Quebecor's all-news network to launch in 2011

Quebec media mogul Karl Péladeau announced plans for Sun TV News, a new Canadian all-news TV network, in Toronto Tuesday.

Quebec media mogul Pierre Karl Péladeau announced plans Tuesday for Sun TV News, a new Canadian all-news TV network to launch in January 2011.

The partnership of Quebecor's TVA Group and its Sun Media Corp. unit was announced at the newspaper offices of the Toronto Sun on Tuesday.

Péladeau, chief executive of Montreal-based Quebecor, called the news network "a new voice and a new choice for Canadians."

The new channel will share resources and reporters with Sun Media and will have an emphasis on "strong personalities," Péladeau said.

The format of the network will be hard news during the day and what is described as "straight talk" or opinion in the evening, a format he argued is commercially successful for his French-language LCN all-news network in Quebec.

"The future of media belongs to the one that offers content to consumers across print, TV, internet and wireless platforms through media convergence," he said.

Earlier this month, a spokesman for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission confirmed that Quebecor Media had filed an application with the broadcast regulator to start an English-language TV news network.

The main hurdle for the plan will be convincing the federal broadcast regulator to grant the network a first-tier designation, which would guarantee it a place among the default channels for all cable subscribers.

Péladeau has plans for Sun TV News to replace the over-the-air Sun TV station in Toronto, where its new headquarters is currently under construction.

"It should be extended to as many Canadians as possible," Péladeau said.

He argued Canada is ill served by the incumbent specialty news channels — CBC News Network and CTV News Channel — and Canadians are tuning into American alternatives instead.

"This is not good for Canadian television, it's not good for Canadian democracy, and it's not good for Canada itself," Péladeau said.

Kory Teneycke, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's former communications director, will be vice-president in charge of developing the news operation.

He came out swinging against Canada's existing news networks at the news conference, saying they are "narrow, complacent and politically correct."

"We're taking on smug, condescending, often irrelevant journalism. We're taking on political correctness," Teneycke said.

"We will not be a state broadcaster offering boring news by bureaucrats, for elites, and paid for by taxpayers. We will be unapologetically patriotic.

"We will offer the kind of raw debate that Canadians only find today in coffee shops and around the dinner table. Sun TV News will be controversially Canadian."

Teneycke rejected the label, "Fox News North," which has been applied to the new TV property because of its similarity in format to the right-wing U.S. network.

The network will offer "strong opinions and analysis" but will carry a range of points of view, he said. 

Teneycke also dismissed criticisms that the network would polarize political debate in Canada, particularly CBC commentator Don Newman's recent column calling the network "the last thing this country needs."

It is "natural that our competitors should be worried," Teneycke said.

Neither Teneycke nor Péladeau could say how many jobs might be created if the news service gets its licence. It will share resources such as reporters with Sun Media, which has seen deep cuts under Quebecor's control.

Journalists who have already been hired for the new initiative include former Canwest correspondent David Akin and Brian Lilley, formerly the Ottawa bureau chief of Astral Media Radio.

Further personalities attached to the network are to be announced over the next few months, Teneycke said. He could provide no details on how the network would cover foreign news.

Péladeau faced questions from reporters over the ongoing lockout at Journal de Montreal

"We've invested $1 billion in our broadcast interests in Quebec. There is no relation between the lockout at Journal de Montreal to the rest of Quebecor," he said.

He refused to give a specific figure for his investment in the Sun TV News, saying it would be "whatever is appropriate" to get the broadcaster on the air.

With files from The Canadian Press