Quebecor CEO Pierre-Karl Peladeau and Kory Teneckye, late of the PMO, want to bring hard news and straight talk to the nation’s cable TV subscribers — and they want to be put in a privileged position to do so.
The company wants Toronto station Sun TV to be converted from a broadcast network to a Canada-wide digital specialty channel – with a twist.
Quebecor wants a Category 1 licence, requiring distributors to offer it on at least one tier of their services. The only licence more lucrative is the kind mandating carriage on basic cable; those licences are no longer granted by the federal broadcast regulator. Even Category 1 licences are exceedingly rare: the only one granted in the past decade was for The Accessibility Channel, which makes a specific contribution to the broadcast system by providing described programs for people with visual impairments.
“We think it should be exposed to as many Canadians as possible, and not locked out of the market,” said Kory Teneycke, a former chief spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who will head the project.
These licences are prized in the industry because they guarantee a certain amount of subscriber revenues. At CTV News Channel, which has a similar guarantee to be offered on at least one tier, 64 per cent of its revenues come from subscribers. At CBC News Network, which is carried on basic cable, it’s closer to 82 per cent.
But there is another catch: news and sports channels will lose this mandatory carriage in 2011, or earlier. That means that Quebecor is not only seeking a rare licence for its station; the only way it makes sense to do so is if it can also convince the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to give it different treatment from its competitors.
Quebecor would not comment Tuesday, but to take advantage of such a licence it would need to be designated as part of a different category from mainstream news channels.
Teneycke took a shot across one competitor’s bow:
“Canadian TV news today is narrow, it’s complacent and it’s politically correct. It’s boring,” Mr. Teneycke said. “… Our aim is not to bore people to death. We’ll leave that to the CBC.”
So what will interesting look like? Teneycke said take a look as the Sun newspapers.
Note this from the Toronto Star:
In terms of newsgathering, the network will rely mostly upon the resources of the Sun newspaper chain, which operates dailies in Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Ottawa.
Sun journalists privately complain that those understaffed newsrooms are already stretched to limit supplying the tabloids, free papers, and Quebecor’s various websites.
On Monday, the Globe’s Jane Taber blogged that plucky hackette Krista Erickson has left the CBC, presumably to join this exciting news venture. She certainly created her share of excitement at the CBC. Globe blogger Rob Silver found Taber’s treatment of Erickson to be more than a tad sexist.
Pollster Bruce Anderson wrote Tuesday that Canadians should welcome the new channel, which would start broadcasting on Jan. 1, 2011 if all goes according to plan:
After studying our national attentiveness to politics for more than a couple of decades, I can’t see this new channel as anything but a good idea.
Disengagement from politics has reached disturbing new levels. Fewer citizens vote. Many of those who turn out are unable to explain the issues, ideas or motivations behind their choice. Our democracy gets weaker each and every year, it seems.
An overwhelming case can be made that we need more TV programming that encourages us to stay connected to our political life. If that’s true in general, is it realistic to confine the use of airwaves for non-partisan or apolitical journalism?