Musings —08.08.2013 01:00 PM—
Look, I know lots of folks will be positively giddy that Sun News Network, along with some other applicants, didn’t get “mandatory carriage.” Some will be celebrating its imminent demise. (Some of them will even be journalists, which is a bit jarring: I mean, these days, what sane journalist derives any pleasure from the death of yet another media organization? But I digress.)
Here’s the thing, fellow progressives: sorry, but Sun News isn’t going to die. The CRTC decision – and I can’t believe I’m going to say this about the CRTC – has released a nuanced and, dare I say it, devilishly clever decision. You should actually read it, here. (Or read one of the bestest/fairest reporters in Canada, the Globe’s Steve Ladurantaye, here.) And when you do, you’ll agree with me: Sun News isn’t going to die at all. It in fact has been given everything it wanted.
More than anything else, Sun News wanted parity, placement and (for lack of a better alliterative word) a bit of patriotism. Its argument was that you obviously can’t attract eyeballs when your destiny is determined by a multinational who happens to own your competitor, and who sticks you up on channel 496 (or not at all). It also argued that you can’t attract sufficient revenue when your main competitors get “mandatory carriage” on cable, and you don’t. It argued that foreign media multinationals were getting a better deal than Canadian outfits.
And it got what it wanted. Here’s three reasons why:
- The CRTC decision will ultimately create a new category of licences for Canadian all-news channels, like the ones found on CTV and CBC as well as SNN. It’s asking for public comment on all that, sure. But the CRTC decision will force cable companies to offer all Canadian national news services, including SNN. That’s parity.
- The CRTC’s clever plan will put all these news services in close proximity on your TV dial. It will also put all national news services – CTV and CBC included – in a package. And it’ll force cable companies to offer it. That’s placement.
- The CRTC will put Canadian news channels – you know, Sun News, CTV News Channel and CBC News Network – on a higher priority footing than foreign-owned news channels, like CNN or Al Jazeera. That’s the patriotism part: it’s dumb to give more to foreign-owned networks than all-Canadian ones. So the CRTC’s changing that.
The Sun-haters won’t be deterred, of course. They’ll say that the public consultation hasn’t been held yet, and none of these things have come to pass, blah blah blah.
That’s true, I guess. But the fact (a) the CRTC is setting a land-speed record in holding a “consultation” in the dead of Summer and (b) the fact that its conclusions are identical to SNN’s submissions – ie., there is a problem that is “large” and “systemic” with respect to “the distribution of new and existing Canadian national news services on fair and commercially reasonable terms,” and there are “barriers [that] constitute a significant obstacle to the exchange of ideas on matters of public concern and the overall democratic dialogue in Canada, principles that the Canadian broadcasting system has a duty to facilitate” – strongly suggest, ahem, what the outcome will be.
When the CRTC says that you haven’t been treated in a “fair and commercially reasonable way” – when they say that democracy itself is hurt when there isn’t a full “exchange of ideas” – then, well, you know what that means.
It means that Sun News has gotten everything it wanted, and then some.