Does anyone seriously believe Sun News Network cancelled Ford Nation after its inaugural show on Monday because of Rob and Doug Ford’s “relative inexperience with the medium”?
Lots of people will accept at face value this claim about the loony-right-wing cable channel’s show starring the Ford Brothers, along with the equally fatuous suggestion “the brutal economics of cable TV” played a role. After all, both ideas come from no less an august source than the Globe and Mail in the self-described National Newspaper’s cover-to-cover reportage of the never-ending meltdown at Toronto City Hall, which, come to think of it, does look a little like a nuclear reactor building.
But let’s think about this for a minute.
The one and only broadcast of the program attracted, according to the same source, 155,000 viewers.
That compares with normal ratings of little more than 30,000 viewers for one of the network’s most popular shows, The Source, with the clownish Ezra Levant. And that’s when Mr. Levant is having a good day.
Mr. Levant took a break from his usual duties to act as one of the hosts of Ford Nation on Monday, gently lobbing softball questions at Toronto’s rapidly disintegrating mayor and his brother, who is now the chief magistrate’s sole remaining supporter on council.
It’s said here this is an audience that Sun News would only have surrendered under the most extraordinary of circumstances, and five hours spent on production time just doesn’t seem sufficiently extraordinary.
Now, about those five hours, I thought the private sector was supposed to be efficient. Isn’t that what Sun News keeps telling us? So how much time does it actually take to blip out even a stream of F-words, P-words and whatever other obscenities pepper the Ford Brothers’ version of public discourse?
C’mon, people! This time estimate strains credulity. Even if Ford Nation ratings were bound to start slipping after Rob Ford’s repeated come-to-Jesus moments started to grow tiresome to viewers still in possession of their faculties, those kind of numbers simply could not be ignored by a marginal operation like Sun News Network, which by its own admission will have to shut down if it doesn’t get some kind of a break soon from viewers or the federal government.
“It’s by far the most successful thing, from an audience perspective, the network has ever done,” the Globe quoted Kory Teneycke, a vice-president of Sun News, as saying.
So what’s really going on? Alert readers will recall that Mr. Teneycke is a former communications aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose office the same day gingerly waded into the issue by saying it was “troubled” by the “allegations” against the PM’s suddenly too-famous fishin’ buddy and fellow traveller. Allegations!
Employment Minister Jason Kenney, of course, was a little stronger in his comments, calling on the mayor for God’s sake to get out and end his occupation of Toronto City Hall, which is rapidly turning into the Hogtown House of Horror.
My guess is the PMO finally put in a call to Sun News and instructed the semi-official state broadcaster to pull the plug on the embarrassing spectacle right flippin’ now! Either that, or expect consequences – especially now that the CBC is behaving itself from the PM’s perspective.
Rob Ford’s long and public association with the prime minister, obviously, is not doing any favours for Mr. Harper or his party, with which the Canadian electorate is growing manifestly weary. And the more the Ford Fiasco is in the media, at home and abroad, the more embarrassing it becomes to the PMO.
The desire of the PMO to see the entire Ford Nation spectacle quietly brought to a conclusion must have been pretty obvious – making the phone call speculated upon in this space the simplest, and hence the most likely, reason for the swift and brutal demise of the astonishingly popular Ford Nation.
Of course, that was yesterday. Today, the Mounties alleged the prime minister’s former chief of staff committed bribery, fraud and breach of trust when he cut that famous $90,000 cheque to Senator Mike Duffy.
RCMP Cpl. Greg Horton said in court documents that Nigel Wright “did, without the consent in writing of the head of the branch of government, pay a reward or confer an advantage or benefit on Mike Duffy.” (Emphasis added.)
Given this opinion by the national police, can charges be far behind? And if charges are laid, can Mr. Wright be counted on to take the fall for his micromanaging former capo?
Given that, will the PMO still be as “troubled” by the potential distraction offered by the Ford Bros.?
Maybe we should stay tuned for more changes in the Sun News Network program schedule!