Puget Sound Radio / TV News / Ezra Levant: FoxNews North
Posted by: On Air, June 15, 2010, 7:35am
Quebecor's new TV channel as a Rorshach Test for the MSM
By Ezra Levant ezralevant.com June 14, 2010
I've been reading some of the commentary and criticism about the all-news TV channel being proposed by Quebecor. It's interesting not because of what it says about Quebecor (how could it be? only a handful of staff have been hired, and they haven't broadcast anything yet) but because of the insights it gives us into those commentators and critics themselves.
It's like a Rorschach Test that way: a chance to see what is on the minds of people who look at it.
I think it's safe to conclude that a lot of things are frightening to Martin, including schoolchildren and little lambs, as long as they disagree with his far-left views.
Don Newman took an interesting point of view: not only does he not like what he thinks Quebecor's TV channel will be, but he's not satisfied with making a personal choice to not watch it. He says it will be bad for the whole country -- he doesn't want his neighbours to watch it, either.
I was on CTV on Sunday at the invitation of Craig Oliver. His concern was rather different: he was worried about competition:
If I understand how cable TV works, Oliver shouldn't worry -- even if CTV Newsnet ran a test pattern they'd still get their mandatory fourteen cents a month from everyone with cable TV. But is protecting CTV's duopoly really a higher priority in Canada than providing Canadians with a different choice?
Of course Radwanski doesn't think the Globe is biased -- because it reflects his own opinions on everything from global warming to gun control to abortion to the Liberal Party. And that's the problem right there, isn't it? Radwanski has humbly presented himself and his newspaper (and, I presume, its affiliated TV stations) as normal, and that their editorial views are normal, and that, by definition, those who disagree with him are the dangerous ones. The Globe, he insists is all about diversity. But on key issues, they range all the way from A to B. It's amusing that he's skeptical of a competitor with whom he expects to disagree -- yet he titles his editorial "News you can agree with", presumably written without irony.
So Newman doesn't like it because he fears his neighbours will like it better than the CBC, and that offends him ideologically. Oliver doesn't like it because he fears his neighbours will like it better than CTV, and that worries him financially. Radwanski doesn't like it because he worries that it will be an echo-chamber where people agree with each other, with no diversity -- and only the Globe is allowed that privilege.
And that's precisely why we need such a new network.
Unlike the U.S., Canada actually has a form of the "Fairness Doctrine", an illiberal, politically authoritarian rule that says each network must give a diversity of views. The Broadcasting Act(section 3(1)(i)(iv), if you must know), requires that broadcasters "provide a reasonable opportunity for the public to be exposed to the expression of differing views on matters of public concern".
Do you really think that the CBC and CTV are following the spirit of that law?
Again, I state that there ought not to be any law governing the content of our news media. Like newspapers, TV and radio stations should be able to take whatever view they like, without having some government regulator overseeing them. But, given that we do have a Broadcasting Act, could one really argue that the CBC gives equal time to, say, skeptics of global warming, compared to their weekly propaganda hour with radical activist and fundraiser, David Suzuki? Does the CTV really give equal time to critics of the gun registry, as it does to the registry's supporters?
Now, I would never want a government bureaucrat to step in to correct that. But it is a little bit rich for people like Don Newman to be shrieking that Canadians will be exposed to new points of view on Quebecor's channel. Newman calls that divisive; the Broadcasting Act would call that diversity.
Newman and the rest of the old guard are all for diversity, as long as it doesn't include people who disagree with them. On Sunday's CTV show, after my segment, the Toronto Star's James Travers said:
...the real question of whether it's advocacy. We see a real polarization in this country. If you say something negative about the government's policy you're clearly a liberal... The real test of us all as journalists is we hold the government of the day to account without fear or favour. And if that network cannot do that, it certainly shouldn't have that licence.
So there's the left-wing Toronto Star saying that if the new network isn't as hostile to the Conservatives as his newspaper is, it shouldn't even be legal to operate it.
I bet that sounds pretty good to the other left-wingers in the Parliamentary Press Gallery. But I wonder what severely normal Canadians would think of some blowhard from Toronto telling them that a new TV station should not even be allowed to exist if it doesn't meet his political test. It's one thing for Travers to detest the new network (quite a feat, given that it hasn't aired yet). That's just prejudice and fear -- the Rorschach Test at work. But it's quite another for Travers to announce that he's for banning this new channel. I guess that's the Rorschach Test, too.
I'd close with a final comment about Travers that applies to the others, too. Everyone I've quoted above -- Martin, Newman, Oliver, Radwanski -- expresses opinions. Some of them claim to be straight news reporters; some don't. But they all advocate for their point of view. Travers probably blurs the lines the most -- in fact, being a partisan advocate is hard-wired into the Star's corporate DNA. You can actually read them here, including the requirement that the newspaper support big government:
Joseph Atkinson believed that utilities should be run for the benefit of the general public and not owned by businessmen whose principal concern was profit. He favoured public ownership of gas, electric light, electric power, coalmines, oil wells, timber, pulp and paper, telephone, telegraph, radio, television, railways, airlines and streetcars.
So you'll forgive me when I chuckle at Travers and the others condemning advocacy journalism. Like Don Newman, he's only against advocacy for other people.
Let me close with two notes:
1. It must be acknowledged that the actual boss of CTV news, Robert Hurst, has welcomed the new channel. He told the Globe “Come on in, the water's fine... The more Canadian voices, the better.” He even engaged in some frank introspection, in a manner not even contemplated by Newman or Radwanski: "I would say the broadcast discussion in Canada is much more milquetoast than it is in the United States."
2. Kory Teneycke, the proposed channel's executive, is a friend of mine, but I do not have a contract with him or Quebecor (nor with any other media company, other than Canadian Lawyer magazine).