Monday, September 13, 2010

Sun TV: A Modest Proposal

Canadian progressives should rethink their opposition to SunTV, a hard right television network that Quebec billionaire Pierre PĂ©ladeau has proposed for this country as a kind of "Fox News North". Not that people of good will shouldn't oppose such a network; it's just that the nature and extent of this opposition needs to be carefully worked through. For example, Margaret Atwood's rather furious take on the subject has, arguably, imperilled her pro-free-speech credentials, and more than a few other columnists and bloggers seem unwilling to have the free market render its judgement re "Fox News North" before calling for a government clampdown.

Here I would like to suggest a political stance that would both confront Sun TV with a standard to live up to, and accept its existence on the cable dial should it live up to that standard.

But first, a few preliminaries: much of this debate has been and will likely remain within the realm of the hypothetical; Sun TV's plea for special status on the cable dial is an admission that it cannot live on its own in the marketplace. And even if the CRTC grants this special status, there are a number of indications that the network's road forward will be difficult, if not impossible.

For example, there is clear evidence that Sun TV is going to be run "on the cheap", exiting its live coverage and going to repeats after 9 pm. Furthermore, the network has been slow to such basic tasks as getting a black-berry into the hands of its star reporter. This evidence has not gone unnoticed by other Canadian media folk; as a result, attempts at recruiting talent from the major networks have fallen flat over the past several months, with arguably the greatest failure ("arguably", because the details here are somewhat obscure) being an unsuccessful effort to attract Krista Erickson to the cause. And in her absence, the most camera-ready visage at Sun TV winds up being David Akin, which is to say that the new TV network, having been unable to purchase beauty, will have a collective face better suited for radio.

However, assuming that these challenges can be surmounted, progressives' main worry with respect to Sun TV has always been that it will become a conduit for dangerous hate speech. And there is indeed some grounds for this concern. As Sun TV's new management team has moved into place, the newspapers associated with it--particularly the Toronto Sun--have lurched right on their editorial page, urging, for example, the mass murder to Tamil refugees.

More ominously, writers at the Toronto Sun have recently been instructed to "tab (as in tabloid) it up". Now, to understand what this implies, note that phrase from which this one is derived-- "black it up"--when directed at an African-American entertainment personality, means to behave in an exaggeratedly ethnic manner--to talk "gangsta" and sport "bling", as it were--so as to reestablish "street credibility". Since we are in this case dealing with a right wing media outlet, we can safely interpreted the papers' orders as being equivalent to "white it up". Presumably, the paper's displays of faux patriotism, minority bashing, and constant denigration of women ,will all be amped up a notch.

Will this also be what we can expect out of the new tv network? Extrapolating from the ideological source material, it would appear so. What can be done to prevent such a result?

I think our stance towards Sun TV should be guided by, curiously enough, the example of Al Jazeera Canada. For Al Jazeera's road to a spot on the Canadian cable dial was similarly filled with controversy. The first attempt, made by Al Jazeera Arabic in 2003, foundered over often justified accusations of anti-semitism. During the 2nd, successful attempt--by Al Jazeera English this time--managing editor Tony Burman made a concerted outreach attempt to both B'nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress, in the end going so far as to propose a liaison committee that would respond quickly to any concerns raised about content on the network. As a result, the CJC finally swung behind the approval of Al Jazeera's license, and a more skeptical B'nai Brith at least refrained from negative comment.

And what I propose is this: the CRTC should demand a similar outreach attempt on the part of Sun TV as a condition of approving it for any spot on cable. Now, I understand there are practical problems associated with the idea. For example, and considering once again the new network's ideological wellsprings, it is most likely that the Canadian Jewish community is the one minority group that Sun TV will not target for abuse. As a result, any liaison committee is going to be large and unwieldy. Nevertheless, if Sun TV will agree to conduct itself in an honourable fashion, after the manner of Al Jazeera English--to pull itself out of the hate speech sewer--then the response to it from Canadian Progressives ought to be an at least grudging "yes".

27 comments:

Robert McClelland said...

I say let Fox News North say whatever they want to say. The more outrageous and hateful the better.

Liam said...

Here's the thing ... and this is an important reminder concerning this situation: Sun TV is applying for a SPECIAL LICENSE from the CRTC.

What this means is that they are requesting special status with respect to their application. Not only are they jumping the queue with the dozens of other applications that have been in the system for some time, they're asking the CRTC's permission to offer their channel as part of the basic package with any cable service.

If approved, it means that Canadians will be FORCED to pay for this crap. I don't mind if people pay for their own stuff - that's the essence of democracy. FORCING the population to subsidize this garbage is dictatorship.

Do you still think it's OK to FORCE Canadians to subsidize an already bloated right-wing media front?

Skinny Dipper said...

First, I do think that opponents of Faux News North should speak out. I don't think we should remain silent.

Next, I will agree with Liam, so I won't repeat his thoughts.

Third, I will agree with you that the proposed station will essentially be radio with video. Imagine watching the conservative leaning CFRB Toronto radio station. There will likely be five minutes of hard news at the top of the hour followed by 55 minutes of crap-talk. I also expect the late-night infomercials.

I don't fear that Faux News North will steal viewers from CTV or CBC News. The audience will be different. Their education level will likely be lower than CTV and CBC's.

bigcitylib said...

Don't disagree about the que jumping, just didn't mention it because its been pretty well covered and I suspect the CRTC will turn down that liscense.

Jerome Bastien said...

If approved, it means that Canadians will be FORCED to pay for this crap. I don't mind if people pay for their own stuff - that's the essence of democracy. FORCING the population to subsidize this garbage is dictatorship.

I agree entirely. Let's end public funding of the CBC right away!!

Holly Stick said...

Why are you repeating one of Teneycke's lies? Atwood did not call for a government clampdown; she signed a petition asking the CRTC to stand up against political pressure, and asking the Harper government to stop all pressure on the CRTC for special treatment.

http://marg09.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/on-signing-petitions/

http://www.avaaz.org/nofoxnewsnorth

Holly Stick said...

You also missed the best part of the story, when Kady busted Teneycke for knowing about those fake names suspiciously soon.

http://www.cbc.ca/politics/insidepolitics/2010/09/avaazorg-vs-sun-tv-vs-unwitting-hill-journalists-and-now-you-know-the-rest-of-the-story-maybe.html

bigcitylib said...

Holly, I didn't specify MAs position vis gov action. The "other" unnamed columnists aren't meant to include her.

Tof KW said...

Sorry Jerome, it doesn't work that way. I'd like my tax dollar to stop paying for a war we cannot win in Afghanistan. Neither of us really has a choice in the matter do we.

The CBC is more than news (BTW Newsworld is also losing it's must-carry license & will be forced to sink-or-swim just the same) and I consider it worth my tax dollars just to pay for Hockey Night in Canada.

Also as I've said many many times, I have no problems with SUNnews going to air - my only concern is if I'm forced to pay for them via my cable bill.

Jerome Bastien said...

Sorry Jerome, it doesn't work that way. I'd like my tax dollar to stop paying for a war we cannot win in Afghanistan. Neither of us really has a choice in the matter do we.

Agreed, but I was just responding to Skinny Dipper's point that being forced to fund an ideological media outlet is dictatorship.

Dictatorship is obviously the wrong word and Skinny Dipper has no clue what it means if he's seriously using it in this context, but I find it hilarious that being forced to pay for FNN (through your cable bill) is dictatorship, and being forced to fund the equally ideological CBC (through your tax bill) is (presumably) sound public policy.

Anyhow, if you disagree with the Afghan war, that's fine, and Im sure you'll be happy to know that in 2011, you wont have to fund this particular policy anymore. No such luck for those of us who disagree with public funding of the CBC. I must say though, that comments like those of Skinny Dipper's are good ammunition for making the case and maybe the controversy around FNN will bring about the needed debate about public funding of a leftwing propaganda channel.

As for HNIC, Im sure you know this is the one CBC offering that could survive without public subsidies. I live in the smaller market of Ottawa and most our games our broadcast on TSN or Sportsnet. The private sector will happily broadcast your leafs/flames/canucks/oilers games.

And so your only concern is not being forced to pay for FNN? That's entirely reasonable, and its also my only concern with respect to CBC.

Omar said...

"...and I consider it worth my tax dollars just to pay for Hockey Night in Canada."

I have great difficulties with my tax dollars being spent to subsidize HNiC ever since Don Cherry and Ron MacLean hijacked the 1st period intermission with their overtly right-wing sermonizing.

Holly Stick said...

OK, BCL, though usually it's the rightwingers who claim the lefties are calling for censorship, and the lefties who try to distinguish between calling for censorship and calling for no special treatment.

My concern is that the Sun bunch are such blatant liars, and there seems to be no way to hold them to account for the damage their lies do.

Jerome Bastien said...

I have great difficulties with my tax dollars being spent to subsidize HNiC ever since Don Cherry and Ron MacLean hijacked the 1st period intermission with their overtly right-wing sermonizing.

Id bet dollars to donuts that HNIC is turning a profit and is therefore not actually "subsidized" in any meaningful sense. More likely, profits from HNIC subsidizes David Suzuki, Peter Mansbridge, and Little Boring Show on the Prairie.

Omar said...

OK, fine. I have great difficulties with Don Cherry and Ron MacLean hijacking the 1st period intermission with their overtly and blatant right-wing sermonizing. Better?

Jerome Bastien said...

OK, fine. I have great difficulties with Don Cherry and Ron MacLean hijacking the 1st period intermission with their overtly and blatant right-wing sermonizing. Better?

Yes.

Although I was always of the opinion that it was more Don Cherry who was more right-wing, but this is splitting hairs.

More importantly, Im glad you object to tax dollars being spent on right-wing sermonizing. I suspect you have enough integrity to also object to your tax dollars being spent on left-wing sermonizing.

Omar said...

If you are suggesting that CBC news is a front for left-wing sermonizing, then I'd say you sir, are a moron.

Jerome Bastien said...

If you are suggesting that CBC news is a front for left-wing sermonizing, then I'd say you sir, are a moron.

How unfortunate. We hadnt called each other names in all of four posts and you had to go and break the streak.

I suppose that whether CBC is left or whether SunTV is right is a matter of perspective. You consider Don Cherry "right wing", presumably because of his support for Canadian troops - to me this is just basic decency and common sense.

Maybe to some people, like environmentalist James Lee CBC is 'right-wing' because it's not (yet) calling babies "dirty little parasites" or what have you. Certainly, if your idea of a balanced media outlet is rabble.ca, then the CBC is right-wing.

That's the point. To a large number of Canadians (including myself), CBC is seen as a state-funded leftwing propaganda machine. To others it might be seen as right wing. Either way, there is no longer a valid rationale for funding a TV network as there was in the 50s, and besides, other than HNIC, Canadians arent watching.

bigcitylib said...

"That's the point. To a large number of Canadians (including myself)CBC is seen as a state-funded leftwing propaganda machine."

About 15% of the pop, I'd say. More people believe Elvis is alive.

Jerome Bastien said...


About 15% of the pop, I'd say. More people believe Elvis is alive.


Not sure where you got that figure but regardless, that's not really the point.

What % wants to spend 1 billion dollars on propping up bad programming (and thereby hurting other Canadian broadcasters)? That would be the real question.

At least BCL you deserve credit for not opposing FNN's mere existence (Gee, thanks).

But it is instructive to see how leftwingers like Liam (i said Skinny Dipper in previous posts, I meant Liam) react at the prospect of being forced to fund a network they dont like. Notwithstanding the fact that SunTV were refused their Class A license (or whatever its called) and there is no chance of Liam being forced to fund SunTV, I agree with that feeling entirely. I just wish I wouldnt have to fund a network I dont like either.

Tof KW said...

"That's the point. To a large number of Canadians (including myself)CBC is seen as a state-funded leftwing propaganda machine."

So??? Gallop did a poll not that long ago that showed 19% (almost 1 in 5 Americans) thought the sun revolved around the earth. That's a large number of people who are completely ignorant ...much like the people who think that the CBC is a leftwing propaganda machine.

Jerome ...please prove to us that the CBC is somehow left-biased. And real evidence will do.

Jerome Bastien said...


Jerome ...please prove to us that the CBC is somehow left-biased. And real evidence will do


I really dont feel the need to prove to you something which I've witnessed for myself. Besides, its entirely besides the point. As I've posted earlier, whether somebody thinks the CBC is left/neutral/right depends on their perspective. Somehow though, most right-wingers think the CBC is leftwing and most left-wingers think the CBC is just perfect - that should tell you something right away.

The point is, no TV network in Canada, especially one who's engaged in reporting the news, ought to receive funding from the government.

Considering the hysteria surrounding SunTV's potential must-carry license (which doesnt force anyone to fund anything), I decided to test the logical consistency of BCL's readers by floating the proposition that, given it is DICTATORSHIP (see Liam's comment) to force him to pay for SunTV (he is not, nor will he ever be forced to pay for sun TV), it also is DICTATORSHIP to force me to pay for the CBC (I am, and likely always will be forced to pay for the CBC).

The results are in:

Apparently, it is entirely logical that I be forced to fund a network I despise but absolutely unthinkable that Liam, BCL, yourself, Omar, and others be forced to fund a network they despise, because...hmm, hold on,... there must be a reason...no, no reason.. it just is OK.

Tof KW said...

Ted Asked...
Jerome ...please prove to us that the CBC is somehow left-biased. And real evidence will do

Jerome Answered...
I really dont feel the need to prove to you something which I've witnessed for myself.

- - -

Ah, so it is your "opinion" the CBC is left-biased. Sorry Jerome, if there is some proof, then it's not true ...no matter how you "feel".

BTW - you should check out the post on Far & Wide's blog on Petty interviewing two right-wing guys + Ian Capstick about Ezra's book on the Oil Industry. Steve V asks an honest question, has anyone ever seen 2 left-wingers + a token Con debating a book by David Suzuki? Answer is no.

If anything the CBC has gone to the right in recent years, something which even Tom Flanagan says has occurred since Harper has become PM. His exact words were "there was a left-wing bias, but that's changed since the Conservatives have come into office. At the present they are quite fair to the government".

There you go, an honest answer from a Conservative who calls it like it is. Not a tinfoil-hat conspiracy "opinion on how you feel" view of the CBC.

Also my original point was the CBC is much more than news, they receive money to create Canadian programming to tell our stories. This is done to prevent us from being swallowed by the US entertainment industry. The CBC was created by the Conservatives, in order to 'conserve' the Canadian identity. That was back when the word conservative actually meant something, and the party hadn't completely jettisoned the principles of Disraeli and Lord Churchill.

Jerome Bastien said...

Sorry Jerome, if there is some proof, then it's not true ...no matter how you "feel".

What?? I thought that for lefties reality was a matter of feeling. Also, you're confusing absence of evidence with evidence of absence - a classic logical fallacy.

Regardless, my point does not rely on whether the CBC is objectively left or right wing. I maintain that this is a matter of perspective, and ultimately immaterial.

Also my original point was the CBC is much more than news, they receive money to create Canadian programming to tell our stories. This is done to prevent us from being swallowed by the US entertainment industry. The CBC was created by the Conservatives, in order to 'conserve' the Canadian identity. That was back when the word conservative actually meant something, and the party hadn't completely jettisoned the principles of Disraeli and Lord Churchill.

That's all well and good. Why do they need my money? Because nobody watches their crap, that's why.

I personally despise the CBC, hence I dont want to pay for it anymore than any of you want to pay for SunTV. I realize that my position is not that widespread but I believe that the majority of Canadians dont care much for the CBC, at least, according to viewership that's what Canadians are telling us. So why would Canadians fund a tv network they dont want to watch?

For our Canadian identity? That's a) bullshit and b) a pipe dream. Canadian identity is not defined by dumb shows nobody watches. You just cant create a national identity in a boardroom or in a studio. Perhaps if the CBC got out of the way, Canadian broadcasters could produce quality Canadian shows based on what people actually want to watch. That might contribute to our national identity although it certainly wouldnt define it.

Again, I repeat the basic point, which no one has addressed yet:
-forcing people to fund SunTV = bad
-forcing people to fund CBC = good
-WTF

Gene Rayburn said...

Jerome, shitty programs are produced by all broadcasters and not just the CBC. The CBC could take lessons from Australia and New Zealand on how to produce quality content rather than apeing the CTV route (writing shows on the hope that a US network will pick them up).

It could be worse for you though. The BBC's tax grab is about 4 times as much (then add the TV license). Then again the BBC model is also very good as a public broadcasting model.

The thing is the CBC does very little production of their own. The majority of the work is done by third party companies. The same companies that do work for the US. So if these private companies produce quality for the US why do they produce crap for us?

These are the same companies that produce the crap on CTV and Global as well. Producing a TV show isn't easy and the problems that are encountered by the CBC in producing quality Canadian content aren't endemic to the broadcaster. Remember Night Heat? Now there was a stinking piece of Canadian crap produced by CTV. Remember Seeing Things? There's a CBC show that was far better than the tripe produced by the private broadcasters. Both ran for over 6 seasons and I remember watching Seeing Things every Sunday at 8, following the Beachcombers. The entire belief that somehow the CBC is responsible for all shitty shows in Canada is disingenous considering how often reruns of Corner Gas are broadcast.

The angle I'm taking on this isn't one of political bias but one of experience in television production. Believe me, if there was a foolproof way of producing quality content everyone would watch it would have been found.

You're statements regarding Canadian's view of the CBC and whether it's a left wing propaganda machine seem based on viewpoint and opinion rather than fact. From a quick survey of the people in my part of Canada I could find a very different answer. So are those points merely a matter of observation?

Tof KW said...

Ah Jerome, I see I have to adjust my opinion of you. I may not agree with point of view often, however I've actually given your past posts some respect since you normally come into a debate armed with a few sources and some research.

But your tinfoil-hat diatribe of the CBC being a lefty-biased network all based on your 'opinion' ...that's just really, really beneath you.

I on the other hand have quoted a leading figure from the old Reform Party and an old mentor of the prime minister (also a regular on CBC). Likewise I gave an example of the predominance of right-leaning panelists, in addition to Petty normally deriding any Liberals she interviews (and there are many more examples of this sort of thing I can cite very easily) to show the CBC is in fact quite balanced in it’s newscasts and does go out of its way to present all sides in a debate. I highly doubt Kory-TV will be anywhere near this ‘fair and balanced’ when it hits the airwaves.

Now please present something to support your contention that the CBC has a distinct left-bias, or quit while you’re behind. You’re just embarrassing yourself if you continue like this.

Jerome Bastien said...

Gene and TK:

I've never pretended that my view of the CBC is nothing more than just that: my own personal view. I listen to CBC often enough that this is the impression I have of them. Im not stating it as an objective fact. If you guys disagree with me, that's fine. It's a matter of perspective.

Gene says:

You're statements regarding Canadian's view of the CBC and whether it's a left wing propaganda machine seem based on viewpoint and opinion rather than fact.

Exactly. That's it.

Regarding quality programming, I agree with you. Also, US networks put out tons of crap too. I find the good shows are mostly cable (HBO and Showtime), and many otherwise good shows have jumped the shark (i.e., Weeds).

TKoW says:

But your tinfoil-hat diatribe of the CBC being a lefty-biased network all based on your 'opinion' ...that's just really, really beneath you.

Why cant I express my opinion? That's all it is really, my opinion. Im not pretending it's an objective fact.

As for your points about the CBC being balanced, I have no issues with that. I dont have time to watch Power and Politics, but I understand Evan Solomon is not that bad. My primary exposure to the CBC comes from The Current in the morning with Anna Maria Tremonte. I dont think she's fair and balanced at all - again, that's an OPINION.

Gene Rayburn said...

Jerome, have you ever watched any Charlie Brooker? If not I highly recommend screenwipe and newswipe. Even if you don't agree with him, it is highly entertaining.