Liberal Columnist Suggests Why Sun News Channel Failed


Sun News’ greatest defect was it wasn’t a news channel — it was constant opinionating on the cheap, as opposed to news reporting, which is costly.

The Source with Ezra Levant as seen on a television Thursday, hours before Sun News Network went off the air. Star columnist Heather Mallick writes that the constant opinionating on the right-leaning channel seemed to be stuck in the attitudes of 1912.Doug Ives / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Source with Ezra Levant as seen on a television Thursday, hours before Sun News Network went off the air. Toronto Star columnist Heather Mallick writes that the constant opinionating on the right-leaning channel seemed to be stuck in the attitudes of 1912.


By: Columnist, Toronto Star      Published on Fri Feb 13 2015

.Early Friday morning I realized I had missed the 5 a.m. shutdown of Sun News Network by 13 minutes, which was a shame because I had scribbled down the Rogers channel number before I went to bed — it was either 142 or 742 — in the hope of its hosts at last doing something charming. Maybe end with a joke? Or a beer raised, Colbert-style, to the viewers or, more accurately, viewer? “Here’s to the last of the Angry Pyjamas!”

Of course the thing had just snapped shut like a frog’s mouth and gone dark. Sun News would eat no more flies.

There is nothing else to do at 5:14 a.m. except think gloomy thoughts. Sun News used to gloat over layoffs at my beloved CBC, but I hate seeing anyone at all out of work because no one would buy the company corpse. I had watched Sun News the night before, in the hope of finding a greater understanding of the creature, but as always I just ended up unnerved. It never seemed like any Canada I recognized, or even passed through on a bus.

In SunLand, it was always 1912 and men in paper dickeys (a collar with a sort of breastplate) purchased in a dry goods store raged against hootenanny gals, shiftless hobos and the invasion of the Moor. In SunLand, Muslims were the enemy. In Canada, no one is the enemy. That’s the point of Canada.

But no one in 1912 saw it that way.

Sun used to ask me on and I would say no, I’d already done the repellent Bill O’Reilly and why go second-hand. But the great Stephen Lautens, lawyer, columnist and one of the funniest people on Twitter, would say yes. In a Friday column looking back on his visits to the studio, he remembered them saying, “We have trouble getting liberals to come on.” Sun people wouldn’t debate, just harangue, and debate is always the key.

Lautens wrote that Sun people weren’t putting on a parody of O’Reilly. They meant it. “They truly hated Justin Trudeau.”

It gets weirder. After the Supreme Court’s humane ruling on assisted suicide, Lautens wrote that the various hosts chatted about it. They really believed “people would be declared insane by doctors and put to death by family members who wanted to get their hands on their gold teeth. In other words, compassion for the terminally ill inevitably would lead to the gates of Auschwitz. No middle ground.”

I still don’t get the hatred bit. If I had to list people I wanted to punch in the face, I’d list Hitler (which is basic so I get an extra), ex-Disney CEO Michael Eisner, the head waiter at a certain fish restaurant on Front St. and Karl Lagerfeld, but that’s it.

There was always something weird about Sun News advertising. Lautens says it was aimed at the easily frightened and the elderly, but I thought they were after cat ladies and hoarders.

You’ve seen CLR ads. It peels the scale off your coffee maker, rather well. But on Sun, the new spray-on cleaner ad had a close-up of a truly unspeakable toilet plus what looked like a disc of catsick on the kitchen counter. Who lets porcelain get in a state like that? You don’t need CLR, lady, you need a chisel, I thought, and then realized I’d said it out loud to an empty room.

Just watching Sun put me off my hinges.

The great defect of Sun News was that it wasn’t a news channel: it was constant opinionating on the cheap, as opposed to news reporting, which is expensive. Everyone has an opinion but since all Sun opinions were the same and never debated — we don’t trust Muslims — it seemed slab-like rather than entertainingly bumpy.

And the second greatest defect was that it was a bully, but one with bad aim. Canadians don’t like bullies. To win Canadians over, you should always kick powerful people rather than the helpless.

When I see a Muslim woman in a niqab, I say hello, how are you. When I see a young woman in a workplace, I say good luck because she’ll need it. Refugee claimants need all the help in the world, including medical care, as do sexual assault victims. So do young female CBC reporters being harassed on the street by violent men armed with a grotesque sexual meme, FHRITP.

Kicking someone who’s already writhing on the sidewalk isn’t funny, and Sun News did that often. It wasn’t funny to attack Justin Trudeau’s mother, Margaret, who has repeatedly been bereaved and who suffers from bipolar disorder.

