News channels must be offered to all TV customers by May

The federal broadcast regulator says cable and satellite companies must give their customers the option of subscribing to any Canadian news service they want, either in bundles or a la carte, no later than next spring.

CRTC says customers must be given option by next May

The CRTC is requiring that Canadians be given the option to subscribe to all Canadian news services, either in bundles or à la carte, no later than May 18, 2014.

The federal broadcast regulator says cable and satellite companies must give their customers the option of subscribing to any Canadian news service they want, either in bundles or a la carte, no later than next spring.

"Canadian news services are an important part of our democracy,” Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission chair Jean-Pierre Blais said in a release on the CRTC's website Thursday.

“With the rules we are announcing today, Canadians, as citizens, will have access to the news services that are of interest to them and will therefore have an opportunity to be exposed to a variety of opinions on matters of public concern."

May deadline

Among the measures announced is a requirement that Canadians be given the option to subscribe to all Canadian news services, either in bundles or à la carte, no later than May 18, 2014.

As it stands, upstart news services such as Sun News Network are not currently available as an option to subscribe to by customers of certain cable and satellite television providers. The network is offered to about 40 per cent of Canadian homes.

Thursday's decision means Canadian television consumers will have the option of purchasing any news channel they want in Canada, regardless of their television provider, by some time next spring, at the latest.

The move comes after the CRTC last summer rejected Sun News Network's bid for mandatory carriage status, which would have forced cable and satellite companies to carry it on all basic digital and analog services.

However, in doing so the regulator acknowledged there are significant obstacles facing newly launched news services to compete with established players.

When it rejected Sun News Network's bid for mandatory carriage, the regulator promised to review the framework for national news channels. Thursday's announcement is a result of that review.

Sun News said mandatory carriage would have provided the network with 18 cents a month for every English-language television household in Canada, and nine cents per French viewer. The network described mandatory carriage as "do-or-die" for the news channel.

In a statement Thursday, Sun News said it welcomed the CRTC's decision.

"This was never just about Sun News, it was always about putting Canadian TV first," Teneycke said. "It is no longer OK to treat foreign news channels better than Canadian ones."

The network says it will now start negotiating new cable and satellite agreements "that are in alignment with the new policy framework to ensure that Sun News is treated in a substantially similar fashion to other all news channels."

With files from CBC News

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