COLUMN: Sun-set on perspective

by Phillip Blancher

SOUTH DUNDAS — While the lefties rejoice the death of “Fox News North”, no one should be celebrating the loss of the right-wing news network. Regardless of your political stripe, a network, however popular, shutting down is not good for a country with the principles of freedom of expression, and freedom of the press.

Was Sun News Network controversial, yes. Put the rhetoric aside for a moment and think about this, 200 people are losing their job. How anyone can state that they rejoice in job loss is beyond me. While some of the hosts on Sun News are lightning rods of controversy, Ezra Levant and Michael Coren primarily, it’s not just the public faces that are gone, its all of the support staff, production staff also who have lost their jobs. If anyone has moderately followed the cuts in the media industry over the last five years, there are not a lot of options left in the media industry. 200 more people in the unemployment line helps no one.

Now add the rhetoric back in a bit. Sun News Network billed itself as “apologetically patriotic”. It was controversial, and it was certainly right-of-center. What is wrong with that? We live in a country that has freedom of expression and freedom of speech enshrined in our Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You don’t have to agree with what is being said, but they had the right to say it, and to deal with any consequence of saying it. As does any other media outlet.

Tell me however, what news network doesn’t have a “slant” or “perspective”? News outlets are no longer just places that report the facts and let the reader decide. The line between news and opinion has blurred considerably. Editorial comment that used to be reserved for the Opinion page is now injected into articles all the time. What is good for the left-leaning Toronto Star and CBC should be ok for the right-leaning Toronto Sun and Sun News Network, right?

Sun News Network did get a lot of things right. When they launched, hosts Charles Adler, Ezra Levant and Michael Coren pushed the envelop of opinion. Yes it created controversy, but it was clear opinion, and it promoted discussion of ideas. I rarely agreed with what was said and considered all three glorified, over the top, blow-hards, but I respected the fact that they played devil’s advocate to the presumed societal norms.

Brian Lilley and David Akin covered political news at par or better than the big networks. Lilley’s libertarian views were refreshing to see on television, where that perspective is sorely unseen in Canada. With provincial elections, Akin pushed political coverage and provided a very in-depth view of races that the big networks just didn’t cover. And they did it on a national platform. Why shouldn’t people in Ontario know more about what happens to their country mates in British Columbia or Nova Scotia?

Why Sun News Network failed is clear, an uneven playing field thanks to the CRTC and government policies. CBC News Network and CTV News Net both have mandatory-carry status, so you have to have it on your cable or satellite package. You have no choice. Sun News tried to get this status and was denied. What is good enough for two networks is not good enough for the rest according to the CRTC. That policy is wrong. In the 21st Century market as it is, with 500 channels to pick through and the infiltration of online media, no network should have mandatory-carry status.

Add to that the government policy of supporting the CBC with tax dollars. Government’s role should not be to compete against private enterprise. Supporters of the CBC claim the that the CBC is preserving and promoting “Canadian Culture”. However their news organization is skewed to the left, and I fail to see how “Dragon’s Den”, “Coronation Street”, “Republic of Doyle”, or US Sci-Fi Network import “Ascension” is promoting Canadian culture.

No government has been willing to take on and deal with the CBC issue, and as a consumer, I should have the right to pay for a channel I want, and not pay for a channel that I don’t. For the record, I enjoy some of the comedy shows on the CBC such as “Schitt’s Creek” and “This Hour has 22 Minutes”, so I would actually willingly pay for it. But I want the option to not pay for it.

Many are celebrating the death of the Sun News Network, the slaying of the “faux news”, and silencing of the “blow-hards”. But the loss of the outlet leaves a hole in the discussion of ideas and perspective in Canada. Nobody should celebrate that.

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