I will say that I frequently receive violent threats, no make that “promises,” about my imminent horrible death whenever I write about something the hard-right loves.

But I once went after Ezra Levant, the silliest man in Canada, for his treatment of Margaret and Justin Trudeau. And there was silence. No Sun viewers told me they wanted to slowly drown me in the bath. Even for them, Levant had crossed a line. I have to admit that I was impressed, felt a kinship with the 1912 ers that weekend.

Good people, salt of the earth, you Sunny News viewers. Wander on over to the CBC, you might like it.



  1. What a bunch of liberal bullshit! Why does psr post such crap?

    These Are The FACTS…..

    Demise of Sun News due to regulatory, cash hurdles, not Canadian tastes: Akin

    Andy Blatchford,
    The Canadian Press
    Feb 13, 2015

    The first journalist hired by Sun News Network says its demise had more to do with regulatory hurdles and shrinking resources than with the size of Canada’s appetite for a conservative-minded TV channel.

    Shortly after Sun News hit the lights for good Friday, Parliament Hill bureau chief David Akin suggested the outfit’s failure had more to do with the shifting plates on the media landscape it had pledged to shake up.

    Sun News Network took to the airwaves nearly four years ago with a promise to counterbalance what it considered the left-leaning bias of traditional media, a mandate that earned it the nickname “Fox News North.”

    Akin, a veteran Ottawa reporter, said the turning point came in 2013 when the federal broadcast regulator refused the network’s request for mandatory carriage, which would have included the channel in basic cable and satellite packages across Canada.

    A guaranteed spot on the dial would have generated significant revenue for the Quebecor-owned network, which had struggled in the ratings since its creation.

    “Had we got that our way, we’d still be around,” Akin said in an interview.

    Akin expects the network’s critics to blame its downfall on controversies created by outspoken, conservative Sun News hosts like Ezra Levant.

    But it wasn’t about the content, said Akin, who added he believes Canada still has a viable market for a channel like Sun News.

    Although he acknowledged the network could have invested more in how the final product looked on TV, Akin remains convinced the market was there to support his former employer.

    “Was Canada ready for a conservative news network? I think, sure.”

    Not everyone agrees.

    “I think in the end it was their own ideas and their own ridiculous rhetoric that did them in,” said Jeffrey Dvorkin, director of the journalism program at the University of Toronto.

    Canadians have different values than Americans, particularly when it comes to freedom of speech, said Dvorkin — a dual Canadian and U.S. citizen who’s intimately familiar with the Fox News dynamic that served as the Sun News model.

    “Canadians are uncomfortable with those rather extreme expressions of free speech.”

    Levant, the outspoken, often controversial on-air columnist whose notoriety made him the de-facto face of the broadcaster, disagreed that the problems were linked to its editorial or ideological views.

    “If we had a liberal point of view, that wouldn’t have done us any better if we didn’t have the cable deals,” Levant said in an interview.

    “If you have a favourable cable deal, that’s the most important thing from a business perspective, right?”

    Christopher Waddell, a journalism professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, agreed mandatory carriage would have allowed Sun News to turn a profit — even if nobody watched.

    The problem was Quebecor’s timing, Waddell said.

    The push to land such a critical base of funding ran up against a growing subscriber revolt against the traditional model of paying for bundles of TV channels, which often include unwanted content, he noted. What’s more, fewer and fewer young people are signing up for cable and satellite TV.

    All of that has been adding up to pressure on the regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, to start limiting the number of mandatory channels, not increase it, he said.

    Sun News also suffered from quality issues, Waddell acknowledged. Case in point was a chronic shortage of video footage to accompany stories, a symptom of the fact Sun News had few local stations providing supplementary images.

    “You’re really left with people sitting around talking about stuff,” he said. “That’s not very compelling television.”

    Unlike Dvorkin, Waddell said he didn’t think the network’s aggressive approach or the political leanings of its commentators had much — if anything — to do with its fate.

    Everyone agrees on one thing, though: the network’s closure means fewer journalists keeping an eye on Canadian politics.

    Sun News was the only national TV network with reporters on all the major party campaign buses during provincial election campaigns across Canada in recent years, Akin said.

    “We made a real serious commitment to covering politics in this country.”

    With files from Victoria Ahearn

  2. Geez, like libs never go a bit too far when they get on a roll! This lady is so busy labeling everyone that common sense and clear thinking never gets a foot in her door; no wonder she likes the CBC so much.

  3. Heather is correct. The previous commenters spin that the demise was due to regulatory hurdles is pure horsebleep. When you only have 8000 viewers that means no-one is trying too hard to find you! If there were truly an audience for this cable access quality circus, it would have actively sought the channel out.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here