Sun News not shining

Canada's newest 24 hour news channel, Sun TV, isn't widely available in Canada yet. Here in the Yukon, it's only available through Shaw satellite. Northwestel cable doesn't carry the right-wing news channel.

Canada’s newest 24 hour news channel, Sun TV, isn’t widely available in Canada yet.

Here in the Yukon, it’s only available through Shaw satellite.

Northwestel cable doesn’t carry the right-wing news channel.

That doesn’t sit well with James Ewert.

As a Northwestel customer with right-leaning views, he had hoped he’d be able to watch Sun TV on something other than his computer screen.

When he called Northwestel to inquire about when the channel would become available, a customer service rep told him Sun TV was too controversial and there were no plans to add it any time soon, said Ewert

“I didn’t think that my views were that controversial,” he said.

While Ewert was shocked by that explanation, so was Northwestel.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with any subjective judgment,” said Emily Younker, the telco’s communications manager. “It’s simply fact that a contract and agreement around rates and fees and other contractual terms, like programming and packaging requirements, wasn’t reached by the time of this launch.”

While they don’t broadcast Sun TV yet, it’s something that Northwestel is still open to.

“It’s possible you’ll see it in the future,” said Younker.

But that could take a while.

Since it’s launch in April, only one satellite, and a handful of cable companies have picked up the network.

Bell Canada initially carried Sun TV on its satellite service, but was ordered to take it off by Sun’s parent company, Quebecor Media, after only a few weeks.

The two media companies couldn’t reach an agreement on carrier charges – how much Bell would pay to carry the network – and programming – in what kind of package the channel would be offered.

Quebecor has appealed to the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission, accusing Bell of giving undue preference to its own news channels – CTV, BNN, CP24.

For its part, Bell called the terms Quebecor demanded excessive.

Both companies described the other as unwilling to negotiate.

In a letter to the CRTC, the Canadian Cable Systems Alliance, a non-profit group that represents more than 100 independent cable companies, including Northwestel, echoed Bell’s assertion Quebecor was being unreasonable.

The alliance faced similar problems with Quebecor when trying to negotiate an agreement to carry Sun TV on behalf of its membership.

“Sun News demanded a very high minimum subscriber penetration as a condition of carrying the service and, to date, has rigidly maintained that demand,” stated the letter. “(The alliance) has responded just as Bell Media has done. We cannot accept an offer that unreasonably restricts our members’ ability to offer services in response to their customers’ needs.”

The CRTC hearing is now closed.

The regulator is expected to make a decision in a few weeks.

But that decision will only effect Bell.

No matter what the outcome, Northwestel will have to negotiate its own separate agreement.

That means Ewert is going to have to wait for Sun TV to rise.

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

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