Ian Morrison gets it wrong on SunTV

Ian Morrison is the spokesperson for the “media watchdog” group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, a group I and many other journalists often turn to for their reaction to news about the CBC or other broadcasters. Because of their influence and long interest in issues about Canadian broadcasting, I think it important to point out the whopper of a mistake Morrison makes in today's Hill Times in a piece titled “Prime Minister shouldn't hand out broadcasting licenses like Senate seats“. He's talking about the application before the CRTC by SunTV and – full disclosure here — As I'm the bureau chief in Ottawa for Sun Media, there's a very good chance you'll see me a lot on SunTV.

In this piece Morrison writes:

'Must-carry' status is key to Sun TV News application. Almost nine milllion English-speaking households subscribe to cable or satellite service in Canada. In its application, SunTV news is asking the CRTC to require these systems to carry its signal for three years, and to charge each subscriber 25 cents per month for SunTV News, whether the subscriber wants it or not.

Twenty-five cents may not sound like a lot of money, but over three years, it would deliver $80-million into [Quebecor CEO and majority shareholder Pierre-Karl] Péladeau's pocket — before he sells a single ad.

Morrison should have read the application and supporting documents available at the the CRTC's website. It is true that SunTV is asking TV distributors to carry the channel for three years but he's dead wrong that SunTV is asking that anyone be forced to pay for it. I'll quote from what SunTV tells the CRTC in Appendix I of its Supplementary Brief supporting its application: “We do not ask for mandatory basic distribution, but only to be available on cable and satellite distribution undertakings allowing the public to have access to Sun TV News without any obligation to choose it.”

So no, it's not true, as Morrison says that you'll get SunTV “whether the subscriber wants it or not”. Only subscribers that want it will get it.

Second, Morrison claims if SunTV gets what it is asking for, that would be the same as essentially giving Quebecor $80 million. Wrong again. Again, looking at the supporting documents SunTV provided to the CRTC, we find the financial projections for SunTV for the next seven years. They are based on the premise that SunTV will have to go out and sell itself to subscribers, to convince them to sign up with the service. The financial statements show that this will not happen overnight. Total subscriber revenue in the first year of operation is estimated to be $4.6 million, climbing to $12.4 million by year four. Meanwhile, the same financial statements also show that SunTV will be a money-losing operation during those first four years. If everything goes according to the estimates, provided by SunTV to the CRTC, SunTV will finish its first four years of operation with an accumulated deficit of nearly $20 million. In other words, Quebecor is set to lose $20 million over the first four years of SunTV's operation.

The financial statements provide seven years worth of projections on revenues and expenses. In years, five, six and seven, SunTV's backers believe it will be generating an operating profit by then and, over those three years, will have a combined operating profit of $6.5 million. So even after seven years of operations, SunTV's shareholders will still have an accumulated deficit of $13.5 milion. Far from putting “$80-million” into the pockets of anyone, it will be taking $13.5 million out of the pockets of Quebecor's shareholders.

I'd encourage Morrison or anyone else interested in this application to read the documents posted at the CRTC's Web site that have been filed in connection with our application. You can get them right here. Argue all you want about the application but please get the facts right.

Rock Retractions: My Greatest Hits

You may be too cool to be one of the 130 million around the world who hang out on Twitter but I'm not. If you're not on Twitter, you're missing out on what I think is a fun game happening on the social media network right now. Don't know where it started but it's called “Rock Retractions” or, to use the Twitter syntax “#rockretractions”. (You can see what's going in real time in this game by clicking here) Playing the game is easy: Think of a favourite lyric from your favourite pop song and write the retraction.

Industry Minister Tony Clement — who is a pop music fan (likes loud, heavy guitars, I'm told) and a top political twit — has chipped in with a goodie:

@TonyClement_MP You can check out any time you like, really, because we have your credit card imprint

And here's famous rock yukster Al Yankovic:

@alyankovic: On second thought, it actually might behoove you to fear the Reaper a little bit.

Here's some other faves I found:

@crankynick: I fought the law and only the lawyers came out ahead #rockretractions

@bobearth: I fought the law & the law won on a loophole. I'm waiting to see if I have grounds for appeal, I feel pretty confident. #rockretractions

@drnaomi: I really do like starting the week on Mondays

@kentkangley: If I had a rocket launcher, I'd turn it in to the proper authorities. Those things are dangerous!

@WKAmsterdam: I did not shoot the sherriff. Concerning his deputy, I plead the Fifth. #rockretractions

@jonbecker: Layla? Did I call you Layla? Whoops; of course I know your name is Nancy. My bad. #rockretractions

@LikeSoy: Turns out it was Prof. Plum, and not Video, that killed the radio star. With a lead pipe. In the study.

