All posts in Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

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

More gruel, sir? The face of Sun News Network that Sun News Network would like you to see as they beg for public subsidies. Below: The real face of Sun News Network.

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 Mr. 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 Mr. 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, Mr. 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 Mr. 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 Rabble.ca.

Broadcast Standards Council tosses latest Sun News Network vulgarity back to CRTC

Sun News Network commentator Ezra Levant assails your blogger for his many ideological imperfections. Great picture! …of me.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has asked the federal broadcast regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, to investigate complaints about a June 13 broadcast by Sun News Network commentator Ezra Levant.

The CBSC said in a letter to this blogger that it will not itself investigate complaints about Sun News Network’s June 13 episode of Mr. Levant’s program The Source because “the comments in question are about the CBSC and identified individuals who volunteer as our Panel members.”

As a result, the CBSC said, it finds itself in a conflict of interest and is therefore not in a position to deal with complaints arising from the June 13 broadcast. Complaints about the broadcast will be forwarded to the CRTC, the federal agency that oversees the broadcasting and telecommunications industries, the CBSC letter said.

In normal cases, the CRTC refers complaints it receives about the content of television or radio broadcasts to the CSBC, which describes itself on its website as “an independent, non-governmental organization created by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters to administer standards established by its members, Canada’s private broadcasters.”

On June 13, Sun News Network and Mr. Levant complied with a ruling of the CBSC censuring them for using on the air in 2011 a Spanish profanity universally understood to mean “f**k your mother,” and for clearly identifying the individual at whom Mr. Levant directed this and other insults, by reading a required statement.

The ruling noted that Mr. Levant had made the following remark on the air as part of his Dec. 22, 2011, commentary about a report the Chiquita Brands food company had announced it would avoid using oil from Alberta’s bitumen sands: “Hey you. Yeah you, [name of Chiquita executive]. Chinga tu madre.” Referring to the commentary as “a tirade,” the ruling noted Mr. Levant also said “in a distinctly aggressive tone” that the Chiquita executive was a liar.

Under the terms of Sun News Network’s voluntary membership in the CBSC, the June 13 ruling required the right-wing U.S.-style broadcaster to read on the air a statement that it had breached the CAB’s Code of Ethics in the 2011 broadcast of Mr. Levant’s program. “The program contained a coarse insult directed at a specific named person,” said the statement Sun News Network was required to read. “This violated Clause 6 of the Code.”

But during the June 13 broadcast, in addition to reading the words of the statement required by the CBSC, Mr. Levant repeated the same offensive phrase several times, and harshly criticized the four members of the panel that issued the ruling. (He also criticized this blogger, who had filed one of 22 complaints about Sun News Network’s use of the phrase.)

At various times during the broadcast, Mr. Levant referred to the CBSC as “idiots,” “stupid,” “a group of nobodies,” “the secretive group of censors,” “a kangaroo court,” “busybodies, know-it-alls and snoops,” and “arrogant little bureaucrats.” During the broadcast, he also implied that federal Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair belonged on a list of enemies of Canada.

Mr. Levant argued, moreover, that “even if I told Chiquita to ‘chinga tu madre’ every day, it’s not against the rules that the censors claim to be following.” Based on this argument, he called the statement Sun News Network was asked to read “a false confession” and “the lie they wanted me to tell.”

Mr. Levant closed his broadcast with the following words, which included a reference to the first names of each of the four panel members: “Hey censors! Yeah, you, Troy, Pip, Lea, Andree, the whole Broadcast Standards Council, Chiquita, ForestEthics. I’ve got a message for ya! ‘Chinga tu madre!’” (Andree Noel, the chair of the panel, is the national chair of the CBSC and a former Quebec regional commissioner of the CRTC.)

On June 20, a lawyer for Quebecor Media informed the CSBC and the 22 complainants in an email that “…the statement was broadcast during The Source on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 and again on Thursday, June 14, 2012. … The two broadcasts of the statement therefore met the requirements for airing the statement set out in the CBSC’s decision.” (Emphasis added.)

As leaders of an organization arguably created for the benefit of its member corporations, the officers of the CBSC must have been gobsmacked by Sun News Network’s response, which was not restricted to Mr. Levant’s remarks. The Sun News website referred to the CSBC as “a kangaroo court manned by Sun News competitors.”

It is easy to infer that the destruction of the CBSC must be Sun News Network’s goal, and it may well succeed with that part of its program.

However, as has been said in this space before, a government agency charged with enforcing broadcast standards is a more appropriate venue for examining questions of this nature than a toothless voluntary organization that, it can be persuasively argued, exists principally to inoculate its members against the possibility of actual regulation being enforced in the interests of Canadians, who own the airwaves from which its member companies generate handsome profits.

But it is not clear if the CRTC today has the will, the regulatory tools or the internal mechanisms to deal with complaints of this nature, a situation that would effectively leave the public’s airwaves in the hands of completely unregulated and clearly irresponsible corporations with an extremist political agenda.

So it needs to be repeated that the line that connects Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his market-fundamentalist Conservative Party of Canada to the foul-mouthed hyper-partisanship of the Sun News Network and its offensive commentators is short and direct, and that they act in the service of common goals.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.