Media regurgitated by B-list columnists
By Dylan Hackett, News Editor
Sun News is to the Canadian broadcasting landscape what your binge drinking, right-leaning, barely-employable uncle is to the family dinner table: basely amusing, but exemplary for gut-over-grey-matter thinking. With their most notable on-air personality being Glenn Beck-effigy Ezra Levant, Fraser Institute mouthpiece and author of the 261-page pamphlet for the oil and gas industry, Ethical Oil, Sun makes the case for itself as a media outlet fit only for uncle Bob and his drinking buddies.
The lack of viewership Sun receives is a measurement of its cultural influence: minimal, if not non-existent. Although a critic of nearly everything Sun does, I didn’t count myself among the crowd that rallied behind Margaret Atwood and the Avaaz.com petition against the network’s clambering for a Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) certification (the petition opened by stating that Stephen Harper had a hand in creating the network), with claims that the network was “Fox News North.” Unlike Fox News, with its “Fair and Balanced” tagline, Sun News has no qualms in its cardboard conservatism, citing most of its own anchors and hosts as noted conservatives in their online biographies.
Where this is not apparent, right-wing code words are employed. For panelist faceoff program The Arena with Michael Copen, the content is boastfully described with an “us vs. them” assumption as programming that “refuses to be limited by establishment thinking and the usual, tired television.”
Besides its own B-list cast of columnists with teleprompters, Sun lacks the sort of noteworthy figures as moral backers seen on Fox News. Even money-worshipping anarcho-capitalist Kevin O’Leary doesn’t regard the network with any esteem—O’Leary once joked on-air that Sun was watched by more than one guy and his dog. A bulk of its programming is curated by sexless white dudes who revel in Fraser Institute luncheons and neckties of great girth. I assume the programmers are catering to masochists and Ayn Rand enthusiasts.
The only media personality on Sun’s payroll that seems to be able to draw wider attention to the network is Levant, but that’s when he’s wearing a hijab, trying to bar Roma gypsies from Canada, and chumming up with Ann Coulter—not practicing real journalism. Uncle Bob can do all those things, minus the latter, on the local pub patio to the same effect.
Sun is less a “Fox News North,” as it is often—without affection—labeled by its many critics, than a failing, flailing televised tabloid. To claim the network as a northern iteration of Fox News requires critics to confront that Sun News claims no more than 16,400 viewers in an average minute—around a tenth of one per cent of Canadian viewership.
To cite Stephen Colbert’s often repeated ironic quip, “reality has a well-known liberal bias,” would be appropriate. Ratings have shown that Canadians as a whole don’t care for a network that champions the from-the-gut divisive media that tops ratings south of the border. Uncle Bob and his Coors-sodden cohorts should probably just move south.
Give ‘Sun News’ a chance
By Keating Smith, Staff Writer
Canadian politics have become incredibly strange since Stephen Harper’s now-majority government took power back in 2006. Following Ottawa is reminiscent to watching old men quarrel over how much each one should tip the server after going out for a seniors’ discounted lunch. What better way to watch Canadian politics than through the Sun News Network, Canada’s newest “right-wing” media network.
Many critics are calling the network a mouthpiece for Harper’s government, or the “Fox News North.” Are these claims entirely true? Sure, to put it simply. Just look at the layout and appearance of their programming, and who the CEO of the network used to be a communications officer for—because the answer isn’t the CBC or Jack Layton.
But amidst the peculiarity of modern Canadian politics, you never really see an alternative to the three main national networks: CBC, CTV, and Shaw. A political story will almost be regurgitated verbatim between these three key players, and that’s just boring. Why not throw a little comical flare into the monotony that Canada’s mainstream media seems to be spewing these days—and not have our tax dollars pay for it.
The CBC costs Canadians 1.1 billion loonies a year, a budget that seems to exceed Sun News’ as we speak. This is taxpayer money spent on “quality” television programs you most likely don’t watch, the rehashing of top stories with their “journalistic standards,” and crying liberal artists being interviewed on their radio waves. While this stuff may matter to you, and you may perceive it as part of our Canadian identity, why not defund the CBC from being state-owned-and-run? Because it’s a part of Canadian history and culture? There are many Canadian-owned media corporations that would most likely buy the network. This I can bet my first child on.
Sun News, on the other hand, is owned by Quebecor, a publicly-owned company with revenues near $10 billion. Being on public airwaves, like they are currently battling with the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for, would hardly be another burden on the government’s tax revenues.
People may think the type of information broadcast by Sun News is hateful propaganda better suited to an American audience—another marking on Canadian identity from Stephen Harper and his government. While this may be true, my point still stands strong: it’s important to have another medium covering politics and media that we are not usually exposed to.
One final note worth mentioning is the viewership of Sun News Network. A staggering 0.1 per cent of Canadians watch it—or, according to the network, 16,500 viewers per hour. That’s less than a third of New Westminster tuning in to watch it daily. On the other hand, 1.4 per cent of Canadians watch the CBC. Who has a bigger impact on Canadians?
Overall, I really cannot stand North American news corporations, as they do very little for me. When I look at the news headlines in the morning, the first three networks I go to are not even headquartered in the Western Hemisphere, and their positions on the political spectrum vary. If you only look at one side of politics, you are not exposed to both sides of the argument.
To me, all Canadians ever hear in our media are the scandals surrounding the Conservative government. While I do agree that Harper and his cabinet are carrying out some worrisome endeavors, we rarely hear about ‘bad things’ on the other side of our country’s political scale, or the hypocrisy of the CBC. Can you say “bias”?