@hackmancoltaire: Ground control to Major Tom, every thing is fine. Good job. #rockretractions

RT @kiztent: Actually, it wasn't the grapevine, your best friend ratted you out #rockretractions

RT @jasonhickman: In fact, nobody's under any obligation whatsoever to get stoned #rockretractions

@Twit_ster: The kid is not all that hot tonight and will be in Poughkeepsie tomorrow. #IsLoverboyreallyrock?

RT @fivewalls: If I could turn back time, if I could find a way, I'd take back that money I lent you; because of your drug problem #rockretractions

As for me, I was inspired by The Who and at least one current event in my professional life for these contributions:

The new boss is almost the same as the old boss – but different in some important ways. #rockretractions #suntv 🙂

I will likely get fooled again. #rockretractions #billsfan #leafsfan

Flaherty fires at Alberta over national regulator: Says it's "embarrassing" Canada doesn't have one

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty took his fight for a national securities regulator Thursday straight to the heart of one of the provinces – Alberta – that is most opposed to the idea.

“We are the only nation in the G8 and G20 lacking a national securities regulatory agency,” Flaherty said in a speech prepared for delivery to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. “In a word, it is embarrassing. And, our trading partners the world-wide bring it up, over and over again.”

Flaherty wants to set up a Canadian version of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the American stock market watchdog that’s prosecuted and jailed hundreds of white-collar fraudsters.

“Canadians, who rely on capital markets for their savings and retirement plans, deserve the protection of strong and consistent securities regulation that reaches all parts of our country – a key consideration given the number of baby boomers who will be leaving the work force over the next few years,” Flaherty said. A copy of his speech was distributed to news organizations ahead before he delivered it Thursday evening.

The governments of the provinces of Alberta and Quebec, though, aren’t buying what Flaherty’s selling and are ready to go to court to prevent Ottawa from setting up a national securities regulator even though Flaherty’s plan for such a regulator would let provinces opt out if they didn’t like the idea.

Alberta Finance Minister Ted Morton has denounced Flaherty’s plan as an “unprecedented power grab.”

But Flaherty was trying to use a bit of the old Irish charm to convince Calgary's business elite that it was in their interest to sign on to the idea of a national regulator.

“We can wait and argue over federal versus provincial jurisdiction on this file until the cows come home. In the meantime, the world outside is moving ahead,” Flaherty said. “This dithering can’t continue.”

What's wrong with journalism? The Hamster Wheel, says Dean Starkman

Dean Starkman, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, correctly diagnoses one of the big problems with journalism nowadays. He says the imperative of “doing-less-with-more” has produced something he calls The Hamster Wheel:

“The Hamster Wheel isn’t speed; it’s motion for motion’s sake. The Hamster Wheel is volume without thought. It is news panic, a lack of discipline, an inability to say no. It is copy produced to meet arbitrary productivity metrics (Bloomberg!). It is “Sheriff plans no car purchases in 2011,” (Kokomo Tribune, 7/5/10). It is “Ben Marter’s Home-Cooked Weekend,” (Politico, 6/28/10): “Saturday morning, he took some of the leftover broccoli, onions, and mushrooms, added jalapenos, and made omeletes for a zingy breakfast.” Ben Marter is communications director for a congresswoman. It’s live-blogging the opening ceremonies, matching stories that don’t matter, and fifty-five seconds of video of a movie theater screen being built: “Wallingford cinema adding 3 screens (video),” (New Haven Register, 6/1/10).

But it’s more than just mindless volume. It’s a recalibration of the news calculus. Of the factors that affect the reporting of news, an underappreciated one is the risk/reward calculation that all professional reporters make when confronted with a story idea: How much time versus how much impact? This informal vetting system is surprisingly ruthless and ultimately efficient for one and all. The more time invested, the bigger the risk, but also the greater potential glory for the reporter, and the greater value to the public (can’t forget them!). Do you fly to Chicago to talk to that guy about that thing? Do you read that bankruptcy examiner’s report? Or do you do three things that are easier?”

Read the rest of the piece. It's terrific.

We regret the error (just like Ian Davey!)

I've been offline and out of Ottawa for a few days — a family member has had a serious medical situation and I wanted to give that my full attention — and am just catching up on Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, and so on now.

So let's see what's in the electronic inbox …

Oh, there's this: Some bloggers (along with several of the readers that Michael Ignatieff's former top aide, over the weekend, called illiterate and stupid) found an error in one of my stories from last week. I am, as always, grateful to any and all for pointing out any error I've made and have asked for it to be corrected. The error was mine and no one else's and, once alerted to the error, the editors of our Web sites immediately updated it. A correction will be sent along to our papers for their use. (But just back to Ian Davey for a minute: Was he calling me stupid? I'm confused. Though, confused or not, I rather like that DiManno gal in the Star!)

