Why Sun News Network failed

So it’s done. At 5am Eastern Time today, after a repeat of Byline with Brian Lilley and a promo ad featuring Pat Bolland, Sun News Network cut to black, eventually being replaced with notices from distributors that the channel has ceased operations.

Sun News notice on Videotron's cable system

Sun News notice on Videotron’s cable system

At the same time, owner Quebecor Media sent out a statement:

Over the past four years, we tried everything we could to achieve sufficient market penetration to generate the profits needed to operate a national news channel. Sadly, the numerous obstacles to carriage that we encountered spelled the end of this venture.

And vice-president Kory Teneycke sent out an email to staff:

There was no chance for staff to say goodbye on air. Ezra Levant finished his show with a see-you-tomorrow, a promise he can’t fulfill. The last broadcast featured the usual Sun News programming: Levant talking about radical Muslims in Canada. Lilley on gun seizures in High River, Alta. John Robson with a “special report” that was really just an essay on artificial intelligence. And during the commercials (like Tie Domi selling phones), Beatrice Vaisman presented “hard news headlines” — none of which were about reports of the network’s impending demise.

About 150 people are now unemployed. They range from the anonymous video operators and editors working behind the scenes to high-profile hosts like David Akin. And while some people are dancing on Sun’s grave, others are defending the network (even one prominent liberal) or at least expressing sympathy with those who are out of work.

Count me among those who are disappointed. Not because I agreed with Sun News, because I thought they did good journalism or was even a fan, but because it was one of the few channels on Canadian television that produced most of its own programming.

The blame game

So who or what is at fault for Sun News’s failure? Everyone has their own theory, usually based on their personal politics and biased world view. From my similarly biased perch, I offer my own take.

It wasn’t because of the CRTC

Thornhill MP Peter Kent, a former news anchor, was among many to place the blame squarely on the broadcast regulator, incorrectly suggesting that its failure to give it “mandatory cable carriage” like CBC and CTV news channels was the culprit.

There are several problems with this argument, some of which are because of the complexities of CRTC specialty channel licenses.

The “Category 1” that Kent refers to is an outdated term for a class of licence issued by the CRTC for the first digital-only specialty channels (ones that weren’t added to analog cable systems). Channels like Cottage Life (formerly Bold), Documentary, G4, ichannel and OUTtv. Digital cable and satellite distributors were required to have these channels on their systems, though they remained discretionary for the consumer. They also benefitted from genre protection, meaning no one could start up a new channel that did the same thing as them. This differed from “Category 2” channels (BBC Canada, Discovery Science, MuchRetro and NHL Network are among many examples) where carriage was freely negotiated between the broadcaster and the distributor, and the services could compete directly with each other.

In 2011, the CRTC reclassified specialty channels. The old analog channels (like MuchMusic, YTV and Bravo) combined with the Category 1 digital channels to become “Category A” services, which maintained those carriage rights and genre protection. The Category 2 channels became “Category B” services.

And there was a third category created, Category C, which were for services that the commission decided were mature enough that they could compete directly with each other with common conditions of licence. It put two types of channels into this category: national news channels and mainstream sports channels.

CBC News Network, CTV News Channel, Sun News Network, RDI and LCN are all Category C channels. As are TSN 1-5, Sportsnet East/Ontario/West/Pacific, Sportsnet One, RDS/RDS2 and TVA Sports/TVA Sports 2.

If it wasn’t for this reclassification, Sun News Network might not have been allowed to exist in the first place because of genre protection.

All this to say that as of 2011, those news and sports channels no longer had mandatory carriage. Distributors became free to add or remove them from their systems as they wished, though no one would dare try to take away TSN.

Sun News is licensed the same as CTV News Channel and CBC News Network. They have the same conditions of licence, the same obligations, and the same rights.

With two exceptions.

First, there’s still an order in place requiring the mandatory distribution of CBC News Network in French-language markets (at $0.15 per subscriber per month) and RDI in English-language markets (at $0.10 per subscriber per month). This is done supposedly so that minority-language communities have access to news in their language (though it’s applied to everyone in those markets, regardless of their spoken language or what package they subscribe to).

Second, CBC News Network and CTV News Channel are still carried on analog cable, which is still how about 15% of cable subscribers get their TV.

Neither of these things would have saved Sun News, though. The channel had 5 million subscribers in 2013, according to the CRTC (data for 2014 hasn’t been released yet), which puts it on par with many other popular channels.

Plus, Sun News actually does have mandatory carriage. A year ago, the commission ordered distributors to add the channel to their systems, and make it available in their news packages and on an individual basis. As of last March, any digital cable, satellite or IPTV subscriber with a major company can get the channel if they want it (and in many cases even if they don’t).

It wasn’t because of the evil cable company competition

Sun News had more than its share of carriage disputes. It got yanked from Bell when it launched because Sun demanded subscription fees while Bell argued it was simply distributing the free-to-air channel CKXT (formerly Toronto 1). Telus didn’t carry it for a while either. Even when the mandatory order came down, Sun had difficulty closing distribution deals because they couldn’t agree with providers on a price. Rogers and Telus both had to settle their disputes with the CRTC.

Sun News never had any carriage issues with Videotron, of course, since they’re owned by the same company. Unfortunately Videotron serves a mainly liberal francophone audience who has no interest in Sun News.

Sun also took issue with its placement on the dial, “up in the boonies” of high channel numbers. This is a common problem with new TV channels, but one that doesn’t seem to stop people from finding the sports channels that carry their hockey game broadcasts, even when providers move those channels around.

Besides, CityNews Channel had great channel placement on Rogers in southern Ontario (since City is owned by Rogers). It failed anyway.

The fact is that most of the country had Sun News available to them, but simply chose not to watch.

It’s not because it was conservative, or because the country isn’t

Liberals hail this failure as an indication of the failure of conservatism in this country. Which makes sense only if you ignore that in the last federal election, 40% of the country of people who cast ballots voted for a conservative party (the Conservatives or Christian Heritage Party). Plenty of the country still identifies itself as conservative or right of centre, and if 40% of the country watched Sun News regularly, it would have had no problem staying afloat.

It’s not because of Pierre Karl Péladeau

Another conspiracy theory is that because Péladeau is a separatist running for the leadership of the Parti Québécois, Sun News had to be shut down because it differs politically. This, of course, makes no sense. Péladeau was in charge when Sun News launched.

The real culprits

So who can we blame? Here are my top picks:

News doesn’t pay

Sun News prided itself on the fact that its programming was 100% Canadian, and except for the hunting program Canada In The Rough, which it picked up partly for political reasons after Global dropped the show, all its programming was 100% self-produced.

But making your own programming, even as cheaply as Sun News did, is still very expensive. At its peak, Sun News produced 16 hours a day of programming, most of it live. Recently, that number dropped as the early morning show was replaced with more primetime repeats.

Other channels survive because they have much fewer staff, relying on imported programs and reruns to fill their schedule. Unfortunately, Sun News is a warning to others who might try to create their own programming.

Sun News had no supporting network

The biggest difference between Sun News and its competitors at CBC and CTV isn’t about distribution, or regulations, or government handouts or even politics. It’s that CBC and CTV have a network of local television stations across the country that share their news reports, equipment and journalists with their news network. Primetime on CBC and CTV news channels mainly involves simulcasting the national newscast as it gets broadcast in the country’s various time zones.

Sun News has none of that. It needed its own trucks, its own journalists, its own resources. It could rely on the Sun chain of newspapers and the QMI Agency wire service, but those resources aren’t nearly as useful for a television news network. And it made a channel that ran cheaply seem even cheaper. Most interviews — even with their own journalists — were done via Skype, featuring compressed images of people holding phones to their ears.

Quebecor does have a French newsgathering operation with TVA and LCN, but there was rarely any sharing of resources between the two sides of the language divide. TVA just about ignores the country west of Ottawa, and Sun News didn’t seem to care much what happened east of Ottawa.

It preferred argument over information

My biggest beef with Sun News wasn’t that it spoke truth to power, or that it talked about the things the “mainstream” media wouldn’t, or that it dared offer a different perspective. I was all for those things. But watching it, and especially the primetime “straight talk” shows, I didn’t really feel like I was learning anything. Information was presented not so much to give a different perspective, but as the pretext to an argument or rant. I couldn’t trust what was being presented because I knew that any information that didn’t support the argument wouldn’t be part of that opening monologue or would be presented as a straw man for the host to quickly tear down, usually in a mocking tone.

The guests were a part of this problem. More often than not, guests were brought on to simply agree with the host. Warren Kinsella aside, it felt more like an echo chamber than a discussion forum. And while red-meat conservatives might prefer it that way, I get very little out of it.

Debate would have been a great thing to see on Sun News, but instead I got Ezra Levant chuckling as he mocked people who disagreed with him, or Brian Lilley pretending that some court decision he disagreed with would result in the downfall of western society.

What bugs me most about how Sun presented the news is that they did exactly what they accused CBC and CTV of doing: being biased and ignoring the other side. They could have been the place for balanced reporting, for skepticism, for smart discussion and presenting unpopular opinions. Instead, they seemed to be a cross between a conspiracy theory website and a Conservative Party fundraising email.

Levant, Lilley and others at Sun are smart people. And they have ideas and opinions I’d like to see in the public sphere. But if anything, the Sun News Network seemed to isolate them on a channel no one watched.

It got boring

When Sun News launched, I watched it obsessively. I had the PVR running constantly recording programs that I would then skim through. For the first few weeks I watched everything that was broadcast. For the following months I would check in regularly as I prepared a review of the channel.

But in the past year or two, I’ve barely tuned it in at all. It’s the same arguments about the same issues being repeated on a regular basis. Ezra Levant arguing against radical Islam and for unfettered freedom of speech. Brian Lilley bashing the CBC and the nanny state. Michael Coren defending Christians. After a few months, these arguments start to get old and repetitive, even if they are important to make.

The fact that Sun News had such poor ratings despite decent subscription numbers should be enough to explain that people didn’t want to watch. Many because they didn’t like the politics, but I suspect more because there was just nothing entertaining to grasp our attention. And because Sun didn’t have the journalistic resources to break big stories or provide good live coverage of events, it needed to be entertaining to have any hope of working.

It’s not that conservative views were unwelcome on Canadian airwaves. After all, Don Cherry is still very popular, and Bell poached Kevin O’Leary from the CBC to use him as much as possible. But Sun News’s low budget meant most of its programming consisted of talking heads. It was talk radio on television, which was about as exciting as those actual talk-radio-on-TV shows you see on TSN and Sportsnet.

It was a one-trick pony

Sun News means politics. That message was omnipresent in their promotional spots, and it was true. But unfortunately Sun News was just politics. There were no sports highlights, no arts and entertainment, no fashion or food. The only thing you’d see regularly that wasn’t political was the occasional viral YouTube video to lighten the mood.

I don’t know if being more broad would have helped or hurt Sun News, especially with the resources it had. But its singular focus limited its potential appeal. It was a channel for Conservative Party activists, religious conservatives and people who hate the government. Unfortunately, as loyal as that group might be, it’s not large enough to sustain a 24/7 television channel.

It was an answer to something rather than being something on its own

Sun News is telling you what the other media won’t. Sun News is the only network that will stand up to the CBC. So often, it seemed that Sun’s raison d’être was to be a critic of another channel. And don’t get me wrong, I love media criticism and think there should be more of it. But who wants to watch a channel that spends so much of its time obsessing over another channel?

It wasn’t just media criticism. Political criticism came across as similarly reactionary. It felt like that uncle you sit with at the family Christmas party who spends the whole time complaining about the government. Even if you agree with many of his points, eventually you just want to get up and ask him what he has to offer society.

Lessons from Sun News

It’s unfortunate that so many people are losing their jobs, and that they didn’t get any warning or a chance to say goodbye. It’s also unfortunate that so many people are taking a good-riddance view, because there are some things we should be learning from this experiment to improve the way TV news is presented in this country.

Give right-wing pundits a voice

An hour a day of Ezra Levant is a bit much, even though I was always impressed how he could fill an entire hour each day, including a lengthy monologue. But nothing is too little. Like him or not, he has a perspective to offer and, when used properly, keeps people on their toes. We should be hearing from him on those mainstream channels he likes to complain about so much. We should be seeing him debating the limits of free speech in a respectful manner with someone who matches his intellect.

Sun News was right about one thing: It often brought up issues and perspectives that we didn’t see in mainstream TV news. We should do something about that, because being stuck in a left-wing echo chamber is no more healthy for our minds or society than being stuck in a right-wing echo chamber.

Give us more regional political coverage

Too often, Sun News would be the only source for political news at the province level for people outside of those provinces, whether it was during debates or election nights or just the day-to-day news. I might not be as interested in the Saskatchewan leaders’ debate, but I’d like to be able to get access to it somewhere on TV.

Respect the opinions of others

Sun News, for all its mockery and apparent disdain for the left, never shied away from debate. As Kinsella points out, only once did the network censor him, and it apologized afterward. We should have more respectful debate in our media between people with different perspectives. I want to keep the sharp minds of Sun while getting rid of their egos and bitterness.

Don’t be afraid of holding unpopular opinions

Sun had limits. They may have been too lenient for some on the left, but the network tried to stay within the law at all times. It also liked to push unpopular and unconventional ideas by smart people. Sun News was labelled racist, sexist, and rude, some of which was deserved and some less so. But it didn’t refuse to talk about issues for fear of those labels. It didn’t worry about who it might offend. And some opinions that offend our sense of what’s proper and polite are necessary in this world.

We need more media criticism

It’s no secret that Sun News personalities want the CBC shut down or privatized. And that prejudice tainted a lot of Sun’s criticism of the public broadcaster (starting with their insistence on calling it a “state broadcaster”). But with Canada’s broadcast media increasingly coming under a few roofs, we need people who can engage in fearless criticism of that media. With the loss of Sun News, we’ve lost one of those voices.

Other media pick up on CBC scandals like the Jian Ghomeshi case, but for more minor stuff, there isn’t much out there keeping watch, especially to note those times when CBC lets its left-leaning tendencies show.

RIP Sun News

I mourn the loss of Sun News, not just because of the jobs lost, but because it was a Canadian channel that broadcast original Canadian programming and tried to be something different on the air.

It had its problems, and I don’t think anyone should try to repeat the experiment directly, but I would like to see a little bit of what Sun News had to offer reflected in other media.

If we can learn one thing from it, it’s that no one should be afraid of hearing differing opinions with an open mind.

Other analysis

  • Scott Gilmore: “As individuals, we are worse off by ignoring our critics or those whose views aggravate us.”
  • Linden MacIntyre: “The problem viewers had with Ezra and most of Sun TV wasn’t the performance but the content. There was nothing there but style. And it was a style that was embarrassing to people who might have had some thoughtful things to say.”
  • Jonathan Kay: “Sun News’s fundamental problem wasn’t the cheap production values—that could have been fixed with more money, as viewership grew. The real issue was that Canada just doesn’t have enough ‘regular-white-guy resentment’ to support a mass-viewership news channel catering to pissed off ordinary Joes.”
  • Bill Brioux: “Quebecor deserves all the blame for turning an interesting idea—creative an alternative, conservative news voice—into something most Canadians wouldn’t touch with a Dr. Ho foot pad.”
  • Christopher Waddell: “Sun TV was really only ever about one thing: gaming the system. Had the scheme worked, it would have made some people a lot of money even if nobody watched the channel at all.”
  • Heather Mallick: “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.”
  • Vinay Menon: “Sun News always had a cable access feel. The production values were Al Qaeda grim. The Source, hosted by Ezra Levant, looked like it was shot inside a stock room of an actual Source store”
  • Toronto Star editorial: “It was brash. It was provocative. Its values were sharply at odds with those of this newspaper. But it made its viewers think, challenged other TV outlets to be bolder and contributed to the diversity of perspectives that keeps journalism healthy.”
  • Jay Currie: “Sun TV was an attempt to change the channel. It failed. The need remains but it has to be smart, slickly produced and Internet aware. Sun TV, whatever its ideological virtue, was ham handed, as slick as Brian’s do, and Internet poison. These are people from the dying newspaper business trying to revive the dying television business and it showed.”
  • Stephen Lautens: “I think their problem was truly their limited appeal because of the ideological ground they had staked out.”
  • J.J. McCullough: “More than anything else, Sun was simply the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time? … a badly under-funded, late entrant into the increasingly irrelevant, cash-hemorrhaging, archaically over-regulated world of television news.”
  • Tim Harper: “They often had no one to yell at. If they were trying to appeal to the hardcore Conservative voter, the pool was small, about 30 per cent of the country.”
  • John Doyle: “Sun News was never very good at doing what it set out to do. It was boring TV. Mostly, it was cheap, cheesy, terrible television.”
  • Jordan Green: “Sun News Network was a sinking ship, simply because the executives continued to spend money they weren’t earning back in revenues, because they didn’t have enough eyeballs watching the channel. And the real reason they didn’t have those eyeballs, was because they didn’t talk to those eyeballs. They kept dishing out the same crap, instead of taking advantage of their newness on the Canadian television landscape, and doing some good old-fashioned research.”
  • Antonia Zerbisias: “The first rule of journalism is maintaining credibility. Sun News mocked the very idea of it, appealing to those who would believe anything wrapped in lowest common denominator paper and tied up with an outrage bow.”
  • Justin Ling: “What they did succeed in, at times, was keeping the media honest. In the same way that Jesse Brown’s Canadaland has forced TV anchors to think twice about taking speaking fees, or gossip rag Frank Magazine has pushed high-profile journalists to fear for their personal lives, Sun grabbed a hold of right-wing issues and clobbered the big guys over the head with them. For good or for bad, potshots from the underdogs make us self-examine and adjust.”
  • Colby Cosh: “In Conservative-run Canada, Sun News often seemed to be whipping the underdog.”
  • James Bradshaw: “The straight talk about Sun News Network is that its failure traces back to the math.”
  • Bradshaw, again: “The network had launched believing, perhaps naively, that it could negotiate its way to wide distribution and profitability in the open market. But it wasn’t to be.”

From the horses’ mouths

  • Ezra Levant (host): “Our ratings were low. All news channels have low ratings. … I don’t regard this as a failure of our ideas nor as a failure of the free market.”
  • David Akin (host): “Sun News reporters and cameras were on each of the main campaign buses for the duration of the federal and all nine provincial elections. I anchored at least a dozen results shows, where we stayed on-air across the country from polls closing until the final speech.”
  • John Robson (columnist): “With unfriendly government rulings on licences and fees we couldn’t survive no matter what viewers thought. With friendly ones we would have been rolling in clover regardless.”
  • Kris Sims (reporter): “Lots of us at Sun News Network are journalists, damn hard-working journalists.” (at 16:00)
  • Rikki Ratliff (Ezra Levant’s former producer): “At the end of the day, I would shake my head still trembling at the wonder of how we got a show to air with so few resources. Grit and a desire to prove the naysayers wrong fuelled us.”
  • Casey Bennett (chase producer): “most critics admit to almost never watching the network, instead basing their view on a few soundbites someone plastered up on their blog in an anti-Sun smear campaign.”
  • Joe Warmington (columnist): “While the “Media Party” fawns all over a Justin Trudeau or Kathleen Wynne, Sun News was not afraid to poke Liberalism in the eye.”
  • Warren Kinsella (columnist): “Some of the network’s regulars seemed to prefer shouting to debating, and their speech—while free—was not always smart. The network got into trouble, too often.”
  • CBC’s As It Happens interviews David Akin and Ezra Levant

Plus Now Toronto has pictures from inside the offices as employees packed their things.

New projects

It didn’t take long for new hopes to rise. Mysterious websites promising new projects have popped up. Levant points readers to this one. Faith Goldy and others point to this one. Neither gives any details of what they’re about, other than being a new voice in media.

Lilley, meanwhile, has started a podcast.

UPDATE (Feb. 18): The Financial Post reports Leonard Asper made a failed bid to buy the network just before it went dark. Meanwhile, the Globe reports Sun News is providing less severance to employees outside Ontario.

41 thoughts on “Why Sun News Network failed


    Very good analysis. I think its interviewers could have asked tougher and more challenging questions. It’s like you said, the guests were often there only to agree with the host.

  2. Kevin

    >Unfortunately, as loyal as that group might be, it’s large enough group to sustain a 24/7 television channel
    Missing the word “not” after “it’s”.

  3. Bill

    Give right-wing pundits a voice

    An hour a day of Ezra Levant is a bit much, even though I was always impressed how he could fill an entire hour each day, including a lengthy monologue. But nothing is too little. Like him or not, he has a perspective to offer and, when used properly, keeps people on their toes. We should be hearing from him on those mainstream channels he likes to complain about so much. We should be seeing him debating the limits of free speech in a respectful manner with someone who matches his intellect.

    Sun News was right about one thing: It often brought up issues and perspectives that we didn’t see in mainstream TV news. We should do something about that, because being stuck in a left-wing echo chamber is no more healthy for our minds or society than being stuck in a right-wing echo chamber.


    I always get a chuckle out of the “left wing” echo chamber that this country is in despite electing the CPC to power three successive times since 2006.

    In case you’ve missed it, just about every English language tabloid in the country leans conservative, AM radio talk is practically all conservative leaning, and you’ve got the National Post and the editorial board at the G&M who have endorsed Harper three times. You’ve got Don Martin on CTV and Rex Murphy on CBC who routinely espouse the conservative point of view.

    The reaction from journo types on Twitter was typical…”boo hoo for the media jobs lost and all those poor journalists”….yeah, cry me a river for the largely opinion based nonsense they peddled….

    They failed because they were crap and their own base wouldn’t even watch them.

    Good riddance and may they not be heard from again.

  4. David Grant

    Frankly, I disagree with Steve about the importance of Sun News for creating Canadian content, albeit a good thing. If the quality sucks, it really doesn’t matter where it comes from. Sun News sucked big time because it provided mostly hot ail, slander, and very little news or facts. It really was Fox News North slightly tamer. Furthermore, Ezra’s on-air rants which frequently got him and the network into trouble didn’t help much. I do feel some symptathy for those who don’t have a job, but I can’t say that I won’t be cheering this event.

    1. Rob Porter

      David, The truth is that Canada’s mostly gutless, spineless, dishonest media ‘sucks’ big time. It must be one of he most cowardly and dishonest in the Western world – although my son informs me that Australian Broadcasting Corporation is about as useless and from day to day we have CNN to bare testament to total mediocrity. To CBC and CTV impartiality, honesty, moral fibre and moral impulse are foreign concepts. Shallowness prevails. They are pure mush and shallow mush at that! At least SUN, for all its shortcomings – and it’s news reporting was sorely lacking – had the character to poke in the eye the cowardly, dishonest political correctness that afflicts this country while it smugly and idiotically congratulates itself on how perfect it is. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn would have had some regard for SUN and its commentaries while contemptuous of Canada’s mainstream media and bad joke politicians like Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair. If Canada did not have it disgraceful Human Rights Commissions – that should be an affront to any country claiming to be a democracy, but in Canada are not – Ezra Levant would not have been afflicted as he as by trumped up lawsuits by Muslims seeking retribution for his telling the truth about them and their activities. At least with SUN we got honest commentary, not least about Islam and the war it is waging against Western democracies. And by the way, check in a good dictionary the meaning of “slander”. Apparently you are clueless regarding its definition.

      1. David Grant

        I would seriously question anything that Ezra Levant says about anything. If he is an example of doing great or good journalism, then I am not sure that it says anything good about the state of contemporary journalism. It didn’t provide anything that is at par with the 5th Estate or Marketplace(which does a good job in making sure that people don’t get conned)and it doesn’t provide the kind of exposure to the Arts that the CBC Radio did for a long time. Sun News is rag in paper and on TV and I still don’t mourn the loss of the network.

  5. Richard M. Landau

    Speaking as a TV producer who makes public affairs programming, I have to say a good chunk of the failure of SUN TV was due to poor production values, poor technical quality and an overall failure to understand how to use the visual power of the medium. I could make supper with SUN TV on and never have to look at the screen to follow it. It was radio masquerading as TV.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      I have to say a good chunk of the failure of SUN TV was due to poor production values, poor technical quality and an overall failure to understand how to use the visual power of the medium.

      While I would never mistake it for a Hollywood movie, I never found Sun News’s production issues to be a problem on their own. But I agree about the radio-on-TV thing. There was an awful lot of talking heads there.

    1. Rob Porter

      mike, it’s funny how you don’t understand how utterly useless is Canada’s media generally. The National Post is fortunate to have some good writers, but for the most part Canada’s media is sub-grade trash that cares little about ‘truth’. Does it even understand the meaning of the word, let alone care? SUN at least gave us some exceptional commentary, told us the truth about Islam, it’s butchery of Christians, Yazidis, Kurds and other Muslims who did not subscribed to the sickly thinking of ISIS, al Qaeda other depraved Muslims groups. Testament to the sickly state of most of Canada’s media, it howled in wrath against Stephen Harper for stating, truthfully, that “Islamic jihad” is waging war against the West. Watching the likes of CBC’s Evan Solomon and others of kindred gutless spirit dodging the truth about this matter is a wonder to behold for its dishonesty and contemptible cowardice.

    2. Anonymous

      The fact of the matter is that conservative values are represented by the extreme right of the movement. Conservatism is neither radical Noe divisive in it’s ideology, but whether it be Fox or Sun, the approach is attack the left without mercy, skew the subject so truth is hard to find and utilize liberal bias as the battle they must fight.
      In reality, real journalism (if which there is less every day) has a liberal slant because it must encompass all points of views to right accurate stories. Conservatives are so fixed in their beliefs and cling to the influence of religion on them that their stances sekdom change.
      Look at it folks, American or Canadian, social issues are losing issues because society has grown more accepting on so many issues. Tax policy and balancing budgets is now common policy for all parties with the way to get there being the only difference. Politics has become so overly influenced by big money that a party that can actually get average voters supporting them can change our political landscape.
      Conservative values are one thing, but conservative politics has not given us the best possible results. Unemployment remains very high,
      Opportunity and growth have diminished and a huge wealth gap has developed leaving many in difficulty situations. Wages are stagnant, benefits are being taken away, unions are losing any power they had and corporations are refusing to contribute to economic growth. While employees have been given wage freezes and rollbacks, executives are forever growing their employment packages.
      Canada and conservative governments have refused to diversify and cut our dependence on our narptural resources thus negatively impact growth in a changing world. Visibility and accountability have been blurred in favor of keeping power. The voter has grown more pessimistic with every election and participation in the process is lacking. When complacency and refusing to participate occur, is it any wonder the future grows dimmer and the sameoliticians keep getting elected. Without vibrant ideas and fresh and enthusiastic representation, we get exactly what we have now.
      Opportunity and growth

  6. Dilbert

    A long story to state the very obvious:

    Canadians are a whole were not willing to pay for that crap.

    Sun News problem had everything to do with not really being “news” and more about being “opinion”. Right off the bat that means that they are fighting from a losing position, because generally half the people won’t agree with you and won’t want to hear about you. Sun News made it worse by focusing on being a very agressive and very narrow version of one side of the discussion, to the point where they quickly alientated the middle ground on both sides of the discussion as well. That left them with a remarkably small potential audience. The numbers I have seen suggested that their average audience was about 8000 people, which means ad rates being literally in “dollar an ad” type range. There is no money in that.

    Moreover, you can tell what happens to Sun News simply by asking “did anyone every watch them for news?”. I can’t remember anyone have a discussion about a story they saw on Sun News, or linking to a video of a news story from Sun News. There was plenty of videos posted mocking the one trick pony horses painting themselves into logical corners, but very little in the way of a back and forth about the news.

    So basically, Sun News wasn’t a news station. That is the real failure. For all the arm waving and such, had they produced a decent news package and made it worth watching, they might have had some viewers. By having a narrow focus which was essentially “what the radical Conservatives of Alberta might like” they so limited their audience as to be doomed to fail.

    The only thing I am trying to figure out is how Quebecor got tricked into paying for all of this.

  7. David Grant

    I agree with Dilbert on his post. Sun News wasn’t the Economist at all. This network symbolized all of the worst qualities one can think of in the mainstream news. The only relation Sun had to news was the word itself. Good riddance.

  8. FS

    I guess Sun News should have hired John Ghomeshi and kept an employee on their network like him. Most TV stations would be closed with a scandle of that level, not to mention what JG did to these women lives. As I read all the remarks, it is simply the Liberals want their part-time school teacher to try to gain ground. If you can’t take the heat to be a political, then get out of the race. The Liberals did not watch Sun News because Liberals don’t want the truth just all their abortions. Conservatives need a TV station like thoes sensitive Liberals that can’t take the heat.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      I guess Sun News should have hired John Ghomeshi and kept an employee on their network like him.

      I don’t think having more scandals would have helped Sun News.

      The Liberals did not watch Sun News because Liberals don’t want the truth just all their abortions.

      Dammit, you’ve solved the problem! That’s what Sun News needed! MORE ABORTIONS!

  9. tom

    You say; “… if you ignore that in the last federal election, 40% of the country voted for a conservative party (the Conservatives or Christian Heritage Party)…”.

    The Cons got 40% of the vote but only 61% of eligible voters turned out so it wasn’t 40% of the country that voted Conservative it was about 24% of the eligible voters that did.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      The Cons got 40% of the vote but only 61% of eligible voters turned out so it wasn’t 40% of the country that voted Conservative

      I figured it was self-evident I was referring to voters, but I’ll clarify in the post.

      1. tom

        As a journalist you realize words have meaning and your 40% of the country assertion was far from the truth. Love them, hate them or indifferent it is a very sad state of politics in this country when the governing party is chosen by a quarter of those eligible to do so.

  10. Pingback: Sun News has set | The Political Animal

    1. Fagstein Post author

      They should all be banned for life from working in the media because they’re taking up the space of someone much more deserving.

      Unlike you I believe “the media” should not be reserved for those people the government deems worthy.

  11. Pefder magfrok

    Wait, what? Sun News wasn’t a hyper-ironic comedy channel designed to take down the conservative party and its political ethos (as in “It’s ok to be Canadian and to hate everything good about Canada”)?

  12. Christopher van Dyke

    Very in depth analysis Steve. Agreed with most, not all.

    Over it’s existence I have had only seen clips of Ezra Levant’s rants. I call them ‘rants’ in spite of sharing his opinions, simply because, like you described, of the cheap production values. That alone lessened the substance, unfairly.

    The reason I was only able to watch ‘clips’ is because I had no access. Here in Vancouver, through Telus, I receive all the HD versions of the varied news programs on the ‘800 channels’, of course CBC being 800. 801 CTV (optional), CNN 803, Al Jazeera 805 or 806 (optional), BBC (optional), etc., etc..

    Basic CBC, CTV, CITY, etc., etc. on Telus’ 100 Channel group.

    I have never found Sun News part of any package here in Vancouver.

    If it existed, I would have subscribed in spite of it’s less than slick production values.

    If available, and I subscribed to Sun News, I likely would have viewed it only very occasionally. (because, like you described, it was a one trick pony and it’s low production quality). Yet, I was very interested in the issues it focused on.

    During my youth in Montreal I worked as a Trudeau (Pierre) volunteer. A typical Anglo Montrealer I maintained my politically Liberal loyalty for over 50 years. It has only been the past going on 10 years I have become a Conservative. I look back and regret many realities that ‘Liberalism’ has realized to Canada.

    I admittedly am often torn as the Liberal Party also legislated many progressive laws and programs I agree with. But for today’s Canada, it’s (the Liberal Party’s) past excesses are showing now terrible results impacting the present and the future.

    I’m a liberal conservative, and I find only a few mainstream voices representing my positions and concerns (including ‘fears’) what Canada will exist for my young children’s futures.

    Sun News in it’s form before it’s demise did not express the reflection of my conservatism in the way I related to mainly because to me it was not ‘sophisticated’ enough.

    Like the ‘leftists’voice often is under-minded by extreme leftists/marxists, the right’s extremely relevant and contemporary important issues are under-minded by extreme radical and racist voices. The loud-mouths shouting over the intellectual conservative real-world concerns.

    Canada needs more than ever a television medium for the conservative view-point, as mainstream media is leading us down a very soft-headed, naive dangerous path.

    To me, in my opinion, CBC should be dictated by parliament to assure equal resources and time to reflect conservative opinion and values. CBC should not be allowed to be controlled by a left-wing agenda.

    Canada needs more common-sense Rex Murphys.

  13. It's Me

    I find it really rich that so many people are dancing on the grave of SNN. I’d like to know where their disdain is for the other news networks out there – i.e., CBC NN. Many have no argument for their disdain for it other than for the fact that they likely disagree with it politically. But yet why are they not outraged by CBC NN? Which if you are actually going to be outraged by any news outlet, CBC is the one you should. This is a taxpayer funded network (and before anyone chimes in saying ‘oh, CBC NN is actually commercially-funded through ads and subscriber fees, no tax money goes directly to it’, newsflash, it is still owned by the CBC which is a public corporation), yet it certainly has a political/social skew that leans left. No outrage over that, eh? That’s because they are ok with biased media, just as long as it is biased in their favour. The only difference between SNN and other media outlets is that SNN was actually upfront about what their bias was unlike the others who are discreet about it. And yes, SNN was a not only truthful about it, but they were also in your face unlike some of the others. I’m certainly on the right side of the line, but I don’t loath any of these others networks for their prejudices.

    It’s pretty funny when you think of it, either liberals are so greedy and pompous that they think they should control all viewpoints or their beliefs are so fragile and they are so threatened of some new kid showing up on the block speaking the truth that finally the public will come to their senses and clue-in to reality. Either way, it’s pretty pathetic.

    1. Dilbert

      No, the disdain is for the two dimension cut-out character conservatives that filled the Sun “news” airwaves with opinion and very little fact.

      The disdain is for a group who were unable or more likely unwilling to actually provide a service Canadians wanted, but had the gall to beg the CRTC to make all Canadian cable users pay.

      The disdain is for a successful company like Quebecor being unable or unwilling to bring the resources and management to the table to make the channel viable, and rather to spend most of the time on the air angling to take someone else down a peg to make themselves feel better.

      CBC NN at least does news in a significant way. Sun “news” did it as an incidental space filler between shrill conservative tripe mongers. Sun did talk radio on TV, and essentially nobody was interested.

      It’s not a liberal / conservative thing. Trying to paint it like that is pretty sick. I would have the same disdain for liberals in the same boat (remember Al Franken’s radio network in the US? I felt the same… 2D liberal cut-out characters shrilly preaching to a small choir and wondering why nobody wanted to listen…)

      1. It's Me

        I’m not saying SNN was perfect by any means, but the disdain shown for them – that’s what is sickening and disturbing.

        And are you seriously saying that there isn’t a substantial group of people out there that trash this network simply because its a right-leaning network? You really think everyone who is trashing it is because of the poor production quality, mismanagement, etc.? Oh my friend, maybe you’re better than the rest, but you need to get your head out of the clouds because that is certainly not the case.

        1. Dilbert

          As I said, it’s not about right leaning or left-leaning… it’s about hanging so far off the side of the ship trying to make it tilt one way or the other. That shrill message (delivered by either side) is a huge turn off. It not only turns off the people who don’t agree with you, but also turns of many of the people who do agree with you, because they may feel the message is better delivered in a pleasant manner and not as part of an on air kook-fest.

          As I said, Al Franken’s liberal radio network in the US failed for the same reason – way to shrill, way to overboard… to the point that it pissed off the people who should have liked it. Go far enough to the left, and everything looks like a conservative conspiracy. Go all the way to the other end, and everything looks like liberal numb-nuts thinking.

          SNN was a poorly thought out, poorly executed channel which not only burdened itself with a shrill message, but also with terrible production values, poor fact vetting, and hosts that spent plenty of time apologizing on the air for their blunders and errors.

          Moreover, nobody can remember their “news” because SNN wasn’t about news, it was about opinion and trying to wind people up. No matter which side of the political spectrum you come from, this sort of thing is counter productive at best, and truly worthless.

          “Are you seriously saying that there isn’t a substantial group of people out there that trash this network simply because its a right-leaning network?”

          Not in the slightest. Rather, I think you need to accept that the shriller the message, the more likely the people at the other end of the political spectrum will react. So of course, not “everyone” is just talking about production values – TV stations are about content, and when the content is repulsive to the vast majority of the potential viewer pool, then the station is doomed.

          SNN was poor in many respects – content is king, and their content wasn’t what people wanted.

          1. It's Me

            As I said, you may dislike it for those reasons, but there is certainly others out there that hate it for it simply being right-wing.

            1. Dilbert

              This is true. There are some out there who hate X because of Y as well… but to use that as an excuse to cover up for the clear and obvious failings of X or Y is to intentionally miss the point.

              Yes, some people are dancing and pissing on the grave of SNN because they oppose ultra conservative views. Some people also cheer when a hockey player gets knocked out. It takes all kinds to make the world turn.

    2. Marc

      I find it really rich that so many people are dancing on the grave of SNN. I’d like to know where their disdain is for the other news networks out there

      Perhaps becuase CBC NN broadcasts actual, credible information? SNN broadcasted blatant misinformation and propaganda on more issues than I care to count. Everything you saw there was a joke. Has nothing to do with a left-right thing.

      1. It's Me

        I’m no SNN expert by any means, but what exactly did they broadcast that was misinformation and propaganda? It’s easy to toss slanderous terms around like that without any proof.

        1. Marc

          but what exactly did they broadcast that was misinformation and propaganda?

          They devoted a substantial chunk of their airtime peddling the nonsense that climate change is some sort of socialist conspiracy. Whereas in the scientific community, there is no debate – climate change is real and being driven by human activity.

          Climate change deniers are cut from the same cloth as those who think vaccines cause Autism.

          1. It's Me

            So what? You and I maybe believe that climate change is real but there is still a large portion that doesn’t and having some lively debate on the issue and challenging the norm is completely acceptable and healthy. You think everyone should have the same opinion and thoughts? Nothing should be challenged? Science is 100% right 100% of the time?

            1. Dilbert

              I remember the old joke about Fox News:

              “World is flat. We report, you decide”.

              The problem is that when you start from a point that is clearly ignorant (climate change is real, it’s cause is too complex for simple talking head discussion), you give the false impression that the ignorant point of view is valid. Too often, Sun hosts started a “discussion” by putting forth a lame concept that was easily proven ignorant with only cursory research. Instead, they would bring on guests to pontificate and puff up the lame concept, and make it appear valid.

              The results? Most people wouldn’t watch the channel, and those that did spent a lot of time watching the hosts apologize for their errors and misdirected personal attacks against non-conservative targets.

              “Science is 100% right 100% of the time?”

              Nope, it’s not always right. However, if you are going to argue against accepted scientific “fact”, you need to bring your A game, not just innuendo and discredited research reports. It’s the exact sort of ignorant attitude that comes from the anti-vaxxer types, using a single discredited bit of research and a whole lot of “supposin'” and “seems likes” to create their “Facts”. Science wins. If you want to prove it wrong, bring proof, not hot air.

            2. Marc

              Not the point.

              There are some things for which the evidence is so overwhelming, challenging them is not normal. Ezra Levant unequivocally denies climate change and also happens to be the cheerleader in chief for the oil patch. Naw….couldn’t possibly be a link there. What else should be challenged in your view? That HIV causes AIDS? That the Holocaust happened? Just because there are large groups of people who don’t accept something doesn’t mean they’re right.

              At the end of the day, it’s not about challenging, or believing. It’s about the evidence. Evidence, evidence, evidence.

              Back to my example, SNN dismissed the enourmous mountains of evidence on climate change and painted the narrative that it’s all a hoax. And by doing so, they were peddling flat-out propaganda.


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