All posts tagged Kory Teneycke

Sun Media – not its squalid commentator Ezra Levant – is the problem

Ezra Levant, on the job with his Sun News microphone. Mr. Levant is not the problem. Sun Media is the problem. Below: Justin Trudeau, Bernie Farber, and Brian Mulroney.

Ezra Levant is a squalid nuisance, barely worth contemplating.

Sun Media is the problem.

On Monday, Sun Media apologized for Mr. Levant’s repellent and sexually obsessive hysterics about Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s parents, one dead and the other an elderly grandmother and thus neither in a position to defend themselves.

This only happened, of course, because Mr. Trudeau threatened no longer to talk to legitimate Sun Media journalists, of which we have been repeatedly assured there are a few, after Mr. Levant’s Sept. 23 rant, and because former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney intervened in his current role as a member of the board of Quebecor, which owns Sun Media.

Within seconds of the apology being read by an anonymous narrator, Mr. Levant’s smug visage was back on the air and, not long after that, in the pages of the local edition of Sun Media’s newspaper here in Edmonton. No apologies from him, thank you very much.

In other words, thanks to his enablers at Sun Media, Mr. Levant has gotten away with it again, just as he got away with his sinister racist screed about an entire people, the Roma, his false statements about George Soros, his reference to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council as “idiots” and “censors” for mildly ruling that he really shouldn’t tell people he disagrees with to “f**k your mother” on the air.

In the interests of full disclosure, I’m compelled to inform readers that Mr. Levant has called me personally “a snitch,” “a weasel,” “a bully” (presumably for daring to criticize Sun Media), a person who unprofessionally sneaked union propaganda into Calgary Herald news stories, a “union boss” – if only it were true! – and a big chicken for refusing to appear on his program. Plus the Spanish obscenity translated above, of course.

As an aside, it’s interesting to note in light of this that when the shoe was on the other foot, and the self-described free-speech advocate was being criticized for his Roma commentary, he did not respond to my three requests for his comments about the situation.

As far as I am aware, only in the case of the hate-filled monologue about the Roma – when according to Rabble’s Karl Nerenberg charges were seriously considered under Article 319 of the Criminal Code for public incitement and willful promotion of hatred – did Mr. Levant himself apologize.

So we can count on it that Mr. Levant will make inappropriate comments again – and again, and again – and that each time Sun Media will say, sorry, so sorry, it’ll never happen again … all the while tacitly encouraging Mr. Levant to continue.

In other words, it’s Sun Media that gives Mr. Levant a multi-media platform for hate, obscenity, hectoring abuse and bullying. It’s Sun Media that allows him to play unsupervised on national television. It’s Sun Media that defends his excesses. It’s Sun Media that apologizes for them – usually with enough qualifiers to render the apology meaningless. So it’s Sun Media that ought to be held responsible for what he does.

Sun Media’s defences of Mr. Levant can be quite elaborate. In 2012, Sun News Network Vice-President Kory Teneycke publicly defended Mr. Levant’s noxious rant about the Roma. The former member of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s political praetorian guard barricaded himself inside Sun Media’s “message box” while doing his best to sound contrite about Mr. Levant’s savage commentary.

Mr. Teneycke refused to acknowledge the patently racist overtones of Mr. Levant’s sinister remarks and suggested they were merely meant to be satirical. Anyone who heard the original nine-minute episode of Mr. Levant’s program knows this explanation is so preposterous that Mr. Teneycke himself may have been engaging in satire.

Thankfully, other respected public figures, like Bernie M. Farber, former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, treated Mr. Levant’s appalling remarks with the gravity they deserved.

Unfortunately, though, readers will be hard pressed to confirm any of this now, since Sun Media seems to have washed all copies of Mr. Levant’s poison down the corporate Memory Hole. A recording placed on Youtube.com by a third party was removed “due to a copyright claim by Sun News Network.”

And even Sun Media didn’t bother apologizing in 2011 when Mr. Levant dressed up in an orange wig and mocked the death from cancer of NDP leader Jack Layton.

