Today’s your final opportunity to let the CRTC know how you feel about the Sun Media Network’s demand for mandatory carriage.
There are any number of reasons to oppose the Sun application. One could point to the astonishing hypocrisy of a rabidly anti-government, anti-regulatory ideologue whimpering to be protected against the market, where no-one seems willing to actually pay for a 24/7 infomercial for racism, xenophobia, bigotry, and homophobia. Or to their utter lack of balance or objectivity. Or one could just say “Margie Gillis”.
I chose to limit my comments to one stream of argument: the eligibility of the network for mandatory carriage according to the criteria established by the Commission.
Read on, and, if you have a few minutes, file your own intervention. The Commission actually considers the number of positive and negative interventions, in addition to their specific content: so even a quick note reading “Mandatory Sun? Blow Me!” will have an impact.
I oppose this application for a number of reasons, but in this intervention, I will limit my comments to one area: the eligibility of the network for mandatory carriage according to the criteria established by the Commission. Mandatory carriage is intended to support broadcast services that contribute in a significant and essential way to the achievement of the goals set out for Canada’s mixed public/private broadcasting system in the Broadcast Act.
The Commission notes that a programming service may be considered for mandatory carriage if it:
• “makes an exceptional contribution to Canadian expression and reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity;
• contributes, in an exceptional manner, to the overall objectives for the digital basic service and specifically contributes to one or more objectives of the Act, such as Canadian identity and cultural sovereignty; ethno-cultural diversity, including the special place of Aboriginal peoples in Canadian society; service to and the reflection and portrayal of persons with disabilities; or linguistic duality, including improved service to official language minority communities; and
• makes exceptional commitments to original, first-run Canadian programming in terms of exhibition and expenditures. “
My comments on the Sun News Network’s record of achievement under each of these criteria are not based on a detailed review of their programming; I assume such an analysis is being conducted by the Commission to inform their decision-making. However, I would like to share my perspective on the Suns News Network with reference to those criteria as a reasonably informed, and occasionally appalled, Canadian viewer.
Has the Sun News Network made “… an exceptional contribution to Canadian expression and reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity”?
We can quickly dismiss any notion that the Sun network has contributed anything of value to Canada’s “artistic creativity”. The network’s utter loathing for Canadian arts and culture was best demonstrated in Krista Erickson’s horrifying “interview” of Margie Gillis - an ordeal that may represent a nadir in Canadian broadcasting history. Ms. Erickson, of course, has every right to express her contempt for dance, dancers, the arts, and public funding for cultural activities and institutions. And she clearly speaks for her employer: her position is consistent with the editorial stance of the network, which consistently opposes public funding for any form of artistic endeavour. However, the network’s loathing for arts and cultural funding (with the exception, one must assume, of funding for broadcasters like Sun Media) makes it difficult to support their application for mandatory carriage on the basis of their contribution to “artistic creativity.”
Can it be argued that Sun Media “…contributes… to one or more objectives of the Act, such as Canadian identity and cultural sovereignty; ethno-cultural diversity, including the special place of Aboriginal peoples in Canadian society; service to and the reflection and portrayal of persons with disabilities; or linguistic duality, including improved service to official language minority communities”?
There is no single broadcaster in Canada whose ideological and editorial stance runs more directly, consistently and aggressively counter to those goals that the Sun News Network.
Regarding “support for ethno-cultural diversity”, I draw the Commission’s attention to Ezra Levant’s incessant attacks on Canada’s Muslim and Roma communities - broadcasts that have initiated multiple complains and even hate-crime investigations.
Regarding “the special place of Aboriginal peoples in Canadian Society”, l would draw the Commission’s attention to Mr. Levant’s multiple broadcasts on Attawapiskat and Chief Spence, in which he was reduced to mocking Ms. Spence’s weight. Tough analysis of Canada’s relationship with indigenous people, with honest, critical reportage and discussion on both sides, is essential (and has been provided by both CBC and APTN); Mr. Levant’s “coverage” of Aboriginal issues is no more than offensive, racist mockery.
As regards “…service to and the reflection and portrayal of persons with disabilities”, I refer the Commission to Sun Media commentator Kathy Shaidle, who headlined a recent article on a handicapped person denied access to an amusement park with the leader “SECOND trouble-making cripple of the day).”
Mr. Levant, Ms. Shaidle, Mr. Lilley and the network’s other representatives and advocates defend the this approach to “news” as an attempt to restore “balance” and “accuracy” to journalism. It was more honestly described in a recent article by Ms. Shaidle, in which she explained:
‘“Canadians have to listen to loud, ignorant progressives on every other TV channel, day and night. They come to Sun to see and hear folks who reflect their values for a change. Sure, Sun hired probably Canada’s most hated Liberal Party operative to provide (very) occasional “balance.” But when he gets out of hand, they just cut off his mic. Problem solved!”
The network’s claims to “balance” is further weakened by the quiet campaign waged by Kory Teneike and “Byline” host Brian Lilley, among others, to engage the Christian anti-choice movement in supporting Sun’s demand for mandatory carriage, because the network and its senior editorial staff “…is the strongest voice for the pro-life cause on television in Canada. Bar none.” A recent article in Life Site News notes approvingly that “Lilley and Michael Coren are unapologetic pro-life advocates, and others, such as Charles Adler and Ezra Levant, have also taken on abortion and criticized the censorship of the pro-life voice.” So much for editorial “balance.”
Can it be argued that Sun Media “makes exceptional commitments to original, first-run Canadian programming in terms of exhibition and expenditures”?
Sun’s campaign for mandatory carriage rests on its claim that it represents a uniquely “Canadian” service - the assumption being, I suppose, that because something is produced in Canada it is “Canadian.”
But perhaps the people who framed these evaluation criteria - and hopefully even the Commissioners reviewing this application - intended something deeper in their use of the term “Canadian” than simply” produced within the borders of Canada”. Perhaps the intent was to promote programming that reflects Canadian values - multiculturalism, tolerance, diversity, dialogue, balance, honesty, and mutual respect. If that is the case, then Sun Media fails the test on every count. Its programming may be shot in Canada, but its values run counter to every principle the Broadcast Act and the Commission were established to promote.
Having said all this, I should clarify that I support a renewal of Sun Media’s broadcast license. Our broadcasting system, considered as a whole, should represent the full spectrum of Canadian political and social opinion.
I do not, however, believe that Canadian cable or DTS subscribers should be made to subsidize a 24/7 infomercial for racism, xenophobia, bigotry, and homophobia. These views exist; they are part of the spectrum of public dialogue, and the Sun News Network is their forum. Fair enough. Sun’s addicts are entitled to their fix - but they can pay for their own poison, without our support.