Imagine for a moment that we’re in the middle of a presidential election. Now imagine that late in the campaign Rupert Murdoch publishes an editorial in the New York Post condemning a high level Republican campaign strategist for passing along incorrect information about the Democratic nominee to Fox News.
Kind of hard to picture, I know.
But what if it turned out that this same campaign strategist had, before the election, been paid to help with the creation of Fox News?
Getting a bit preposterous, right?
Well, that’s basically what recently happened in Canada, plus a multitude of related disconcerting events. Allow me to lay out one of the stranger media narratives to emerge from up north since Alan Thicke’s son became a Grammy-winning heartthrob.
Fox News North
The media mogul in the Canadian example is Pierre Karl Péladeau, whose company owns the national Sun newspaper chain and the newly launched Sun News Network cable channel, among many other properties. Both the papers and the nascent channel are known for their small-c conservative point of view. They talk about abhorring political correctness, about having a sense of humor, about standing up for real Canadians, and about focusing on the real issues that mater. They talk about these things endlessly, as evidenced in a Sun News Network promo video that’s abusively masturbatory even for an acknowledged piece of promotion.
The Sun properties also love to pick on the publicly funded national broadcaster, CBC. What else? In true tabloid tradition, each day the papers provide readers with a titillating photo of a comely young SUNshine girl. Sample accompanying text: “SUNshine Girl Amanda, 21, shows off her hard-earned gym bod in a pair of tighty whities.” (Whatever you think of that kind of content, the papers have nurtured many quality journalists over the years, and their emergence beginning in the early 1970s brought a different perspective to Canadian news.)
When Sun News Network launched earlier this month, that day’s SUNshine girl was Krista Erickson, one of the channel’s news anchors. She dressed in what qualified as dignified SUNshine Girl attire, including a well-tailored hockey jersey. Sample accompanying text: “As host of Sun News Network’s Canada Live, Krista is unapologetically patriotic and not afraid to call it like it is.” (Erickson used to work for the CBC, but things kind of went sour for her there.)
Sun News became a lightning rod for criticism long before its launch, thanks largely to the fact that the channel’s license application said it intended to emulate some of the characteristics of Fox News. Once that news broke, the channel became known by some as Fox News North. The channel also initially sought a license that would have required all Canadian cable and satellite providers to carry the network. That led to online campaigns against Sun News.
Some objected to being forced to pay for this kind of programming. Others objected to the network’s existence, period. To the folks at Sun News, that smacked of censorship. The fight was on.
The protests against Sun News went international when Avaaz, an organization with operations in different countries, got into the fight and set up a petition against the channel. Soon people like author Margaret Atwood were signing up and speaking out about the channel and the alleged backing of it by the country’s Conservative government.
That resulted in a reply in the Sun papers from Kory Teneycke, the newly recruited vice president in charge of setting up the network. If Péladeau is the equivalent of Murdoch in this tale, then Teneycke is Roger Ailes. After all, his notable previous gig was as head of communications for Canadian Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper.
“All of these lies, half-truths and slander underline the need for Sun TV News. Canadians deserve better from their media, and we are committed to providing it,” Teneycke wrote.
Also jumping into the fray was Canadian journalist, author, and self-proclaimed champion of free speech Ezra Levant. He went after George Soros in his Sun column because Levant believed that Avaaz was funded by the billionaire, which Avaaz later said isn’t really true. Also notable is that in 2002 Levant had won the nomination to be the conservative Canadian Alliance party’s candidate in a Calgary riding. He eventually stepped aside in order to let the party’s new leader run in his place. Who was that leader? None other than Teneycke’s future boss, Stephen Harper. (The Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative Party of Canada merged to form the current Conservative Party of Canada, which Harper has led since day one.)