Why would Sun Media encourage this kind of behaviour by its commentator?

I can only speculate, of course, not being privy to their strategies. But it seems reasonable to conclude Sun Media fully endorses Mr. Levant’s messages, even when they disavow particular examples like his rant about the Roma and now the attack on Pierre and Margaret Trudeau. Surely, at least until Mr. Mulroney stepped in, Sun Media also supported the attacks on the elder Trudeaus as a way to get at their son.

Finally, presumably Sun Media underwrites Mr. Levant’s efforts to debase public discourse for the same reason as does Prime Minister Harper’s Conservative Party, which is closely allied to Sun Media: because it is an effective voting suppression tactic that helps keep the Conservatives in power.

So don’t expect Mr. Levant to act any differently, or Sun Media to do anything more about it except issue meaningless apologies, as dictated by circumstances, in future.

This may be good enough for Mr. Trudeau – whose spokesperson said yesterday, no doubt with a sense of relief, that the Liberal leader would talk to Sun Media reporters again.

It ought not to be good enough for anyone else. Sun Media is the problem.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Ford Nation dumped? Stay tuned for more program changes at Sun News Network

Toronto City Hall. Actual city halls in Canada’s largest city may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Rob Ford, Doug Ford, Kory Teneycke and Ezra Levant.

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”?

Please!

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!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

CRTC ruling notwithstanding, Sun News and its campaign for subsidies will continue

Sun News Network gets ready to take Phase II of its campaign for subsidies on the road. Actual action plans by the right-wing broadcaster in light of the CRTC’s denial Wednesday of free cash from consumers and a favourable location on the TV tuner may not turn out to be exactly as illustrated. Below: Sun TV VP Kory Teneycke, commentator Ezra Levant.

Canadians troubled by the loony right Sun News Network’s tireless campaign for “mandatory carriage” on cable TV and the forced subsidies from consumers that would have gone with it are entitled to feel some satisfaction at this week’s ruling by the federal broadcast regulator denying Sun TV’s demands.

But opponents of Sun’s style of gutter broadcasting should not assume the ruling Thursday by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is the end of the network’s campaign to bury its snout in the public trough.

Don’t imagine for a moment that without cash from mandatory carriage Sun News Network is going away, as Vice-President Kory Teneycke and other network officials repeatedly promised during their campaign to bully the CRTC into supporting Sun’s bid to dip into cable-subscribers’ pockets, or that their demands for a more favourable ruling are likely to slacken even momentarily.

No sooner had the CRTC’s decision been announced than Sun News unblushingly changed its story, vowing to continue its fight for subsidies and a better position on the tuner for its dogmatic ideological bias, dubious facts and at-times hateful commentary.

In a story in yesterday’s Edmonton Sun headlined “Sun News battles on,” the parliamentary bureau reporter for the self-described “plucky, upstart news channel” and its newspaper arm noted that the CRTC’s decision “lays out a proposal for a new category of licenses for Canadian all-news channels” that may solve SNN’s problem with the flaccid market for market-fundamentalist bromides and hateful on-air rants.

“We intend to participate fully in those proceedings and will continue to operate pending an outcome,” said Mr. Teneycke, who by no coincidence was once Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s communications director.

In this regard, the defiance of the network and its parent, Quebecor Inc., may very well be justified.

Elsewhere in the same edition of the paper, commentator Michael Coren proclaimed, “the Sun shines on” – or, at any rate, it is said here, to adopt the American vernacular, the Sun will continue to shine you on.

Mr. Coren adopted the whining tone typical of thwarted ideologues in such circumstances, claiming the network called “Fox News North” by supporters and opponents alike is a spunky little challenger of the political and economic establishment it in fact represents, and that it speaks for tens of thousands of people it in reality does not, including many Christians.

