Sun News Network Interviewing Justin Trudeau by Alex Guibord (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Sun News Network Interviewing Justin Trudeau by Alex Guibord (CC BY-ND 2.0)


Why the Demise of the Sun News Network May Be a Preview of Things to Come

The abrupt end of the Sun News Network – its owners pulled the plug on the all-news channel without warning earlier this month – sparked considerable commentary with many lamenting the lost jobs, others examining the quality of the content, and some celebrating the end of a service that was controversial from the moment it launched. Largely left unsaid, however, is that its demise signals the beginning of a new era in Canadian broadcasting in which services are allowed to fail rather than being propped up through regulatory or government support.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes the Canadian broadcasting system has long been shielded from market forces through a broad array of regulations that offer both financial compensation and marketplace protection. Those rules have been a boon to broadcasters, who have seen some services succeed with limited viewers and original content.

Mandatory carriage is the best-known support mechanism. The regulatory equivalent of a winning lottery ticket, inclusion on the list of “must carry” services guarantees subscription payments from all cable and satellite subscribers. The Sun News Network applied for mandatory carriage, but the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission rejected its request along with virtually all other applications for the privileged status.

While must-carry status has long been the most direct path toward broadcast revenues, the government and the CRTC wield a much larger regulatory toolbox. Conventional broadcasters benefit from simultaneous substitution, a regulatory policy which allows them to substitute U.S. signals with the Canadian version – including ads – when the same program airs at the same time in both countries. The CRTC recently announced plans to ban simsub from the Super Bowl, but decided to retain it for other broadcasts after concluding that it generates $250 million in revenue per year for the Canadian system.

Until recently those same broadcasters also benefited from the Local Programming Improvement Fund, which the CRTC created in 2008 to assist local broadcasters. The LPIF resulted in a 1.5 per cent surcharge on consumer cable and satellite bills, paying out $300 million to broadcasters over its three years of existence (the CRTC announced plans to terminate the program in 2012).

Without regulations to stop the practice, broadcast distributors bundle services together, forcing consumers to buy packages of channels featuring ones they do not want along with ones they do. Some channels included in popular packages generate subscription revenue despite having low ratings and limited interest from viewers.

Direct payments and bundled services may be the most obvious methods of support, but broadcasters have also benefited from a protected marketplace. For example, foreign investment restrictions in the broadcast sector have shielded Canadian companies from foreign competition. This system initially kept U.S. giants such as ESPN, HBO, and MTV out of the market, thereby fostering the development of alternative Canadian sports, movie, and music specialty services.

The Sun News Network understandably hoped to cash in on this system, but its launch coincided with the gradual unraveling of Canadian broadcast regulation. The LPIF is gone, new mandatory carriage channels are non-starters, the value of simultaneous substitution is eroding, and the CRTC will soon require cable and satellite companies to offer all channels on a pick-and-pay basis.

The emerging environment places more control in the hands of consumers, who can pick from conventional broadcasters, specialty services, and unregulated Internet-based streaming services such as Netflix. The combination of increased choice and lost regulatory support will invariably mean that more services will fail in the months ahead.

As with the loss of the Sun News Network, some viewers will be left disappointed. The all-news channel may have been among the first to feel the effects of a marketplace that directly links the viability of broadcast services with actual consumer demand, but it surely will not be the last.


  1. James Bliwas says:

    I wonder whether the sudden plug-pulling had anything to do with Pierre Karl Péladeau running for the leadership of the Parti Quebecois while his cable news outlet was an unabashed supporter of all things Canadian, even the not-so-good stuff. After all, that doesn’t jibe with Mr. Péladeau’s seeking to head an unabashed separatist party.

    Beyond that, Sun (Not) News was terrible television: Few legitimate interview guests, a lot of hosts sitting around interviewing each other, and a kind of clear, far right wing, xenophobic bias that doesn’t sit well with most Canadians.

    • Paul in calgary says:

      Sat perfectly well with me, they had people on that the left wing biased ctv cbc ,global would never have on their show. its not sun news that was xenophobic its the left wing echo chamber state broad casters et al the media party that are xenophobic. they were very scared of a diversity of views. All liberal all the time at the CBC. The difference is that sun news was private and could do what they wanted , the CBC is a tax payer funded state broad caster that tries to shape opinion by shaping the news to a specific directed point. That is what Canadians don’t want and the instant they have their 1.1 billion dollars cut they will fold like a “basic dictatorship” Chinese made lawn chair

      • Well said Paul from Calgary; I also appreciate the reference to faulty Chinese lawn chair and a recent comment by the The Leader of Third Party in Parliament and their continuing pledge to use taxpayer funding to support their own political news media similar to the Leaders preference for Chinese Dictatorial form of Governing.
        Mind you upon immediate reflection, Dear Leader of the Third Party recognized his mistake and tried the usual politized Leftie trick of a drive-by smear of P.M. Harper.

