Sun News might just get its way
I don’t think there’s really any need for a detailed analysis of the following: Sun News Network, the right-wing, free-market, anti-government “news” channel set up by Quebecor and some former Harper staffers is losing money and wants the government to mandate a special tax on cable consumers to guarantee it a revenue source. Apparently the free market isn’t so much fun after all, even for a free-market channel. Much easier just to have the government require everyone to pay for your service, right?
The depressing thing is that I would place the odds of Sun News getting basic cable status at something better than 50%. It’s tried and failed in the past to curry special favour, but I have a hunch that under its current leadership the CRTC is highly vulnerable to, shall we say, persuasion from its political masters. It’s a ridiculous application, but I don’t think it will do to laugh it off as a bad joke. They are completely serious about this. They want the government to require that all Canadian households with cable pay Sun News a monthly fee, so that Sun News can bombard them with the rantings of third-rate hacks who claim that big government is evil and the welfare bums should just suck it up and get a job.
I can’t find a copy of Sun’s latest submissions online yet, but the CRTC consultation notice associated with it notes that there are currently just 10 networks in Canada that have been given the status Sun wants: CBC News in Quebec, Radio-Canada’s RDI in English-Canada, Avis de Recherche in Quebec, the Weather Network, TVA, APTN, CPAC, AMI Audio, Accessible Media, and Canal M. Most of these are minority-language (i.e. French) non-profits, the most obvious exception being the Weather Network. Sun is asking for a special tax of $0.18 per month on all cable subscribers, which would make it the third-highest recipient of mandatory carriage subsidies after APTN and the Weather Network. As of 2013 no other news channels are mandated as part of basic service.
Sun will argue that in the past news stations were incorporated in the mandatory carriage regulation, and therefore that as a new news station Sun should get several years of mandatory carriage time. Think of it as the reverse of grandfathering — because the rule no longer applies to anyone else, Sun deserves a shot at benefiting from it, too.
Basically, it seems as though there are not many people willing and able to pay for Sun News voluntarily, so Sun wants everyone to pay for it involuntarily.