It would be fair to say Mr. Coren was engaging in habitual behaviour when he used the article to equate the views of all Christians with his particular take on Christianity. His appears to be a branch of the religion that has devalued to base metal the Golden Rule prescribed by Jesus when he said, “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”

But then, this is a rhetorical technique not so different from that of all Sun News commentators when they claim their angry and tiresome screeds are somehow equivalent to the efforts of the CBC!

Still, Mr. Coren was right when he stated that Sun News and its incessant demands for favourable rulings from the Government of Canada are not going to go away.

With all thus brouhaha, it’s important to note ample funding has been available and likely remains available for the network – from the same sources that finance Canada’s vast network of market-fundamentalist think tanks, Astro-Turf groups and institutionalized laundries for corporate political donations.

Indeed, it seems likely that at the main goal of Sun News Network’s campaign was not so much the paltry $17 million the network claims to be losing and that mandatory carriage would have replenished, as the favourable and accessible place on the TV tuner it would have given the network’s offerings.

So it is said here this fight was as much about encouraging larger numbers of Canadians to stumble upon Sun’s broadcasts – and, perchance, to believe them – as it was about cash.

So, for a little longer, Sun News commentators like Ezra Levant will have to work a harder to reach and retain their audience.

Speaking of Mr. Levant, it is interesting to speculate on how much his unsavoury and occasionally sinister rants, like his racist diatribe against the Roma people in September 2012 or his obscenity-laden attacks on a corporate executive who failed to toe his line on bitumen exports, may have hurt his employer’s application.

Mr. Teneycke has publicly defended Mr. Levant’s notorious rant about the Roma, barricading himself inside Sun’s “message box” while doing his best to sound contrite about it. In an interview last March, he refused to acknowledge the patently racist intentions of Mr. Levant’s remarks while suggesting they were merely meant to be satirical!

As noted here at the time, anyone who heard the original nine-minute episode of Mr. Levant’s program would find this explanation hard to square with what was actually said. Unfortunately, readers will be hard pressed to confirm that now, since Sun News long ago washed all copies of Mr. Levant’s screed down the corporate Memory Hole and a recording placed on Youtube.com by a third party was removed “due to a copyright claim by Sun News Network.”

It is probably impossible to know how much, or even if, Mr. Levant’s exertions hurt the Sun News Network application. It seems self-evident, however, that they can’t have helped it very much.

Regardless, as we have seen, the network’s efforts to win a better platform for his on-air propaganda are not likely to abate, and citizens who accept such Canadian values as fairness, tolerance and decency will have little choice but to remain on guard.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Sorry for anti-Roma rant? As It Happens interviewer demolishes Sun News VP

CBC interviewer Carol Off, photo grabbed from the Internet. Below: Kory Teneycke, Ezra Levant.

If you think Sun News Network is bad now, just wait until they’ve got their ruling from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that their broadcasts must be carried on basic cable television and paid for by cable subscribers.

Any listener could infer they’ll be much worse after listening yesterday evening to CBC interviewer Carol Off demolish Sun News Network Vice-President Kory Teneycke’s slippery attempt to defend the far-right network’s commentator Ezra Levant for his racist diatribe against the Roma people six months ago.

In a short segment on the CBC’s As It Happens radio program last night, Mr. Teneycke, a former communications director for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, remained determinedly barricaded inside his “message box,” doing his best to sound contrite while refusing to acknowledge the patently racist intentions of Mr. Levant’s remarks on the Sept. 5, 2012, episode of his regular Sun News program.

“I don’t believe his intent was racist,” Mr. Teneycke insisted at one point in response to Ms. Off’s persistent questioning, which could serve as a textbook example of the now mostly forgotten art of how to conduct an interview with an evasive subject. “I don’t think his intent was spreading hatred.”

Indeed, Mr. Teneycke suggested at one point, Mr. Levant’s rant was just misunderstood … it was merely meant to be entertaining and satirical, even if it didn’t quite make the grade in that regard.

