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CRTC rejects Sun's basic cable request

The Sun TV News Channel logo is displayed during a news conference in Toronto, June 15, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette.

A bid by Sun News Network to be carried on basic cable has been rejected by Canada’s communications regulator, casting fresh doubts on the future of the controversial upstart broadcaster.

The channel does not meet the criteria for a guaranteed spot on the dial, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission declared Thursday.

But the CRTC also says it will review the way news channels are regulated in Canada.

“The diversity of voices is an essential component of our society, particularly as they relate to news and information in the Canadian broadcasting system,” CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said in a statement.

“Television news channels provide an important public service by ensuring that Canadians are exposed to different opinions and perspectives on matters that concern all citizens. We are concerned that, under the existing rules, Canadian news services are not being given a pride of place in our broadcasting system.”

It remains unclear what the decision means for the future of the channel, dubbed “Fox News North” by some critics when it made its debut in April 2011.

Three months ago, Sun News executives told the commission that anything short of mandatory carriage would spell the end of the channel.

Mandatory carriage would have generated significant revenue for the network, which lost $17 million last year — a situation parent company Quebecor calls “clearly unsustainable.”

But the CRTC says Sun News didn’t meet the criteria for a mandatory carriage.

“Given its exceptional nature, the CRTC has set the bar very high for obtaining a mandatory distribution order,” the commission said.