* Teneycke cites heated political rhetoric
* Petition group requests probe into alleged fraud
OTTAWA, Sept 15 (Reuters) - The front man for Quebecor Inc’s QRBb.TO proposed 24-hour news and comment channel, dubbed “Fox News North” by critics, announced his resignation on Wednesday, citing controversy over his political ties.
Kory Teneycke, former chief spokesman for Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, will step down immediately as vice-president of development for Quebecor after about three months in the job.
Luc Lavoie, a close associate of Quebecor’s chief executive, Karl Peladeau, will replace Teneycke.
Teneycke was spearheading the planned launch of Sun TV, promising to shake up a media landscape he criticized as having a liberal bias as well as being “smug” and “irrelevant.”
He said he was resigning due to a series of accusations against him, which he said were false, including one of political interference in the regulatory process for Sun TV’s request for a three-year license.
Quebecor has asked the federal broadcast regulator to have Sun TV carried as a mandatory part of cable TV service.
“My past involvement and close association with this government have led to be me being a central figure in most of these accusations, regardless of their lack of merit,” he told reporters in a statement.
“It is my hope that my departure will set the reset button, lower the temperature and allow a more rational debate over the television license for Sun TV news to occur, one not tainted by the politics and controversies of the past months.”
Critics alleged Teneycke’s right-wing credentials would turn the channel into a mouthpiece for the Conservative government. Teneycke conceded to provoking debate that often became vicious and vitriolic.
The tone turned especially ugly with the discovery in recent weeks that a petition signed by opponents of Sun TV contained some fraudulent signatures.
The organizer, Internet petition site Avaaz, said on Tuesday it had asked police to investigate the false signatures from an Ottawa IP address.
Avaaz said it became aware of the fraudulent additions on Sept. 2 and that Teneycke, who published articles in Quebecor-owned newspapers the next day, had admitted to insider knowledge of the incident and perpetrator.
“This event only reinforces the need for a full police inquiry,” Avaaz Executive Director Ricken Patel said.
Teneycke did not comment directly on the petition scandal, other than to say that the 80,000 signatures opposing the project were a sign that his involvement was doing more harm than good.
Quebecor owns the right-wing Sun chain of tabloid newspapers, including the Toronto Sun. In French-speaking Quebec, it owns the Journal de Montreal paper, TVA television and the LCN all-news channel. (Reporting by Louise Egan and Alastair Sharp; editing by Rob Wilson)