And why did Mr. Levant himself wait six months, Ms. Off wondered, to apologize for his remarks? Really, Mr. Teneycke seemed to suggest, the network’s sly apology in September 2012 ought to have been enough.

As has been noted in this space, it was hard to take that apology very seriously when it stated, “it was not the intent of Sun News, or anyone employed by Sun News, to promote negative stereotypes about the Roma people.” Excuse me!

“Why didn’t you fire him?” Ms. Off persisted, noting, “I would have been fired for saying that.”

Ah, Mr. Teneycke responded, but he knows Mr. Levant. “There’s no hatred in his heart.”

Anyone who heard the original nine-minute episode of The Source back in September would find this explanation very hard to square with what was actually said by the well-known commentator. Unfortunately, readers will be hard pressed to confirm that now, since Sun News as washed all copies of Mr. Levant’s vicious screed down the corporate Memory Hole and a recording placed on Youtube.com by a third party has been removed “due to a copyright claim by Sun News Network.”

Ms. Off’s interview left listeners with the inevitable conclusion that the timing of Sun News Network’s pleas to the CRTC for must-carry instead of optional status for its broadcasts on basic cable service – and the $18 million or so in consumer subsidies that would flow to it each year as a consequence is what is driving the network’s untypical and convenient remorse.

Not having that money, Mr. Teneycke claimed, poses an “existential threat” to the survival of Sun News – a bit of a stretch to anyone who understands the economics of the broadcast industry in Canada.

Still, the timing of Sun News’s CRTC application and the market fundamentalist network’s desire to get its snout deep into the public trough is no doubt part of the story. Its application is scheduled to be heard by the CRTC in less than a month, on April 23.

But other commentators on the Internet, like Rabble’s Karl Nerenberg, have made a persuasive case that Mr. Levant came very close to being charged with hate speech by the Metro Toronto Police Service and was saved only by highly unusual political interference with the police investigation by senior officials of the Ontario government.

Now that would have looked really bad for the network’s shredded credibility!

The Ontario officials, wrote Nerenberg, were “deterred by Levant’s well-known reputation for being a loud-mouthed bully, and didn’t want the Ontario government getting into a public spitting match with Sun News’ professional ranter. So Levant, ironically, was saved by his own notoriety and unsavory reputation.”

The Toronto Star’s Haroon Siddiqui reports that staff of Toronto’s Roma Community Centre were told by police “they found more than enough evidence to charge Levant under the Criminal Code, and the Crown attorney agreed.” Detectives said they’d never before encountered a decision to reject charges in such circumstances.

This is why, of course, Mr. Teneycke’s previous employment in the Prime Minister’s Office is important, as is the warm and prominent reception received by Mr. Levant at the recent Manning Centre conference on conservative big ideas – which one hopes do not include encouraging organized attacks on identifiable cultural groups.

As Mr. Nerenberg wrote, “despite his near-buffoon status, Levant is still capable of striking politically-motivated fear in the hearts of senior decision makers.”

Well, we all know from experience how bullies operate.

If the Sun News Network and Mr. Levant are now rewarded for their glib and evasive apologies – which parsed carefully were only for causing offence, not for the offence caused – they will be further empowered.

If there are no consequences for their actions because they have friends in high places, their behaviour will grow more extreme.

This is just the way bullies are. So if you think Sun News Network is bad now, count on it they’ll be much worse if the CRTC forces cable subscribers to subsidize their activities.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

A tale of a fateful trip: Alberta Wildrose leader to ship out on nine-day ‘Freedom Cruise’!

Hey little buddy, come with me! Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith chats with Sun News Network TV host Ezra Levant. Below: Mr. Levant with Sun TV personality Brian Lilley. Actual far-right bloviators and politicians may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below them: The actual Mr. Levant, the actual Mr. Lilley and the actual Ms. Smith, caught in a National Post snapshot holding right-wing banana cream pie in the sky.

Avast, Matey! Alberta Opposition Leader Danielle Smith has signed on to ship out with a group of Sun News Network bloviators aboard the Holland-America Line’s MV Minnow for Ezra Levant’s “Freedom Cruise” in August.

