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Sun TV News approved by CRTC

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The bid by Quebecor Inc. (QBR.B-T) to create a new 24-hour news channel in Canada has taken another step toward the TV dial. The federal broadcast regulator today approved the licence application for the Sun TV News network.

The approval had been expected since last month, when the Montreal-based company adjusted its application to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, requesting a standard licence for a specialty channel.

Sun TV News is now set to launch in mid-March, said Luc Lavoie, the head of the project. The launch had been set for Jan. 1, but technical delays including later-than-expected equipment deliveries have slowed things down, he said.

The upcoming channel has been surrounded by some controversy, including an online activist group that objected to its launch.

The controversy led to the resignation in September of the head of the project, former Harper government spokesman Kory Teneycke. Lavoie, a former spokesman for Brian Mulroney and a close associate of Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau, took the reins at Sun TV News after Teneycke left in an attempt to “lower the temperature” of the debate.

“When people made the comparison, calling us Fox News North, they were totally mistaken,” Lavoie said today. “The philosophy behind this was not to be Fox News ... it was to be an offshoot of the Sun Media culture.”

That includes the “irreverent” and “provocative” tone of the Sun newspapers Quebecor owns, he said. Sun Media journalists will be expected to contribute to the network, shooting video and doing on-air commentary while working on stories for the papers.

The company is constructing the network's main studio in downtown Toronto, close to the Toronto Sun offices, which will house a second studio. Other studios will be built in Ottawa, Calgary and likely Edmonton.

Sun TV News Network originally requested a licence that would obligate cable and satellite companies to carry it on their services. That was rejected, and Quebecor tried again, asking for a standard licence.

The channel will now focus on reaching distribution agreements with cable and satellite carriers. Sun TV is required to reach at least one deal before the licence takes effect. Lavoie said he is encouraged by the response so far.

In a statement, Péladeau welcomed the CRTC decision, calling it "the dawn of a new era for Canadian news media."

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