        • You both hit the nail on the head. In my case I just dropped cable period and caught the SUN through the internet. I’d be worried if I was a traditional broadcaster. Unless your kid likes hockey, youth don’t want anything to do with TV . My teenagers don’t even know how to operate the remote.

      • So do you really think the CBC is left wing? Since when? Since Harper stacked the Board with Conservatives?

        Sun “News” shouldn’t even be called news because it was tabloid journalism and not news. Real news should be balanced. It shouldn’t be left OR right wing. There are two sides to every story.

        • Frank Ch. Eigler says:

          Let’s assume that you’re right, that news “should be” balanced
          or whatever. What should that mean operationally? Who should get to judge news organs or their product for balancedness? How should lack-of-balance be punished?

    • Also sat well with me. Made a change from the leftist propaganda like the Canadian Bias Corporation and TVO that has the declared mission to bring PC to the masses.

      • So you made the chance from leftist propaganda to rightist propaganda. Congratulations.

        How about balanced reporting instead of this left wing/right wing nonsense?

      • What’s wrong about personal computers? Are you s9me kind of property hating commie?

  2. Frank Ch. Eigler says:

    May mandatory carriage also bite the dust before long.
    (And government subsidies to broadcasters also.)

  3. Definitely a sign of things to come and this is great news for all Canadians. Canadian content has always been poorly made and the uninteresting. With the cominh end of old fashioned content laws the amount of stuff made domestically will naturally trend towards what is sustainable in a truly free market. As a result well all end up paying less money for better content. Everyone wins.

  4. Calvin Taylor says:

    Correction, “some viewers will be left disappointed” should be “some viewers will be right disappointed”. Most of us loved to hate and mock Sun news for being the most right wing rag out there. I do apologize to all the rags for defamation. Sun wasn’t serving my cup of tea, and I would have been upset to see a portion of any of my dollars set to fund it.
    One of the reasons I love some National news organizations is that they have a mandate to be nonpartisan. My eyebrows raise when someone calls them leftist.

    • Frank Ch. Eigler says:

      National mandate for non partisanship? Whoa, where does that come from and how would we enforce it against perceived transgression by certain federally funded organs?

    • Your eyebrow raises? …. perhaps that is a sign of a phaser on stun. Nothing could be further left than the CBC and it’s cousin the Red Star of Trantor. You must have a severe case of the mental disorder if you don’t know that.

    • Wow! You really believe the CBC, CTV, Toronto Star, Globe & Mail are unbiased. Wow! The aforementioned are basically the media wing of the LPC and/or NDP.

      Considering the CBC (for one) had hundreds upon hundreds of stories about the Mike Duffy affair yet only a handful regarding Mac Harb – who stole hundreds of thousands over a decade and hasn’t given it all back – is proof that that entity is totally biased. The others did about just as well.

      By the way, where is the expose on Harb’s claim to own houses in Cobden and Westmeath when he lived in Ottawa? Where were/are the outrage-filled columns about him still being able to walk freely? When you find them tell us.

    • That would be the raised eyebrows perched over eyeballs in a 1000 mile stare.

    • “Sun wasn’t serving my cup of tea, and I would have been upset to see a portion of any of my dollars set to fund it”

      Well now Calvin Taylor now you know how the majority of Canadians feel about the CBC

      • Come on guys stop spreading FUD. The CBC’s board of directors is overwhelmingly Conservative since Harper appointed most of its directors.

  5. I have no more problem with being told what I can and cannot watch. I dumped my cable TV and use Netflix and other on line opportunities for entertainment I choose.

    Bye Bye major networks … you are dead men walking. As are all your other genders, some of which I am unfamiliar with.

  6. I Hear ya Michael, The heavily regulated world of broadcast/cable allocation gouging had ended – I bailed from Cable for the freedom, quality, choice and cost effective media available on line years ago, – just like Voip allowed me to detach the telephone service parasites.

    The Cable parasites are an endangered species about to go extinct due to their own greed and valueless out put. Canadian cable TV spectrum is a vast entertainment wasteland sold for a super premium price.