It has not yet been announced if Ms. Smith will play the role of Mary Ann or Ginger aboard the Alaska-bound excursion.

Sun News commentator Brian Lilley is likely, it is said here, to be cast in the role of Gilligan opposite Mr. Levant’s natural portrayal of the Skipper. And the Professor? Everybody’s crossing their fingers for a surprise cameo by Tom Flanagan. The Fraser Institute mailing list will supply undeserving millionaires.

Sources high within the Wildrose Party promised yesterday that the “libertarian” Alberta Opposition leader will be paying her own freight on board (FOB Vancouver) and won’t be doing any double-dipping at the expense of Sun News Network, which after all is lobbying hard for additional taxpayer and cable-subscriber support.

That would hardly do, since Ms. Smith has just turned in such a brilliant portrayal of a principled politician giving 8 per cent of her salary to charity – and successfully directing her 16 MLAs to do the same thing and look like they like it. Obviously, based on this, we can expect Ms. Smith to turn in a bravura performance aboard the ideological Flying Dutchman technically known unpronounceably as the MV Zuiderdam.

Alas, for every ray of sunshine like Ms. Smith’s addition to the crew of the Minnow, into every market fundamentalist’s life a little rain must fall. So it’s disappointing to have to report it appears very much as if Pamela Geller, director of both the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and something that sounds like Stop Initialization of America (SIOA) has cast off from the planned freedom cruise north to Alaska.

Ditto Michael Coren, the always-inspiring chronicler of Christian persecution at the hands of really rude and sanctimonious secular humanists. The well-known Christian broadcaster’s eyes have no doubt have turned heavenward, or at least Romeward, since Mr. Levant’s seagoing ideological clambake was first announced.

Leastways, both these leading lights of the right seem to have been dropped from the program, which tersely notes, “List of speakers subject to change.”

Still aboard, however, is Janet Annesley, Vice-President of Communications for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), who as previously noted will presumably be speaking about the threat posed by anarcho-primitivistic deep ecologists in rainbow-coloured submarines with plans to CAPP-size errant cruise ships full of bitumen buffers. This is a double concern, since so many CAPP members are closely tied to Ms. Smith’s Wildrose Party.

The Minnow will make its stately way through the pristine waters of British Columbia’s Inside Passage. This will give those on the ideologically approved passenger manifest the opportunity to see this marvelous seascape before it is smeared with Ethical Bitumen proudly shipped out of Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s home port aboard leaky Communist Chinese tankers.

Cruise participants must pay up to $8,679 to be trapped for nine days aboard the vast banana boat, which is thought to steer only to starboard. Talk about a carnival at sea!

(Sink the maritime disaster puns already! – Ed.)

Some hints of where Mr. Levant, who is known also to hold extremely strong views about the importation of unethical bananas, and the other loony market fundamentalists aboard would like to steer the onboard discussion may be found in the views on tropical fruit held by the original Gilligan’s Island screenwriters:

GILLIGAN: Skipper, should I pick the yellow bananas or the red bananas, because the yellow bananas are green?

SKIPPER: Then pick the red ones.

GILLIGAN: But the red ones are pink.

SKIPPER: Gilligan, I don’t care if you pick red, white and blue bananas, just pick some bananas!

GILLIGAN: Okay, Skipper… Blue bananas?

But that’s not funny, you say? Well, when you get right down to it, neither are Ezra Levant and Danielle Smith!

Meanwhile, in totally unrelated news, the same senior Wildrose source reports the party is trying desperately to get the so-called National Citizens Coalition to stop using Ms. Smith’s photo in anti-union Facebook ads placed by the sinister and extremist Astroturf group once headed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

So far, however, the NCC is said not to be returning the Wildrose Party’s phone messages. For his part, I don’t think Mr. Harper is returning anybody’s.

