Sun News is seeking a five-year mandatory coverage digital basic deal from Canada’s broadcast regulator in an attempt to mitigate its nearly $17-million a year losses. The channel, which is nearing its two year anniversary on-air, filed its response Monday with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ahead of its hearing on April 23. J-Source associate editor Tamara Baluja reports. 

By Tamara Baluja

In an attempt to mitigate its nearly $17-million annual losses, Sun News is seeking a five-year mandatory coverage digital basic deal from Canada’s broadcast regulator.

The channel, which is nearing its two year anniversary on-air, filed its response Monday with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ahead of its hearing on April 23. The documents respond to the interventions from cable and satellite companies, who have argued against including the network, as it would result in higher fees for their customers and have also cited concerns over Sun News’ editorial content.

Sun News’s present subscription package, which makes them optional, is currently only available in four out of 10 households. The network points the finger at the conglomerate cable companies, who they say are trying to muscle out competition. For example, Sun News says Rogers replaced Sun News with its own City News channel.

“In an ideal world, Sun News would not have to make such an application. As a channel that is 100% 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.”

Some 53,000 people have signed a Sun News petition supporting its application to the CRTC after Sun News heavily advertised its campaign. Another 20,000 signed a counter petition against the channel. Sun News defended its editorial content and tone, saying “it is impossible for any single media outlet, regardless of its size, to reflect the views of all Canadians.” However, the channel’s top media personality Ezra Levant did issue an on-air apology to the Roma community on the same day Sun News filed its response with the CRTC.

Still, the network urged CRTC to ignore the counter petition, adding:

“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. Moreover, having a government agency take action to shut down a media outlet because it had provided a forum for views held by millions of Canadians would be a dangerous and undemocratic act.”

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Sun News says it maintains a good standing with the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, which has received 6,963 complaints to date. A large majority of those complaints resulted from a single interview that Sun News anchor Krista Erickson had with Canadian dancer Margie Gillis, but the CBSC ruled in favour of Sun News in that case.

“Like every media organization in the world, from time-to-time Sun News makes a mistake. 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 […] For example, we did this proactively in the case of comments made on The Source in relation to the Roma people.”

*All images courtesy of Sun News

Read the complete document and appendix

Tamara Baluja is an award-winning journalist with CBC Vancouver and the 2018 Michener-Deacon fellow for journalism education. She was the associate editor for J-Source from 2013-2014.