Canada's TV regulator to require offering standalone news channels

Thu Dec 19, 2013 12:17pm EST
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TORONTO Dec 19 (Reuters) - Canada's broadcast regulator took a step toward bringing more flexibility to cable and satellite television packages on Thursday by requiring distributors to offer their customers news channels on a standalone basis.

The move should benefit Quebecor Inc's Sun News Network. The conservative news channel in August lost a bid to require all distributors to offer the channel as part of their basic packages.

But on Thursday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said TV subscribers should at least have the opportunity to subscribe to all domestic news services, either individually or as part in programming bundles. It set a deadline of May 18 for distributors to comply.

The CRTC said the order had grown out of concerns raised at the hearing to consider Sun News Network's request for "mandatory carriage." The proceedings illustrated the challenges facing domestic news channels, especially new entrants, the commission said.

The regulator is moving more broadly to allow Canadian television viewers greater freedom to choose to pay only for channels they watch, rather than require them to subscribe to large packages.