+ + +

Ezra Levant apologizes for Roma remarks

This just in: Sun News Network must want its mandatory carriage on basic cable TV pretty badly. Leastways, that’s the most reasonable explanation for Ezra Levant’s halfhearted effort late yesterday to apologize for and climb down from his racist remarks about the Roma people, originally made in his Sun News Network program, The Source, on Sept. 5, 2012.

After almost six months of silence, Mr. Levant admitted, sort of, that he was wrong to defame an entire people in terms eerily reminiscent of some of the darkest moments of modern history. True to form, however, Mr. Levant first attacked some of his other favourite targets, a well known environmentalist and aboriginal leaders, then tried to blame his comments about the Roma on an errant leftist impulse. He quoted Ayn Rand, the plumbiferous author beloved by the far right, assailing stereotyping as “the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.” Ezra, a collectivist! Who’d've thought!

Mr. Levant also interviewed Sun News Network Vice-President Kory Teneycke, a former spokesperson in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office, who admitted that Mr. Levant “crossed the line” and said the network never should have allowed the episode to be aired.

Canadians still need to ask themselves if Mr. Levant, Mr. Teneycke and Sun News Network have sincerely apologized and committed themselves to changing their ways, and if we should therefore reward them with more generous licensing provisions.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

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.

There’s no danger of Murdoch style press scandals in Canada! Really! Got that? Now go back to sleep

Gotcha! Britain’s Private Eye magazine satirizes the Murdoch Fambly Saga across the Pond. Nothing like the Eye in Canada, more’s the pity! (Where is Michael Bate now that we need him?) Below: Rupert Murdoch, in happier times; Kory Teneycke, late of the PMO; journalist Geoffrey Stevens.

The Canadian Press says Canada can’t have a Rupert Murdoch-style phone hacking Gotcha! moment because Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s hostility toward journalists “immunizes him against any suggestion that a similar scandal could happen in Canada.”

Oh, please!

Really, I’m not making this up. Joan Bryden of the Canadian Press actually wrote this a few hours ago and it continues to be published all over the Interwebs.

The thesis of the CP drivellist’s story boils down to this: You have nothing to worry about Canadians. Go back to sleep!

This is, in a word, codswallop!

Look, Mr. Harper and Mr. Murdoch and their various cronies are as thick as thieves, if you’ll pardon the expression, and those of us with sensitive sniffers have even been able to catch a whiff of a hackerish scandal right here in the True North.

If Canada’s had the good luck not to have full-blown Murdochian phone hacking going on behind the scenes, it’s only because Mr. Murdoch doesn’t own any newspapers or broadcasters in Canada, which does tend to limit the extent of his companies’ depredations in this country.

Nevertheless, despite the blessed shortage of Murdoch-owned and influenced media outlets here, it seems highly likely that both Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Harper have been working to change that, both in spirit and in literal fact.

That is why – not so long before the News of the World phone hacking scandal blew open in the United Kingdom, U.S. authorities began looking at Mr. Murdoch and his minions in the United States on the suspicion they’d hacked the phones of 9-11 victims, and even the Australian authorities began grumbling about the Dirty Digger’s doings – Mr. Harper and Mr. Murdoch sat down to break bread together.

Obviously, the purpose of their get-together in New York City in the spring of 2009 wasn’t to discus the catch of the day special at whatever chi-chi eatery they chose to sup. They were accompanied by Roger Ailes, president of Mr. Murdoch’s Fox News Channel, which broadcasts far-right propaganda in the guise of news in the United States, and Kory Teneycke, then the PM’s communications director.

Mr. Teneycke, as alert readers will recall, left the service of the prime minister not long thereafter, in June 2010, to join Quebecor Inc.-subsidiary Sun Media’s effort to establish a right-wing broadcasting network in Canada similar to Mr. Murdoch’s channel south of border. The Canadian version came to be known by its detractors as Fox News North.

So there is very little chance that this tête-à-tête was only, as the prime minister’s chief spokesthingy of the moment later soothingly assured us, “a perfunctory lunch meeting to frame Canadian perspectives on issues of the day.”

