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OTTAWA/TORONTO (Reuters) - In a bid to shake up Canadian broadcasting, media company Quebecor Inc says it will launch a 24-hour conservative news and comment channel that many observers are already dubbing "Fox News North".
Quebecor said on Tuesday it has applied for a three-year license for the proposed English-language Sun TV News channel and if successful, would start broadcasting on January 1, 2011.
Quebecor Chief Executive Pierre Karl Peladeau said Sun TV News would provide much-needed competition for all-news channels operated by public broadcaster Canadian Broadcasting Corp and by CTV, part owned by telecoms giant BCE Inc and newspaper publisher Torstar Corp.
"Far too many Canadians are tuning out completely or changing their dials to American all-news channels ... It's not good for Canadian democracy and it's not good for Canada itself," Peladeau told a news conference in Toronto.
"Quebecor sees an untapped market opportunity in English Canadian TV news ... It is time to shake up the current players of the Canadian broadcasting system."
Quebecor owns the right-wing Sun chain of tabloid newspapers. In French-speaking Quebec, it owns the Journal de Montreal paper, TVA television and the LCN all-news channel.
The launch of Sun TV News will certainly please the governing Conservative Party, which complains regularly about what it sees as biased reporting by the CBC. It will be run by Kory Teneycke, former chief spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"We're taking on the mainstream media. We're taking on smug, condescending, often irrelevant journalism, we're taking on political correctness," said Teneycke, promising a mix of hard news reporting and opinion journalism.
Peladeau did not answer directly when asked whether he had discussed the proposed new channel with Harper and did not give a figure for how much Quebecor would invest.
"We will invest what we think is appropriate to make this company, or this specific business profitable," he said.
Critics say the channel will turn into the Canadian version of Fox News, the successful U.S. take-no-prisoners right-wing channel run by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.
One of the slogans on the Sun TV News website is "Join the fight" and Teneycke said the channel would be "unapologetically patriotic" and "controversially Canadian".
Don Newman, a respected former CBC anchor, wrote in a blog that the Conservatives did not need "a right-wing news channel urging them to be more rabid and stirring up the party's hard-core base".
Veteran CTV journalist Craig Oliver, speaking last week, said Peladeau was "very, very conservative, not to say extremely right wing".
Teneycke dismissed such criticism as self-serving.
"I think that there are those who say they won't like it and they are not going to watch it. This is a democracy and that is fine," he said. "There are others who are saying 'I don't like this and my neighbor shouldn't be allowed to watch it'. I think that crosses a big line."
Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway