Is American-style cable news coming to Canada?

Quebecor is seeking to launch a conservative-leaning news channel to be called Sun TV News

By Stephen Dafoe

Quebecor Inc., owner of the SUN newspaper chain announced June 15 that it had applied to the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for a licence to operate a 24-hour English language news channel to be called Sun TV News.

Referring to the proposed all-news channel as “controversially Canadian,” Kory Tenecyke, Quebecor Media’s VP of development, said that the channel will take on “smug, condescending, often irrelevant journalism” as well as “political correctness” itself, something Tenecyke believes Canada’s main-stream media is rife with.

Quebecor is hoping to launch the channel on Jan. 1, 2011, delivering the same “hard-news/straight-talk” formula that has been successful with its French television service LCN, a service that has seen its ratings triple over the past three years.

But while it is looking to replicate the success of its French-language channel, there is little doubt that Quebecor is looking to take a cue from highly-profitable American networks, including Fox and MSNBC, which deliver the news with a right and left flavour that divides TV viewers down partisan lines.

While Tenecyke is correct that Canadian news commentary can be boring, it is largely boring when compared to the entertainment that passes for news programming south of the border. Canada can take pride in the fact that it has not yet embraced the Jerry Springer brand of television journalism that turns political debate into a combination of a three-ringed circus and a UFC cage match. It is good to be able to hear both points of view without one speaker being interrupted and cut off by another.

Although the new channel claims it will present a variety of differing voices, it is certain that Quebecor’s plan to create a conservative-leaning all-news channel means the programming will carry a certain familiar “Fair and Balanced” quality.

How long after New Year’s Day 2011 before Canada has its own Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly?

But why not a conservative news channel? After all, if we can have all-cooking and all-golf channels, why not an all-conservative, all-news channel? Perhaps Canadians want their news neatly cut up and coated in their particular world view. Americans seem to like it and we Canadians seem to like American television. Free enterprise works that way and viewers will determine its ultimate failure or success.

But is it news if it is delivered along partisan lines. Is it news if the presenters tell the viewers only what they want to hear?

Perhaps it is the cynic in me, but when one watches the Food Network, the presenters never try to pass off a boiled egg as steak tartare. Likewise, the Golf Channel will never tell you a two-inch put is a twenty-footer. With respect to a Canadian news channel patterning and pattering itself after those networks south or our border, I’m not so certain that so clear a distinction will be made between what is presented as news and what is presented as opinion.

For the record, the preceding has been opinion. I’m sure there are others.

Read Robert Jump’s rebuttal to this editorial.

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