In the case at hand, I was reporting on the parting of ways of Tom Clark and CTV. The CTV biography noted that Clark had reported on just about every federal election since 1974. I took that data point from CTV and re-worked it to say he had reported on every election since Pierre Trudeau beat Joe Clark in 1974. I thought that using the names of the two principal rivals in that contest would be more evocative of the era than simply saying “in 1974”. By now, though, you've surely seen the “embarrassing mistake” (as one twit called it) that The Toronto Star's Antonia Zerbisias gleefully re-tweeted to all of her followers: Trudeau did not beat Clark in 1974, he beat Robert Stanfield that year. (Clark would take his whupping from Trudeau in 1980).

Now I – and everyone who's ever had a byline in a newspaper anywhere (please see the tremendously entertaining Regret the Error) — have made plenty of mistakes in my career writing for The Globe and Mail, National Post, the Hamilton Spectator and my other stops along the way. Of course, I wish I'd never made any mistakes. (But I am proud to report that, in more than 25 years in the biz now, I've never been accused of misquoting someone. So that's something.) That said: apparently, neither Antonia Z. nor the Star have ever made an error so Antonia, of course, is free to throw all the stones she wants at the Sun's glass house.

But back to this “embarrassing mistake”. As even BigCityLib admits, this is a bit of a “cheap gotcha”. The error in question — that Trudeau beat Stanfield in '74 not Clark — doesn't at all change the basic point I was trying to make — that Tom Clark has been around one helluva long time — and it's in the second-last paragraph of the piece! If this is the most egregious mistake I and Sun Media make, then we would consider ourselves blessed. I say that not to dismiss the error or avoid responsibility for it but only to encourage those who keep an eye on the mainstream media to do so because it's important in and of itself. Democracy is best served with a lively and healthy independent press — held to account by engaged and committed readers and viewers.

Conservatives and the Nordiques; EI premium hikes; ovarian cancer breakthrough: Thursday's A1 headlines and political daybook

Tories and NordiquesConservatives and the Nordiques; EI premium hikes; ovarian cancer breakthrough: Get a five-minute audio summary – straight to your iPod if you'd like — of what's on Thursday's front pages of papers across the country by clicking on the link below.


You can also get these audio summaries automatically every day via podcast from iTunes or via an RSS feed by subscribing to my AudioBoo stream. Both the iTunes link and the RSS link are at my profile at AudioBoo.fm. Look in the top right corner of the “Boos” box.

Euthanasia debate; mayoral races; and a Canadian makes Booker Prize shortlist: Wednesday's A1 Headlines and Political Daybook

beatdown.jpgEuthanasia debate; mayoral races; and a Canadian makes Booker Prize shortlist:: Get a four-minute audio summary of what's on Wednesday's front pages of papers across the country by clicking on the link below.


You can also get these audio summaries automatically every day via podcast from iTunes or via an RSS feed by subscribing to my AudioBoo stream. Both the iTunes link and the RSS link are at my profile at AudioBoo.fm. Look in the top right corner of the “Boos” box.

Libs vs Tories: New critics face off against new ministers

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff announced a big shuffle today to the critics lineup on the official opposition benches. There are some very interesting new matchups, the biggest of which is the House Leaders for the two parties: The ultra-combative, lifelong political foes of John Baird and David McGuinty. It will also be interesting to watch Denis Coderre go at Christian Paradis.

Here's the new Liberal critic list which I've matched up with their opposing minister where applicable. I have put bold face on what I consider matchups that will be interesting:

Leader Michael Ignatieff vs. Stephen Harper
Deputy Leader Ralph Goodale vs. Stephen Harper
House Leader David McGuinty vs. John Baird
Deputy House Leader Judy Foote vs. John Baird
Chief Opposition Whip Marcel Proulx vs. Gordon O'Connor
Deputy Opposition Whip Yasmin Ratansi vs. Gordon O'Connor
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Sen. James Cowan vs. Sen. Marjory LeBreton
Aboriginal Affairs Todd Russell vs. John Duncan
Agriculture, Agri-food & Canadian Wheat Board Wayne Easter vs. Gerry Ritz
Amateur Sport Joyce Murray vs. Gary Lunn
Arctic Issues & Northern Development Larry Bagnell vs. John Duncan
Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez vs. James Moore
Citizenship & Immigration Justin Trudeau vs. Jason Kenney
Consular Affairs, Consumer Affairs Dan McTeague vs. Peter Kent/Tony Clement
Crown Corporations Bonnie Crombie vs. Various
Economic Development Agency for Regions of Quebec + Assoc Finance Critic Alexandra Mendes vs. Denis Lebel
Democratic Renewal Carolyn Bennett vs. Steven Fletcher
Environment Gerard Kennedy vs. Jim Prentice
Finance Scott Brison vs. Jim Flaherty
Fisheries + ACOA Rodger Cuzner vs. Gail Shea
Foreign Affairs Bob Rae vs. Lawrence Cannon
La Francophonie Raymonde Folco vs. Josée Verner
Health Ujjal Dosanjh vs. Leona Aglukkaq
Human Resources & Skills Development Mike Savage vs. Diane Finley
Human Rights Irwin Cotler vs. unassigned
Industry, Science & Technology Marc Garneau vs. Tony Clement/Gary Goodyear
International Cooperation Glen Pearson vs. Bev Oda
International Trade Martha Hall Findlay vs. Peter Van Loan
Justice & Attorney-General Marlene Jennings vs. Rob Nicholson
Labour Maria Minna vs. Lisa Raitt
Multiculturalism Rob Oliphant vs. Jason Kenney
National Defence Dominic LeBlanc vs. Peter MacKay
National Revenue Jean Claude d'Amours vs. Keith Ashfield
Natural Resources Denis Coderre vs. Christian Paradis
Official Languages Mauril Belanger vs. James Moore
Pacific Gateway + Western Economic Diversification Sukh Dhaliwal vs. Stockwell Day/Lynne Yelich
Public Safety & National Security Mark Holland vs. Vic Toews
Public Works & Government Services Geoff Regan vs. Rona Ambrose
Rural Affairs Mark Eyking vs. unassigned
Seniors and Pensions Judy Sgro vs. Diane Ablonczy
Small Business Navdeep Bains vs. Rob Moore
Southern Ontario Development Agency Frank Valeriote vs. Gary Goodyear
Status of Women Anita Neville vs. Rona Ambrose
Transport, Infrastructure & Communities John McCallum vs. Chuck Strahl
Treasury Board Siobhan Coady vs. Stockwell Day
Tourism Gerry Byrne vs. Rob Moore
Veterans Affairs Kirsty Duncan vs. Jean-Pierre Blackburn
Water Francis Scarpallagia unassigned

Back-to-school; counting stimulus signs; and jail guards threatened: Tuesday's A1 headlines and political daybook

beatdown.jpgBack-to-school; counting stimulus signs; and jail guards threatened: Get a four-minute audio summary of what's on Tuesday's front pages of papers across the country by clicking on the link below.


You can also get these audio summaries automatically every day via podcast from iTunes or via an RSS feed by subscribing to my AudioBoo stream. Both the iTunes link and the RSS link are at my profile at AudioBoo.fm. Look in the top right corner of the “Boos” box.

SunTV: We're looking for six bucks a year — a year! — but only if you want to pay

Over at my Facebook page, a friend asks me: “David, what are your thoughts re the so-called “Fox News North” broadcast application to the CRTC?”

As I'm the National Bureau Chief for the applicant and will likely have a prominent role in the television programming for the station once it gets up and running, I was pleased to provide the following reply:

First: It's called SunTV News. It's 100 per cent Canadian owned and operated. There's no deal with FOX; no licensing; no money from FOX. We're as Canadian as the CBC. SunTV News. Not Fox News North.

Second: Take a look at the CRTC's “Notice of Hearing” for our licence. It's a short read and it's right here at:


Let me cut to the chase and sum up what's in that doc: We are not asking taxpayers to subsidize us. We're not asking the CRTC to force Canadians to pay for our programming or to be forced to watch us. What we are doing is asking the CRTC to order Rogers, Shaw, Videotron, Telus, Bell and all other cable and satellite companies to put us on the digital dial so that, to quote from the CRTC notice, “the public [can] have access to Sun TV News without any obligation to choose it.”

So to sum up: You don't want it? No problem. We're not asking the CRTC to force you to pay for it. You want it? Terrific. We are asking the CRTC to make sure your local television provider puts it on the dial so that you can order it.

Our owners, Quebecor Inc., plan on losing about $25 million over the first four years of Sun TV's operation. That's $25 million that a Canadian company is willing to bet on Canadian journalists and Canadian audiences. When was the last time that happened? (Why it was Conrad Black's National Post where I just happened to be a proud day oner!)

How will SunTV make money? Partly through the sale of advertising. But we're also betting that a lot of Canadians will pay 50 cents a month for us. That's right. $6 a year. A year.

Of that 50 cents, half will go to us and half to the TV distributor. So we're going through these hoops so we can ask you — not force you — to give us $3 a year. For that, we intend to offer you some television news programming that you can't get on CTV or CBC (or American-owned CNN, for that matter, the channel that is easily the most-watched all-news channel in this country.)

You can read all about what we're up to by downloading this collection of documents (including revenue and expense estimates) which Quebecor has filed with the CRTC: