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Alberta Diary

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David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. His 1995 book, A Poke in the Public Eye, explores the relationships among Canadian journalists, public relations people and politicians. He left journalism after the strike at the Calgary Herald in 1999 and 2000 to work for the trade union movement. Alberta Diary focuses on Alberta politics and social issues.

With no market for hate and right-wing drivel, Sun News comes cap in hand for public subsidy

| January 22, 2013
Ezra Levant

Sun News Network, that fearless foe of state subsidies for the CBC, wants you, Dear Television Viewer, to directly subsidize it to the tune of $18 million a year.

Have no doubt, that's just the beginning, but it would nicely cover losses the company says now amount to a modest $17 million a year -- hardly a corporate killer, one would think, but apparently enough to get Sun News queuing up at the public trough.

It turns out, as others have discovered before them (Ted Byfield, c'mon down!) that there's not much of a market in Canada for the kind of market fundamentalist pap Sun News peddles -- at least when consumers have the choice not to pay for it.

There's even less of a market, by the sound of it, for the filthy language and outright hate-mongering indulged in by some of the network's so-called commentators.

Given the opportunity to choose to watch Sun TV, viewers run away in droves. And who can blame them with boring drivel like Ezra Levant's regular venomous rants about the Roma, Idle No More protesters, Hispanic business executives, environmentalists and anyone else who provokes his ill-managed anger to fill the seemingly interminable 24-hour broadcast day?

Now the so-called news channel, which disseminates anything but news, has gone with its grubby cap in hand to one of Levant's targets, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, to beg for the right to inject its poison directly into almost every Canadian home because it desperately needs the wholesale revenue that would then automatically flow back into its coffers.

To put this in broadcast-speak, Sun News and its separatist bosses at Quebecor Inc. want the CRTC to grant it "mandatory carriage," which means you can't keep it off your TV dial because it would be included in basic cable coverage everywhere in Canada. That way, I guess, it'll be easier for them to campaign against opposition parties led by committed federalists from Quebec, of which there will soon be two.

In the normal course of events, a broadcast regulatory agency like the CRTC is the sort of group that would provoke one of Levant's trademark jeremiads, complete with accusations it is staffed by civil servants itching to help out "union bosses" by "censoring" his harangues.

But for the moment, Levant and the chorus of right-wing hysterics employed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's semi-official and ideologically approved state broadcaster are silent on the topic of the CRTC while they direct their supplications to it for a flow of public subsidies to be directed their way.

You see, Sun News Network is going deeper into the hole every day, with erstwhile Harper Government spokesthingy Kory Teneycke, now a vice-president of his former boss's favourite network, pleading that opening the money tap "is live or die for us."

For its part, the company claims it has market research that shows viewers would watch its programs if only they knew where to find them. But this is highly suspect, since cable companies push packages that include the network and viewers aren't biting.

The fact is, if you wish, you can get a well-run focus group to endorse a ham sandwich for prime minister -- which, come to think of it, is pretty much what Sun News Network spends its days doing right now to the minuscule audience of angry white gun-owning males and zitty-faced Internet trolls it has managed to attract so far.

The subsidy Sun News Network is seeking now would add up to about $4 a year from all cable subscribers to directly subsidize hate and propaganda, but you can count on it that, in the manner of all their ilk, the corporation will soon be back at the well for more.

So tell me, with Sun News imploring a federal agency for a quick infusion of cash from hard-pressed taxpayers, granted in the form of a bogus "user fee," where's the always noisy Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation? They're like the proverbial cop, I guess, never around when you actually need them.

Regardless, according to the Globe and Mail, Sun News faces "stiff odds" in this effort, seeing as there are lots of other more credible and creditable broadcasters vying for the 10 channels that must be carried by all cable companies.

But Harper cronies and sympathizers are now deeply embedded in key positions at the CRTC and it has a proven track record of backing down and running away from confrontation with Sun News, as when the broadcast regulator hastily dropped its investigation of Levant's on-air obscenities last fall after the network issued a vague and insincere apology.

Given all that, I don't think we can count on the CRTC not to agree to put the Tory back into regulatory.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.



In reply to Arthu Cramer

If that was true then why have the courts ruled against HATE and the means that it is spread....Hate messages have to be curbed by laws not by "let the markets decide"...

In reply to Arthu Cramer

If that was true then why have the courts ruled against HATE and the mean that it is spread....Hate messages have to be curbed by laws not by "let the markets decide"...

I certainly don't want my tax money paying for a service I don't want. Namely Sun News network. I don't support racism, sexism, homophobia etc.So why should I have to pay for via my taxes. The very least Sun newtwork can do it pay for it themselves. Lord knows they have beaten up the CBC enough times for it being public supported. The difference is, that CBC supports equality and digs up the dirt on ALL polictical parties which is what it should do for everyones benefit.   

Although I found this article most interesting I was disappointed to see Quebecor described as a separatist organization.  Much as I loathe his news media, Peladeau is a federalist, not a separatist. But then again, so is Harper. That doesn't make us love him. 

There is no longer requirements under the Broadcasting Act for providing opposing points of view on matters of public interest or equitable coverage of political parties, Leaders or  Candidates on the public airwaves, and therefore on Cable or Satellite TV. There is a requirement for the CRTC to licence broadcasters that will entertain, enlighten and enhance the political fabric of the nation. Few, if any of our TV News or public affairs outlets are unbiased or comply with their conditions of licence because they are nothing more than repeaters and regurgitators of partisan tripe and establishment talking points from left or right wing extremists, because they are in a death race in a contracting marketplace to increase viewership for advertiser or subscriber revenue.

The best way for the average Canadian to avoid having to pay for biased news is to cancel their cable or satellite service and view what little reasonably unbiased TV News available off air free, and maybe even program your TV to skip the crap don’t want so you do not accidentally see it flipping through channels to find what you do want. Or better yet, use the internet where you can find every news or public affairs point of view or perspective you wish to and pretty much anything else available anywhere in the world including what is or is not available on Cable or Satellite TV.

If you choose to pay for Cable or satellite TV, then use your ‘special’ rights to complain to the CRTC and maybe even the Competition Bureau, not just about the right wing bias of SUN TV, but about the bias of the others too. Even CPAC, which was licenced to cover Parliament and it’s Committees and functions has expanded to cover partisan political events, but usually only those of the major parties with party status in the House. Only after nomination day during elections does it cover all locally nominated  candidates, but it only broadcasts Leaders’ debates approved by the broadcast consortium made up of major English and French TV networks. Even Community Cable TV, the one place where any and all points of views and programming was supposed to be allowed, has been consolidated, outside voices have been silenced, the programming is regional not local, and there have been attempts to charge local candidates fees to cover costs for election programming.

CPAC was supposed to be funded by the Cable companies as a condition of their licences and not by Satellite companies, and is already paid for by cable subscribers. The proposed move of SUN TV and/or CPAC to basic cable is nothing more than a shift of the costs and losses to all broadcast television subscribers, including the huge majority of viewers who do not watch them, and a gift of untold millions in profit to the Cable companies and a private broadcaster. The same is true of most Canadian News services including CTV, CBC, Global and the rest, who should not get paid for not providing the services to Canadians their licence and the law provides for.

The CRTC should take all Canadian TV News and public affairs of all basic or mandatory carriage Cable or Satellite services and let consumers pick and pay, or bundle them together as a pay package, and people would be able to vote with their wallets to see what the like. If there are enough haters around willing to choose to pay to watch services with biased or extreme views they will survive and perhaps make some money, if they can afford the lawyers to keep their on air personalities or managers, directors and owners out of jail, and if the Courts do not put Corporate News organizations rights to freedom of speech ahead of all of Canada’s citizens Charter rights. Who knows maybe then someone will see the need for a Democracy Channel to tell us all about it all. But don’t hold your breath for the CRTC, Cable or Satellite companies giving that channel mandatory coverage on a lower tier channel, or a licence at all, or even see such rebroadcast of such unique programming covering important or historical events.

If you really want to see legitimate views or opinions not covered or even sometimes suppressed by the News and broadcast networks in the US or Canada especially during elections then you have to watch Al Jazeera or Russia Today, because that is where the 2012 US Third Party Presidential Debates moderated by veteran broadcaster Larry King were broadcast in the US election, not on regular Cable, Satellite or TV News. Even after three of the ten sponsors of the US Commission on Presidential Debates, the YMCA, Phillips Electronics and ad agency BBH New York pulled out because the Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates of the Green and Libertarian Parties were not to be included in debates and the third party debate was organized in protest, only CSPAN broadcast it, as did CPAC and CBC Newsworld cover the Canadian All Party Leaders Debates in the 1993 and 2000 Federal Elections. Subsequently, the Canadian Courts ruled that the Broadcast and Elections Act requirements to provide equitable coverage allowed biased coverage as long as more than one point of view was presented, including allowing only Leaders and/or Candidates from similar perspectives or arbitrarily excluding any leader, candidate or party they choose. Similarly, the new definition applies to broadcasters. Although the Canada Election Act contains corporate contribution and campaign spending limits, it now allows broadcasters to give millions of dollars worth of free campaign coverage in news and public affairs to one major party and one fringe party or candidate and to exclude all others. Quite a Democracy, Eh?


@Arthur: Hahahahahaha. <Wipes tear from eye.> Hilarious.

(Assuming that was a joke, since the article was about how the markets *have* decided, and how Sun is trying to get around the freeness of markets to compensate for their abject failure to compete.)

Arthur Cramer....what if the markets were brainwashed by the sun news? What makes up mainstream media? Who controls what is distributed to the MSM? 

David thank you for another great read.

What about "let the markets decide"? I'm just sayin'.

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