Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Good news: Sun TV's straight talk takes a turn

Quebecor is retreating on its bid to force all Canadian cable subscribers to pay for its proposed Sun TV News ... aka Hard News, Straight Talk ... aka Fox News North.

This is a victory. The about-face comes after thousands of Canadians voiced their opposition through organizations such as OpenMedia.ca and Avaaz.org to what was perceived as a politically-connected corporation trying to get a special deal via the Conservative government. This appears to be a rare example of the public getting involved and forcing a shift in the broadcaster's plans.

The CRTC has been planning a hearing on the Sun TV News application (we'll soon see if that hearing goes ahead). The Guild made a written submission supporting the existence of the new channel, with conditions, and objecting to the request for the special treatment.

Among the conditions, we proposed that Quebecor commit to a base level of editorial staff for the new channel, based on concerns about Quebecor's recent commitment to news and journalism at its other outlets. The company has cut hundreds of newspaper jobs cut across the country in the last two years and yet says it will rely heavily on these print journalists to feed the all-news TV network. And then there's the way Quebecor values its newspaper operations in Quebec, where a lockout at the Journal de Montreal is now in month 20; a lockout at the Journal de Qu├ębec ended in 2008 after a year and a half.

The Guild also proposed that the CRTC hold a hearing on the definition of news programming. While news is clearly dear the CRTC - they set up that local program fund in 2008 to support it, and that's good - no definition of it exists in broadcast policy. That's dangerous when media owners such as Quebecor, with the Sun TV News application, and Corus, with the Local 1 application, cleary want to stretch the boundaries.

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