Okay , say you’re Quebecor media czar Pierre Karl Peladeau. Whoops, I just vomited in my mouth. (Half full disclosure: I was once fired by Pierre Karl Peladeau.)
Your crummy little Toronto TV station has never made a dime and lost an estimated $8.8 million last year. You’ve long since lost interest in the venture as any glance at the moribund schedule will attest.
It seemed like a good idea cracking the Toronto market a few years ago but the money now is all over on the specialty side. So you cook up a plan: make lots of noise about launching a new Canadian right wing news network. Always with the firm grasp of the obvious, you call it Sun TV News.
You need the CRTC to take back your loser conventional licence and grant you access to the full carriage fee money tap which would be a category 1 specialty licence, so you wrap yourself in the Canadian flag.
Which is what PKP did Tuesday at a press conference held in a portion of a building which was once all owned by the Toronto Sun.
Mr. Peladeau threw down a challenge to the CRTC, asking for this new news licence to wake up the old guard news guys in English Canada. He pointed out that more people watch CNN in Canada than the CBC or CTV news networks (which, by the way, is true when oil is spilling into the gulf but not so true when actual news is happening in Canada). “They’re opting out or switching over,” Mr Peladeau said “That’s not good for Canadian television. It’s not good for Canadian democracy. And it’s not good for Canada itself.”
What–suddenly he’s a Canadian nationalist? Back when Quebecor was kicking the tires during their first sniff at The Sun, Peladeau’s dad Pierre was branded a “closet Separatist” by former Sun columnist Allan Fotheringham. Now Peladeau Junior is standing up for Canadian democracy. Zut alors.
And he wants to do it by aping the most (ugly) American TV invention of them all, right wing pundit television. Where was this zeal to save Canada all this time he has been importing U.S. garbage like Dave’s World and Caroline in the City daily on SUN TV? Hell, for another (American) buck, NBC-Universal would have thrown in Veronica’s Closet.
But, okay, it’s still a free country, knock yourself out. But category 1? No way. The CRTC has already said they’re not doling out any more of these free, everybody-must-carry-this-station passes. Go ahead, give up your coveted channel 15 spot on the dial but the best you’re looking at is category 2. Now work your own deal to latch on somewhere with Shaw, Rogers and Bell and don’t bet it won’t be on channels of three digits or higher.
Still, the pitch has caught a few headlines and a buzz has begun. With the right money and marketing behind it, everybody will bundle you with CNN, CBC NN, MSNBC, and, yes, Fox News, which, by the way, NOBODY watches in Canada. (It’s not even carried on the cable system Peladeau owns, Videotron.)
The next problem: It’s usually a good idea to prove you can handle one successful hour long newscast before getting into the 24-hour TV news business. The folks out west at Craig built fancy sets and hired a few local news names when they charged ahead with Toronto1 not that many years ago. They hit the wall within days, some would say minutes. The resources simply were not there, and everything got tossed on The Grill Room.
CHCH in Hamilton is proving it can be done, however, with hard work and integrity. The heritage station is gamely making a go of it with an all-day all-news format, one that is local and community based. They built on the news strengths they already had and have had success pulling supper hour viewers in the highly competitive GTA market.
By hiring a former Stephen Harper spin doctor as his news network point man, Peladeau smells an opportunity to take a right wing shortcut to the top of the Canadian cable news heap. “Quebecor sees an untapped market opportunity in English Canadian TV news,” says PKP. “We see an opportunity in offering Canadians something new, something better, something distinct.”
Make no mistake—Quebecor sees an opportunity to make money. They want in on the carriage fee cash flow. But they’ll have to spend a lot—more than the $100 million over five years they’ve already pledged—to produce a Canadian version of Fox News. Maybe if he asks nicely, the folks at the Sun newspapers will contribute content to the new venture. Mr. Peladeau can be very persuasive.
Who ever gets behind this venture, they would do well to heed the example of recent attempts to export the dumbassification of U.S. culture directly into the Great White North. Canwest thought that E! brand would sell itself. It didn`t. CTV had high expectations for all that MTV programming. So last decade.
If SUN TV News thinks Fox News North will be a tea party, they might want to wake up and smell the Tim Hortons.


  1. The only reason I’d want to see Mr. Peladeau get his licence for his Fox News North scheme is to see him fail miserably. (Schadenfreude anyone?)

    Seriously, I find it disconcerting that the CRTC even entertains this clowns’ application. There is nothing inherently Canadian, correct or even civil about running a Fox News-wannabe network up here. (Frankly, considering our more stringent anti-hate laws, I doubt it would last more than a month before getting dragged into court anyway.) Peladeau has clearly not put any serious market research about actually serving the wants and needs of Canadians into this. Instead, he makes a few unsubstantiated claims and expects the CRTC to fall ass backwards to accommodate him. Gimme a break.

    And really, do we even need another news network? Given the amount of overworked and recycled stores that pass for news on these stations, arguably there are more carriers than there is news.

  2. Somersby Creek –

    You sound like the kind of ignorant viewer this new news channel will try to educate.

    I can assure you Mr. Brioux that many Canadians watch FOXNews, especially those who do not like their news filtered through the liberal lens.

  3. I just read an entry over at SOWNYca that CHCH has bought Smallville away from Sun-TV for next season. Crap crap crap crap… now I won’t be able to receive season 10 OTA.

    And why dump on Sun-TV’s daytime offerings here. All CTV offers is Pax’s US clone Sue Thomas show and US soaps and talkers. All the CBC offers is far left wing agenda programming.

  4. CQ, I don’t know what imaginary CBC you’re watching, but the last time I checked their daytime schedule it was all Martha Stewart and Steven and Chris and stuff like that. Except right now, when it’s almost all World Cup soccer and rescheduled Coronation Street. “Left-wing agenda” programming, my a$$.

  5. For what it’s worth, I find it very difficult to believe this can work. Not because of the political leanings, however (and the notion that either of the existing Canadian TV news networks is biased to the far-left is laughable at best; they’re both blandly centrist if anything.)

    The problem is the Category 1 license; even assuming that the CRTC actually grants it — which is debatable, since Category 1 is supposed to be closed terrain — they’d be limiting themselves to those cable subscribers who actually purchase the digital tier, which is at best a small fraction of the viewing public and is about as far from being the road to riches as one can get.

    That said, I’ve always thought that Quebecor was missing a more obvious route to stabilizing CKXT; forget about the saturated English TV market in Toronto, and serve the smaller Franco-Ontarian community by taking it TVA. What they’d lose in potential audience size, they’d gain in cutting program acquisition costs to a minimum, since they already own it all anyway — and it’s an underserved community that’s far more starved for a second programming alternative than English Toronto will ever be. And stick a couple more repeaters up in Sudbury and Timmins and North Bay, and it would almost certainly garner at least a comparable audience to what SunTV gets now, for much less money.

    But no, that would require acknowledging that the station isn’t sustainable as it is now. And we can’t have that, right?

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