ELECTION CHATTER (DAY 25): Will Sun News have any real influence on the election?
People & Places

ELECTION CHATTER (DAY 25): Will Sun News have any real influence on the election?

Day 25: In which Ottawa Magazine contributing editor Mark Bourrie spends a thrilling day watching Krista Erickson and Ezra Levant

Well, this is the new media landscape. Teeth, tits, and talk. No fat chicks and no lefties. It’s Sun News, the just-launched talk and news network.

Sun News would not be the subject of an election blog except for the fact that Quebecor launched it right in the middle of the campaign. (And, despite the paranoia surrounding Sun News, the election collided with the long-decided network launch date, not vice versa).

A few conflict declarations: I was offered a job by Sun News but didn’t pursue it. I enjoyed a nice lunch with Sun boss Kory Teneycke but things didn’t go much farther. I am far too fat, old, ugly, and nasal to be on TV, but I would have done big investigations and fed the Sun goat.

I had a bunch of reasons for not joining Sun. One – probably the most important – was my bad memories of working for the Toronto Sun in my early 20s. I remember how hard it was to explain my choice of employer to family and friends. It was bad enough starting my career with the Sun outfit, without ending it there.

But some of my friends signed on. Brian Lilley and Daniel Proussalidis are two guys I like a lot. They are true-believer conservatives and their ideals are honest and open. They do not pretend to be objective.

I followed Ezra Levant’s human rights commission fights, since they fit into my academic work on media censorship. And I interviewed Theo Caldwell a couple of times a few years back when he was kicking the tires on Frank magazine.

So there we go. Now, about Sun News and the election.

Is it any good? Good enough to sway undecided voters and win converts?

Well, so far it’s strange. And there is an element of mayhem and subversion to it that makes it interesting. But there’s an annoying inconsistency to the quality of the different shows.

David Akin, a Hill veteran, comes across halfway normal, though there’s no real attempt at objectivity in his six o’clock interview program. I doubt he’ll win the suppertime news sweeps.

Theo Caldwell reminds me of a social convenor of some third-rate college fraternity and, while his suits are well-tailored, Theo’s probably the only person on Canadian TV who talks about his own wardrobe. Theo seems like a bit of an empty vessel.

Brian Lilley‘s CBC bashing is getting tiresome. In general, Sun News’ CBC-bashing just sounds like sour grapes from broadcasters who envy the status and salaries of the Mother Corpse’s insiders. But Brian’s a pretty sharp guy and he’ll be one of the Sun News people who could grow into the job.

Then there’s Krista Erickson. I don’t even want to go there. Anything you need to know is available on Google. I’m just reminded of a snide remark by Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the Bond flick Diamonds Are Forever: “If those cheeks were brains…”

If you tune in at 5 p.m., you see the mutant in the family closet. Poor Ezra Levant. He’s made up like a bad clown in a Wes Craven flick. Sun News is Ezra’s payback machine. He has a long list of well-earned enemies and, in a show that seems to be shot at the Orillia studios of Rogers Cable, Levant comes across as needing a therapist and a hug.

Sun News brings to mind of one of my favorite highway games, “Name That Roadkill!”

The first day’s broadcast began with a 10-hour digital countdown that hearkened back to the opening scenes of Independence Day. Then came sloganeering on a truly Maoist scale: “You’re watching history being made!” “Sun news is on your side!” There would “be no sacred cows.” They are “raising the bar.” It’s “not going to be politics as usual.” Sun journos will “cover the stories that matter,” stories that “people really want to hear about.”

Sun TV is in a strange predicament. First, hard to claim they’re on “your side” when they spend 90 percent of their time shilling for the governing party. They knock the “state-owned broadcaster,” while parroting the talking points of the people in power.

It may create political and intellectual contortions that are too painful to watch. (But probably not as painful as watching the annoying Dr. Ho, an awful Asian self-parody, sell his shoe insoles or endure the obnoxious jeweller who, painted silver, is trying to get us to part with our gold and silver stuff.)

But is this about history — will it change history, or will it soon be history?

I’m not sure this is a historic moment, and it’s too soon to know whether Kory & Co. have tapped a formerly undiscovered profit vein or are simply yammering to a small group of consumers of adult diapers, funeral insurance, and walk-in bathtubs. The proof will be in the ratings.

Will it change history? Not in this election. There’s a lot of election talk, but very little of it, in the first day, was particularly compelling or convincing. Politically, it’s about as subtle as a hand grenade. At most, it will reinforce and firm up the voting preferences of Tory true believers.

Will it become history? Tough call. News networks don’t get a lot of viewers in Canada, and if Sun News viewers are simply the right-wing fringe of a tiny segment of the population, then I’d say don’t get too attached to it.