Toronto-based channel was nicknamed ‘Fox News North’
By Angela Espinoza, News Editor
On February 13, Toronto-based Sun News Network shut down operations after four years. Sun News Network was notorious for its news style, with many labelling the station “Fox News North.” The announcement of its end came just one day before on February 12.
The channel began on April 18, 2011 as an alternative, more conservative news outlet compared to Canada’s other news stations.
Sun News was also known for stirring controversy due to its style, with one of its most well-known on-air exchanges featuring reporter Krista Erickson questioning Quebec dancer Margie Gillis about funding for her career in the arts. The interview reportedly garnered over 6,600 complaints to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, who otherwise only hear of an average 2,000 complaints a year.
Another well-known controversy from Sun News occurred last September, when reporter Ezra Levant criticized Justin Trudeau and his parents. Amongst other things, Levant labeled Justin’s father and former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau a “slut” and stated his mother Margaret “wasn’t much different.” After Justin boycotted the station, Sun News eventually made a public apology.
The loss of the network has reportedly left roughly 200 people without jobs. CBC reported that Sun News’ end was due to an unsuccessful bid with the CRTC to play a role in “basic cable packages.” Sun News reportedly had difficulty in securing funding for the station, but despite searching, Sun News could no longer afford to stay on the air.
Julie Tremblay, President and CEO of Sun Media Corporation, told CBC, “This is an unfortunate outcome; shutting down Sun News was certainly not our goal.”
Sun News however consistently held limited viewing, and despite being “available to 5.1 million households,” CBC stated the channel only averaged 8,000 views.
In an opinionated article by the Toronto Star published on the same day as the station’s end, writer Vinay Menon compared Sun News to Fox News—both unfavourably—and suggested Sun News’s ratings never reached Fox News heights due to being less flashy. “Splashy graphics, screaming crawls, polished gabbers, huge budgets, veteran producers, militaristic sound effects, on-air brands that are leveraged across multiple platforms, all of this transcends ideology and can garner big ratings,” wrote Menon.
As suggested by Menon and other media outlets, Sun News likely would not have received funding without higher ratings numbers. Whatever reason for Sun News’ overall low ratings, many have voiced their dismay with the network’s closure.
In an interview with the National Post on February 13, Levant stated, “I feel sentimental and grateful. It was a great adventure. I felt like the freest journalist in Canada.”