Bell TV and Sun News Network caught in a cat fight. Now, if only there was a way they could both lose

Bell TV and Sun News Network caught in a cat fight. Now, if only there was a way they could both lose

In this conflict, we’re not sure which side to root for. Apparently Bell has pulled the Sun News Network, Canada’s newest 24-hour news channel, from its satellite TV service after neither side could agree on what Bell should pay for the privilege of showing the Quebecor-owned channel. The dispute came to a head last month when Quebecor sent a strongly worded letter to Bell Canada Enterprises, demanding the channel be removed if an agreement failed to materialize by May 3. So yesterday at 10 a.m., Bell yanked Sun News.

The Globe and Mail has the story:

Negotiations for the channel are ongoing with Rogers Communications Inc. and Telus Corp., among others, but Quebecor has not asked that the channel be pulled from those services.

“We had hoped to come to a commercial agreement based on the fact that Sun News is a new and relatively untested channel on the market. But the price being asked is quite excessive—it’s in line with what would usually be quoted for a well-established and popular channel,” said Bell spokesman Mark Langton. He added that long before BCE acquired CTVglobemedia’s TV assets last summer, it carried CTV News Channel and other specialty stations under similar terms as other TV providers.

According to regulatory documents, CTV News Channel received fees on average of slightly more than 14 cents per subscriber per month from cable and satellite providers in 2009.

In other words, according to Bell, Sun News is asking for a price in line with what CTV or CBC’s all-news channels get, despite the fact that it has about four to five per cent of the primetime audience. In Sun’s defense, there may be a legitimate case that Bell is breaking the rules here on “undue preference,” something the CRTC will have to decide.

Of course, it’s hard to support either side in this dispute. Do consumers cheer for the Goliath of Canada’s Internet world, one that until recently threatened to crush independent ISPs with onerous charges? Or do they opt for the David of television news, even if Sun News’s reporting so far is something of a joke? We hope the CRTC tells them both to sit in a corner and think about what they’ve done.

Bell TV pulls Sun News Network [Globe and Mail]
• Sun News pulled off Bell satellite TV [Toronto Star]
• Sun TV no longer being carried on Bell Satellite TV due to fee dispute: Quebecor [The Canadian Press]