OTTAWA, - The controversial Fox News network will be allowed on Canadian digital television next year, the CRTC has ruled.
The CRTC today approved the right-wing, all-news channel for digital services. It remains unclear what conditions, if any, might be applied.
In approving the service, the commission concluded that Fox News is neither partially or totally competitive with any Canadian pay or specialty service.
The CRTC rejected a CCTA application to bring Fox to Canada last November because Fox News U.S. and Winnipeg-based Global Television were planning to create Fox New Canada, a combination of U.S. and Canadian news.
However, in March, a Fox U.S. executive said there were no plans to create the combined channel.
The NFL Network also received CRTC approval today. The 24-hour year round television lifestyle and entertainment sports service for NFL fans is intended to complement and promote NFL games that are aired by other broadcasters.
The Canadian Cable Telecommunications Association which applied to the CRTC in April for permission to carry Fox News to Canadians with digital cable, satellite or wireless television service said it was pleased with the decision.
"Adding new services, such as Fox News, provides Canadians with a different perspective on world events," said Michael Hennessy, CCTA President. "Fox News Channel is a top-rated news service in the United States and is an excellent complement to the current Canadian digital line-up."
However Fox News' critics have called it "the unofficial official voice of the Bush administration,'' and that it depicts the conservative bias of its owner Rupert Murdoch.
This week the presidents of ABC, CBS and NBC agreed unanimously, while appearing in a panel at Stanford University, that Fox News Channel poses a threat to their respective organizations and moreover comprises the integrity of journalism.
CBS News President, Andre Hayward remarked during the panel discussion, "Fox has added an important new ingredient to the news system: they mix news and opinion. Fox is a blend of news and talk radio on TV. That is a powerful dimension."
Stanford University's college newspaper reported on Tuesday that each of the news chiefs voiced similar concerns in regards to fox news.
ABC News President David Westin remarked, 'The problem is when news and opinion are mashed together it is starting to push out the truth telling, which is undermining our core mission. We have to keep the central goal telling the truth as we see it.'
The executives each said that they now must deal with public preconceptions that may clash with actual facts.
The CRTC said it received 531 comments supporting the addition of Fox News to the digital lists from individuals, and from such national organizations as Focus on the Family, REAL Women of Canada and B'Nai Brith Canada. Also in support of the CCTA's proposal were such distributors as Vid�otron lt�e (Vid�otron) and Bell ExpressVu Inc. (the general partner) and BCE Inc. While 37 parties filed comments supporting the addition of the NFL Network.
Comments opposed to the addition of Fox News to the digital lists were filed by 82 parties, including individuals and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB). The Commission also received a submission from the CAB opposing the request to add NFL Network.
The CAB submitted that it was premature to consider the inclusion of non-Canadian services on the lists of eligible satellite services at a time when the policy respecting the use of local availabilities on such services is under review.
It argued the approval of the service would create a precedent that would reward and encourage non-Canadian broadcasters who choose to forgo partnerships with Canadian broadcasters and opt instead for direct market entry by way of inclusion on the digital lists. According to the CAB, such services would "carry no Canadian content and provide no tangible benefits to the system." In its view, the best way to bring about increased choice is through such partnerships.
The CCTA strongly disagreed with the CAB's suggestion that authorizing the distribution of Fox News in Canada would create a precedent that encourages non-Canadian broadcasters to forego partnerships with Canadian broadcasters in favour of a direct market entry approach. According to the CCTA, Fox News provides a unique perspective on American and world events. It added that, as an American news service with a particular style of programming, Fox News is not well suited to a joint venture that would produce Canadian content.
The CCTA also stated that Fox News would make a tangible contribution to the Canadian broadcasting system, as it could significantly boost digital penetration in Canada, thereby increasing the availability of licensed Canadian digital services.
With regard to the CAB's position that the addition of non-Canadian services to the digital lists should only be considered once the commission's proceeding on local availabilities has concluded, the commission responded that the addition of these services would have minimal, if any, effect on the factual underpinnings of that proceeding.
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