By Frank Moher
Sure we should wonder what Stephen Harper was doing having lunch with Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes in New York last year. And of course the CRTC was right to refuse Quebecor a Category 1 specialty TV licence for its proposed SUN TV News Channel, which would force cable and satellite companies to carry it. Kory Teneycke’s dream of a right-wing news outlet should have to muddle along like any other niche channel, which is what it will be anywhere outside Calgary.
However, the Margaret Atwood-endorsed campaign against SUN TV sponsored by Avaaz.org is so over the top that it ought to offend even the most inveterate cause-whores. It’s not the petition itself that’s the problem so much as the bumpf accompanying it. “Prime Minister Harper is pressuring the Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to approve plans for a ‘Fox News North’,” it reads. “If successful, this would bring American-style hate media to Canadian airwaves, and be funded by our license fees!”
You may have noticed that Avaaz spells “license” the American way. That’s because it’s actually a New York-based outfit that grew out of the success of MoveOn.org in the States. And it does a lot of good work, such as its current fundraising for flood victims in Pakistan. But it’s tone deaf on the SUN TV issue. First of all, the Sun newspapers are more blue-collar than neo-con — if the TV channel follows suit, its most popular program is liable to be the weather as forecast by a SUNshine girl. But ideologically the Sun papers have always been conservative soft-soap. In fact, some of the best reporting on the abuses of the police at the G20 summit came from the Toronto Sun.
And personally, I find Avaaz’s export of this sort of strident, demonize-your-enemy tactic to Canada as offensive as anything Fox News could come up with. It’s a style that Canadians typically reject — both the Conservatives and the Liberals have been forced to pull attack ads after a public backlash — and if SUN TV tries the same thing, it will fail, as I expect its proponents know. Meantime, they have every right to reject Avaaz’s silly bleating. “Fox News fuels hate,” its petition states. “While constantly claiming to be ‘fair’ and ‘balanced,’ it allows hysterical anchors like Glenn Beck to compare Obama to ‘Lucifer’ and ‘Hitler’.” All of which is true. But is comparing a network that hasn’t launched yet to Roger Ailes’ demonic creation any better?