Canada TV news channels to be offered "a la carte"

Thu Dec 19, 2013 6:02pm EST
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By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's broadcast regulator said on Thursday it would require cable and satellite television distributors to offer customers news channels on a standalone basis, a decision that could pave the way for more "a la carte" programming down the road.

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

But the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said TV subscribers should at least have the opportunity to subscribe to all domestic news services, both individually and in packages of similar channels. It set a deadline of May 18 for distributors to comply.

"Canadian news services are an important part of our democracy," CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said in a statement.

"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."

At least one distributor, Telus Corp, does not offer Sun News at all in its main Western Canadian markets. It said it offers many channels "a la carte" or in simple packages, but expressed concern about being forced to offer content in a particular package.

"We'd rather leave that choice up to individual customers," Telus spokesman Shawn Hall said.

He said Telus had been unable to agree to terms with Sun News, but negotiations will likely resume now that the CRTC has made this decision.   Continued...