Why else, do you think, did the PM and his flunkies try so hard to keep the meeting a secret? It only came to light when the CP did a search of the mandatory U.S. government activity filings of media consultant Ari Fleischer, another right-wing political “communicator” late of the Bush II White House. To this day, the PMO and its denizens have refused to comment on what was actually discussed.

It’s much more likely that the gruesome twosome and their sidekicks were in fact discussing how Mr. Murdoch could get his toe in the Canadian door and then work to move the one-dimensional political debate in Canada – such as it is, thanks to the likes Conrad Black and the Asper Family – ever further to the right.

This hasn’t happened already, as Geoffrey Stevens (not Simpson), late of the Globe and Mail and lately of Cambridge, Ont., pointed out recently, because “three obstacles stand between Canada and a Murdoch invasion.”

To wit: “First, the Income Tax Act requires that newspapers and magazines be 75 per cent Canadian-owned. Second, the Broadcasting Act limits foreigners to a 33.3 per cent stake in broadcasting. The third obstacle is the political resolve of the federal government to continue to protect Canadian cultural industries from foreign control.”

However, as Mr. Stevens observed, the resolve of the federal government under Mr. Harper – for both ideological and practical reasons – is weak.

That was the topic of discussion in New York, and one doesn’t have to have been a fly on the wall to know it.

Which brings us back to Mr. Teneycke’s association with the effort to create Fox News North.

As reported by the CBC, he left his brief post-PMO employment with Sun Media after an uproar about … a hacking scandal. Now, according to Mr. Teneycke, his reason for departure was because more than 80,000 Canadians signed an on-line petition protesting to his role with FNN after having worked for the prime minister, and that this was becoming a distraction to the effort to establish FNN in Canada.

But the group that organized the petition campaign, avaaz.org, “formally requested the Ottawa Police and the RCMP to begin a criminal investigation to determine who posted ‘fraudulent’ signatures to the petition from an Ottawa internet protocol, or IP address.” (Emphasis added.)

At the time, Mr. Teneycke did not answer reporters’ questions about whether his departure was related to the avaaz.org request for a police investigation. Regardless, according to the Wikipedia, he has since been welcomed back to Quebecor, where he presumably continues to work on the FNN file.

Who organized the hack into avaaz.org’s petition, or why they did it, will probably never be known for certain. But the presence of Mr. Murdoch’s organization, with its culture of corporate hacking, on the sidelines of these events is certainly evocative.

Ms. Bryden, meanwhile, also asserted “that Canadian politicians simply don’t need the news media in the same way they do in Britain.” She wrote: “Past attempts by Conrad Black and CanWest Global to create powerful, agenda-setting media empires have failed.”

This too is baloney. The fact is that Canadian politicians – the so-called Conservative ones, at least – have such a comfortable relationship with this country’s heavily concentrated media that they just don’t have to work as hard to court it as do their counterparts in Britain and the United States. And notwithstanding their difficulties turning a profit, the efforts of Mr. Black and the Aspers have succeeded beyond their wildest imaginings.

The important and obvious point somehow missed by Ms. Bryden is this: Mr. Harper may hate journalists, but he most certainly does not hate the people who employ them. This presumably includes Mr. Teneycke, late of his own staff.

That is why Mr. Black will be welcomed back to Canada even though he renounced his citizenship and was jailed for corporate crimes in one of the numerous countries he once preferred to ours.

That is why the prime minister’s staff and Quebecor Media are working together to build a right-wing Canadian Pravda on the model of Mr. Murdoch’s Fox News.

And that is why the odious Mr. Murdoch himself will be welcomed to open one of his corrupt enterprises in this country if he can overcome the immolation he has brought upon himself in other jurisdictions.

And that is why Canadians should not just go to sleep, or for that matter speak injudiciously on their cellular phones, as the Canadian Press risibly suggests.

This post also appears on rabble.ca.