunately, over the past 2 years, English-Canadians watched 73%1 less news

channels than Americans. And the number one news channel in Canada is CNN, a

struggling American network that beats both CBC News Network and CTV News

Channel by a country mile. In fact, taken together, CBC News Network and CTV

News Channel merely match the combined ratings of CNN and Headline News.

Altogether, Canadians are paying for these Canadian all-news channels around $80M

a year for such a performance.

Table showing ratings by minutes watched, ages 2+. For 2008/2009: CNN=59.9, CBC Newsworld=48.7, CTV Newsnet=25.1

4.4. Not surprisingly, less than one third of English-speaking Canadians are satisfied with

the current news coverage available on television2. Together, CBC News Network and

CTV News Channel have had respectively 21 and 13 years to get it right and they’ve

failed to win over Canadians despite their obvious domestic advantages. It’s time for a

change. It’s time for Sun TV News.


5.1. By leveraging the human, capital and technological resources of Toronto’s Sun TV and

transforming the struggling conventional station’s general interest mandate to an

innovative and proven information specialty service format, the new Sun TV News will

provide Canadians with a new choice and a new national voice for information and


5.2. Sun TV News will be different from the all-news channel we already have in Canada;


1 * CNN, CBC Newsworld, CTV News Channel, CNN Headline News, BNN, CNBC.

** Fox News, CNN, HLN, CNBC, MSNBC.

Sources: Canada - BBM-NMR, InfoSys, 2007-2008 to 2008-2009 Broadcast Year, All Persons 2+, Mo-Su 2am-2am.

USA - Nielsen Media Research, 2007-2008 to 2008-2009 Broadcast Year, All Persons 2+, Mo-Su 2am-2am.

2 Leger Marketing, Sun TV Television News Information Needs, Fall 2009 (See Appendix A1).


offering Canadians an attractive mixture of “hard news” reporting during the day and

“straight talk” opinion journalism at night. “Hard news” during the day and “straight

talk” at night is a proven formula for commercial success. This is very different than

what CBC, CTV and CNN have offered Canadians on their “all-news” platforms.

5.3. “Hard News” will almost exclusively rely on live reporting and real-time conversations

with journalists covering breaking news – as opposed to the more traditional news

wheel format that features a revolving set of news stories. But these headlines will be

analysed, commented upon and discussed at length. The host will question the

reporter and will have an intelligent exchange that will often open to further debate.

News will not be read like in a news bulletin. Daytime “hard news” will be covering a

broad range of political, economic and lifestyle stories that matter to Canadians both

rural and urban. So even its “hard news” portion will not be “all news” like it has

traditionally been done in Canada. Short traditional news bulletin may be programmed

but not more than once an hour.

5.4. “Straight Talk” will be programs featuring hosts and guests that deliver strong opinions

and analysis of stories that are important to Canadians that day. “Straight talk” opinion

journalism at night will be clear, intelligent and engaging – featuring a broader array of

television personalities and signature hosts who will challenge viewers to think – and

decide – for themselves. The challenging of ideas in itself may feed the news but at

least will attempt to have Canadians make their own mind on the events occurring

every day in Canada.

5.5. Here in Canada, the French-language all-news specialty service LCN saw its ratings

more than triple3 when it moved toward that formula just over one year ago. Today

LCN is not only a commercial success, but it has re-energized news coverage for

French-speaking viewers; providing them with a new choice and a new voice that

previously had been absent in the French-language news broadcasting space.

Contrary to Sun TV News however, LCN is built on the news-gathering infrastructure

of TVA for traditional newscasts.

5.6. In the United States, Fox News, the cable news network that led the development of

the “hard news/straight talk” format, has been the number one cable news network for

many years running. Fox News’ total audience was as high as CNN and MSNBC


3 In the timeslots that switched to more opinionated programs


combined. Fox News holds the Top 10 cable news programs in the United States.

Today both CNN and MSNBC are modifying their programming approaches to mimic

Fox News while remaining all-news channels with limited documentaries, as well.