    Think of it as natural selection catching up to the Canadian broadcast market. Good riddance.

  7. “… its demise signals the beginning of a new era in Canadian broadcasting in which services are allowed to fail rather than being propped up through regulatory or government support.”

    You left out the word ‘conservative’. Conservative services will be allowed to fail, so-called ‘progressive’ services will continue to be propped up with my tax dollars at every level, federal, provincial and municipal.

    • Ivan Gluscic says:


    • If you don’t like freedom, move south you hippie. Nobody has a right to make a profit.

      Unless SNN was a nonprofit, it wasnt pro IDing a public service, and therefore doesn’t deserve feferal funding. You’d throw a his sy fit if, sa6, The Star received federal grants to do a for-profit cable show.

  8. Gordon Stamp says:

    Well written Michael. And very educational.

  9. Can Michael/someone else help me understand; I get the impression from this article that Michael is in support of mandatory carriage, (3rd paragraph; “Mandatory carriage is the best-known support mechanism”).

    That didn’t jive with other stuff I’ve felt I’ve read here. So I did some searching. June 27, 2011’s article is in support of a full a la carte model, ( Isn’t this contrary to mandatory carriage?

    Help me understand the differences between the two? To me, mandatory carriage doesn’t mesh with a full a la carte model, because then it’s not full choice, I’d be forced to have the Sun News Network.

    Context; I “cut the cord” over 4 years ago. The –only– bit of SNN I’ve ever seen was about 3 years ago when there was an interview with someone about white poppies. I don’t have enough experience with SNN to have an opinion on them. It’s the mandatory carriage/a la carte choices I’m confused about.

    • Putting it in context with the sentence following it will help.
      “Mandatory carriage is the best-known support mechanism. The regulatory equivalent of a winning lottery ticket, inclusion on the list of “must carry” services guarantees subscription payments from all cable and satellite subscribers.”

      Michael’s “best known” isn’t an endorsement that mandatory carriage is a good thing. It’s a statement that from the perspective of a broadcaster it’s the most guaranteed way of getting the highest profit. Even if your content is utter shit you still rake in the money because everyone has to pay for what you broadcast. So you can do anything you want with enough financial support to guarantee you won’t have to shut down because no-one is interested in what you’re broadcasting.

  10. Double standard – let the mouth-breathing knuckle draggers succumb to their beloved marketplace while we enlightened rational SJW’s get fat on other peoples’ money!

  11. Your argument is based on the assumption that the regulatory approach will be consistent. Considering that SunTV was never offered the same carriage as APTN, BBC World, BBC Canada, CBC Newsworld, CP24, CPAC, or CTV Newsnet, that seems like a pretty bold assumption.
    Another assumption is that the next election won’t give us a government more willing to promote its ideology through friendly media.

  12. The notion that CBC, CTV, Global ect. are unbiased is hillarious. Exactly right about the coverage of Duffy vs. Harb or Wallin. There are many many liberal crooks around, and not around like Jack Layton for instance. I never knew for about 20 years that he and Chow stole from taxpayers by living in a subsidized housing development while being a wealthy couple. Their excuse? “We wanted to live close to the people we were trying to help..” something to that effect anyway. Should have been jailed in my opinion. Same with McGuinty, Wynne, even Mulrooney for the airbus scandal, just to name a few off the top of my head.

  13. Mike in Calgary says:

    I can’t wait for the left-wing biased CBC to be completely de-funded. Its billions are deceitfully used to campaign for socialist initiatives. A socialist-funded broadcaster cannot help but advance a socialist-leaning agenda within its broadcasting.

  14. SUN suffered when the CRTC mandated that 80% of its’ programming needed to be “Canadian produced”…while not granting the special access coverage already given to CTV and CBC, and SUN was only able to levy a $0.10 per viewer surcharge rather than an industry standard $0.40 per viewer with cable. It often had an intolerable placing well up the channel podium and did not have mandatory cable access without surcharge to viewers. That is one heck of a level playing field.
    Now we hear that SUN ratings were actually akin to how many routinely view the much touted!!!
    So I agree with Michael that online is very likely the future, like it or not.

