Quebec billionaire Pierre Karl Péladeau's plans for a "Fox News North" channel in Canada are gathering steam, with his media company poaching two senior journalists for the right-of-centre TV network - a venture expected to have an operational budget of $100-million over five years.
An official announcement on the bid to shake up television news is anticipated by next Wednesday, an unveiling expected to detail how it intends to convince federal regulators and cable companies to let it air coast to coast.
Quebecor Media has already hired Kory Teneycke, a former chief spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, to oversee the venture. On Thursday, it began stocking its existing Ottawa bureau with reporters who have broadcasting backgrounds. This office will help feed news demands for the new channel, to be modelled on ratings-rich Fox News in the U.S.
David Akin, formerly a correspondent for Canwest News Service, has been appointed national bureau chief for Quebec's Sun Media operations in Ottawa. He has previously worked for CTV News. Also joining as senior correspondent is Brian Lilley, former Ottawa bureau chief for Astral Media Radio, Canada's largest private radio broadcaster.
The envisioned Canadian station would offer both hard news reporting and conservative-minded talk shows - although news and opinion would be clearly separated rather than blended. For instance, both Mr. Akin and Mr. Lilley have built their careers as non-partisan journalists and neither has been associated with partisan commentary or reporting.
Mr. Akin has also previously worked at The Globe and Mail and won a National Newpaper Award citation of merit for the paper in 2004 and won a Gemini award for his reporting for CTV National News that same year.
Quebecor is actively hiring more journalists with broadcasting backgrounds for the venture and, over the summer, will announce the on-air "personalities" who will host the channel's talk shows. The venture is courting right-wing Canadian author and activist Ezra Levant to play a role.
"Recruiting is in hyper-drive," Mr. Teneycke wrote in a promotional broadcast from his Twitter account Thursday. "Can't wait to share some of the names. Great mix of hard news and straight talk."
Few government and opposition MPs were eager to comment on the budding enterprise Thursday. As a spokesman for one party said: "I don't think they will want to comment on a possible media corporation being set up. It's still early and why pick a fight?"
Outspoken NDP MP Pat Martin, however, said he thinks Fox News is a bad model for news. "God help us if the neo-cons get their own network to bombard Canadians with their outdated ideology," he said. "Can you imagine Ezra Levant ranting at you around the clock?"
Mr. Teneycke laughed off Mr. Martin's criticism, retorting: "Ranting, done right, can be quite entertaining. Pat Martin is living proof of that."
People familiar with the venture say Quebecor has allocated roughly $100-million over about five years for spending on operations alone. The figure doesn't include capital expenditures for assets.
The venture is being assisted by Luc Lavoie, a one-time spokesman for Brian Mulroney who has deep ties to Quebecor and can help the Saskatchewan-born Mr. Teneycke navigate the French Canadian company's internal bureaucracy and politics.