5.7. Given the success of the “hard news/straight talk” format in both French-speaking

Canada and the United States, as well as low levels of satisfaction amongst Englishspeaking

viewers with traditional news bulletin coverage on television, there is clearly

a market for a totally new approach to information specialty service in Canada.

5.8. This is an altogether different programming service than the all-news currently licensed

in Canada. Sun TV News is an information service with zest.

5.9. Sun TV News will be modern; demonstrating true value-added content convergence

with Quebecor’s print properties across Canada. …Something Canada has not seen


6 - Section 6 is details on how the news will be gathered using TVA/Sun Media/Quebecor reporters


7.1. The time has arrived for Sun TV News. But given that CBC News Network and CTV

News Channel have enjoyed the benefits of a carriage that is mandatory for BDUs and

“almost mandatory” for subscribers for 21 and 13 years respectively, Sun TV News

requires short-term and time-limited mandatory access for a maximum period of three

(3) years by BDUs in order to effectively expose and promote its programming to

viewers across Canada. We do not ask for mandatory basic distribution, but only to be

available on cable and satellite distribution undertakings allowing the public to have

access to Sun TV News without any obligation to choose it.

7.2. - 7.5 - arguments for expedited license and equal status with CBC/CTV for carriage


8.1. At a time when Canada is exhibiting considerable economic, athletic, artistic and

humanitarian leadership on the world stage, it is simply unacceptable that our leading

news channel is an American cable news network that is struggling in its home market.

The time has arrived for a new choice; a new voice; a new information specialty

service for Canadians.

8.2. With its proven format of “hard news” during the day and “straight talk” opinion

journalism at night, Sun TV News will be well-placed to succeed commercially and

may well put Canada back into the lead of its own TV information, while

simultaneously preserving jobs and strengthening the conventional general interest TV

market in Toronto.

8.3. A seven year licence issued quickly featuring short-term and time-limited mandatory

access would allow us to complete the transformation of Sun TV into Sun TV News

and provide Canadians with a new information specialty service offering for the first

time in several years an additional editorial voice in Canada and for Canadians.


9.1. The first objective of the Act is to make sure that Canadian programs are produced,

programmed and seen in Canada by Canadians. While doing this, the Commission

aims at the maximum use of Canadian creative resources. Since a minimum of 90%

of our programming will be Canadian, we will make maximum use of Canadian

creative and other resources in the creation and presentation of programming, all this

while respecting high standards.

9.2. QMI/TVA has evolved, in the last 50 years or more, specifically in the information

business and in the creation/promotion of a genuine Star System. QMI/TVA’s

ownership is as Canadian as it can be.

9.3. The proposed service will serve to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the political,

social, cultural and economic fabric of Canada, with a schedule offering a wide range

of programs that reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas and values by displaying

Canadian talent as well as by offering information and analysis concerning Canada

and other countries from a Canadian point of view. Sun TV News will reflect the

circumstances and aspirations of Canadian men and women, including equal rights,

the linguistic duality and multicultural and multiracial nature of Canadian society and

the special place of aboriginal peoples within that society.

9.4. Sun TV News will provide balanced information with a reasonable opportunity for the

public to be exposed to the expression of differing views on matters of public concern,

information that will be drawn from local, regional, national and international sources.

9.5. In the first year of operation, Sun TV News projects to expend $4 589 000 in the

production of Canadian programs. This amount will grow to $6 301 000 in the 7th year

of operation.

10. MARKET CAPACITY - about HDTV content


11.1. Even if Sun TV News will have a certain impact on the all-news national services

available in Canada, in Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2008-100, the Commission

has determined that the existing all-news services are strong and healthy enough to

introduce direct competition:

“it would be appropriate to immediately introduce competition between Canadian services

operating in the genres of mainstream sports and mainstream national news. The services

operating in these genres - The Sports Network (TSN), Sportsnet, Le Réseau des sports

(RDS), CBC Newsworld, Newsnet, Le Réseau de l'information (RDI) and Le Canal Nouvelles

(LCN) - are strong, healthy, highly popular, and highly competitive.” (Emphasis added)

11.2. We are of the opinion that at first some audience will shift from CBC News Network

and CTV News Channel but within less than two years, we expect to expand

Canadians interest in news and information services as well as a repatriation of

viewers from CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. In the long run, we believe the impact on

the existing Canadian all-news services will be negligible (See Carat market research -

appendix B):

11.2.1. Only 30% of Sun TV News’s audience will come from existing Canadian all-news


11.2.2. English Canada is served by only 2 national All News channels: CBC News

Network and CTV News Channel. French Canada, a market 4 times smaller

than English Canada is also served by two all-news channels: RDI and LCN.