  15. I agree with that statement 100%. I was one of the only news channels I liked. It was always way easier to click on the CBC, global or CTV. And the reason I did like it, was because it did talk about what really needed to be talked about. I wondered why it was on as long as it was. This Liberal society hates people thinking for themselves. I see a few comments saying it was rag news, and should have been taken off. Well it is on TV you can change the Channel if you don’t like it. But with these liberal Fundamentalist they don’t want you to watch it either. So let’s keep funding the CBC and make sure we put down anyone who speaks out. Justin Trudeau is just amazing and Steven Harper is a bad man. And shame on people like me for having an opinion. And we also don’t have a problem in Canada if we do it the liberal way. Like in Ontario. Witch I think owes more money than Greece, and twice as much as California. Great thing to leave for our kids. O and the terrorist problem, there not bad, they are just misunderstood people who want to cut off our heads and blow people up, and there is not too many of them. Only a few million with mental problem. They must laugh at how stupid we are.
    I would like to thank Sun News for all they contributed to Canada. You will be missed.
    Question for the liberal Machine. Why are you people so scared of freedom of speech? I would like to have a real answer, not some pissed of sarcasm.

    • Don’t get me started with Ontario. It is mind boggling how inept and stupid the Tory party was along with anyone involved along the way such as party members, campaign managers and down the list.. how you could lose to a corrupt thieving liberal party who raised taxes beyond belief while balooning the debt.. how do you do that? McGuinty stealing 300/month on supposed orange juice bills.. how can you possibly lose to such an idiot?? That dumbass John Tory with his faith based schools.. a useless dolt like Tim Hudak who couldn’t get his message across. Why he wasn’t dumped after losing to McGuinty is something only Stephen Hawkins could figure out. Completely pathetic that Ontarians voted in a government that has destroyed the economy, so bad that it is a have not province now full of useless people that are a drain and that will vote for a party that promises them handouts.. that is not democracy, I think I would prefer a dictatorship in this case.

  16. Hi folks,

    All mass media have a bias to a certain degree but I haven’t seen one as vile and as biased as Sun News Network in Canada. Michael Coren and Ezra Levant both staunch Zionists interview vile and fascist xenophobes and Islamophobic public figures and sometimes openly Zionist smear casters pretending to be objective experts on the Middle East and Islam. They dare to speak for minorities especially Muslims very negatively as if we can’t represent ourselves. For instance ISIS represents 0.0019 % of Muslims. Among 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide there are probably 30 000 ISIS fighters at the most and the Sun News Media smear casters disguised as courageous journalists lie to the Canadian public and tell us that the majority of Muslims are pro-ISIS and Alqaida and there are hundreds of sleeper cells in Canada. That Muslims pose a real threat to Canada and its security. You don’t need to be a leftie or a liberal to know that this is BS! At least CBC does not serve as a platform for hate speech as Sun News Network really does. Alas some of us can’t tell the difference between speech and hate speech but I am glad Sun News is now history. Good riddance!

    • Frank Ch. Eigler says:

      So what you’re saying is that you didn’t like Sun News. OK, but that has nothing to do with the differential regulation aspects.

    • Really. I am pretty confident in saying that the vast majority of Muslims are not violent terrorists however the vast majority of Muslims would like to see Islam as the dominant, if not only, religion worldwide. That is why I have no problem with Sun or any other body being critical of their objectives.

      • Well I will say one thing. the more this terrorist stuff goes on, the more people will start to be defensive to it. In the USA people are buying record amounts of guns and bullets, sense Obama has taken power. There is a sleeping giant in both America and Canada and around the world. Germany is an example just in the past few months. Not all Muslims are bad, I work with a few. but not to many have come out and condemned it. but that could be out of fear also. You Liberals need to understand. In World War 2 not all Germans were bad. only took a small few to cause so much. Over 60 million people were killed. the number this time will be far more.

    • I only saw bits and pieces of Sun News via YouTube, but I have never, ever seen Coren, Levant, Lilley, et al. ever say that the majority of Canadian Muslims or Muslims as a whole were pro-ISIS or pro-Al Qaeda. They were definitely anti-Islamist, and I think it did spill over (at least in Coren’s case) into being anti-Islam, but all of them took pains to point out all the time that the vast majority of Muslims were not radical.

  17. I can not believe we live in a communist state. Sun News was the only place where we could get accurent reporting. This just shows that there is no free speech left. It makes me very sad that people can hide under canaidian law as immigrants and dictate how we can and can not give an opinion under the law of free speech which is under the charter. I guess you libtards will make it better under Mike Jagars kid good luck. It is time the West seperates from you eastern loosers once and for all. We will be off with out you anchors around our necks

  18. Wow. It looks like the entire viewing audience of Sun “News” managed to find their way to this article. Good job, guys.