This supports the fact that the Canadian English-Language market has room for

a new news channel.

11.2.3. Finally, Sun TV News is different than the two all-news channel licensed by the

Commission. This is an information programming service that is new and

different because news is the matter to be discussed and analysed from different

angles. This is far from being a service licensed to program wall to wall news.


12.1. Sun TV News will expend an average of 31% of its gross revenues in Canadian

programs over the first licence term. On the first year, the amount will be $4 589 000

growing to $6 301 000 in year seven. (See financial projections - Appendix C)


13.1. Before addressing this issue, it is important to remind that the Commission has

decided that the wholesale fees will not be regulated anymore.

13.2. Furthermore, being distributed in BDU’s line up does not mean that this service have

to be necessarily chosen and paid by the public. Therefore, the applicant does not ask

the Commission to rule on the wholesale fee.

13.3. This being said, the applicant believes that, as shown in the financial forecast in

appendix C, Sun TV News will be generate a positive cash flow on year five with a

$0.25 wholesale fee. This is a lot less than CBC News Network service but, like in the

French-language market, we are confident that the Canadian public will demonstrate a

higher satisfaction for Sun TV News by choosing the service either on a standalone

basis or in a news package.


14.1. An application for a new licence is surely not the best forum to engage a discussion on

the appropriate level of closed captioning. In order to obtain the licence we are

applying for, we gather that the Commission will impose to Sun TV News a condition of

licence requiring closed captioning of 100% of programs.

14.2. Nevertheless, we ask the Commission to note that, however commendable this

obligation is, the sums that need to be invested in such an amount of closed captioning

means a lower amount is left for Canadian programs. Some digital specialty services

may not be launched in particular because of the cost of closed captioning on all


14.3. As an example, the average hour of closed captioning costs around $300 for an

Information & Analysis service depending on the format of the support used. Based on

this figure, 85 hours of original programs a week would cost $25,500, which represents

close to one and a half million dollars a year. For some diginets, this represents the

entire yearly programming budget.

14.4. Sun TV News will attempt to improve on the quality of the captioning and will cooperate

with the associations of deaf and hearing impaired persons so that the closed

captioning offered satisfies as much as possible the needs of those Canadians.

14.5. The licensee commits to respect, by condition of licence, the standards of quality

established by the industry task force as soon as such a quality code is approved in

line with Regulatory Broadcast and Telecom Policy CRTC 2009-430 of 21 July 2009.


15.1. The last national voice that the Commission licensed in Canada was in 1997. In the

United States, changes have occurred in the Information Business during that time. It

seems that in Canada, the two leaders have accepted their respective positions and

have demonstrated little innovation.

15.2. Unlike all-news channels already licensed, Sun TV News is different.

15.3. This new information channel will add Canadian content to the broadcasting system

since it will program primarily original Canadian programming.

15.4. We consider this application a proactive operation and we ask the Commission to

process it as a matter of priority. QMI/TVA will be ready to launch this new service on

January 1st, 2011. This is why we request some distribution rules, but only for a

maximum period of three (3) years (7 times less than CBC News Network and 4 times

less than CTV News Channel).

15.5. Sun TV News is a solution to a problem: the problem being that the most popular news

service in Canada is from another country and that the TV stations in the most

crowded market of the country are struggling. We hope the Commission will recognize

this situation and approve the proposed solution quickly.

15.6. We thank the Commission for taking into serious consideration this application and for

studying our application on a fast track basis for a new editorial voice in Canada

1 comment:

  1. Sorry about the spacing. Copy from pdf issue.