Left-wing media site rabble.ca says it’s going to be keeping a close eye on Sun News Network, a right-leaning television network that began airing in parts of Canada on April 18.
That date just happened to be rabble.ca’s 10th anniversary, and the independent news site says it is celebrating by launching Media Watch, “an initiative committed to dispelling myths perpetrated by ideologically driven reporters and sensationalist media.”
Publisher Kim Elliott says Sun News, dubbed “Fox News North” by critics who accuse it of being a Canadian version of the popular-but-controversial Fox News in the United States, will be singled out for special attention.
“We don’t want people to be blinded by Sun TV,” Elliott said. “Our new media watch blog will feature a media consumer Twitter feed #sunwatch and the keen eye of Alheli Picazo.”
In a 2010 piece, rabble.ca blogger Picazo challenged Sun Media columnist Ezra Levant’s characterization of U.S. financier and philanthropist George Soros. Levant now hosts a program called “The Source” for Sun News.
Soros filed suit against Levant and Sun Media, resulting in a full retraction and apology printed in The Sun’s editorial section just 13 days after Levant’s original column ran.
The debut of Sun News, owned by Quebecor Media, represents the only launch of an all-news channel on Canadian TV in over a decade.
The network aims to take a populist, conservative-leaning approach that mirrors the Sun chain of Quebecor-owned tabloid newspapers, billing itself as an alternative to CTV and CBC.
“Years of uninspiring Canadian news means viewers are flocking to American networks to get their fix. Well, that’s about to change,” goes the message at the Sun News website.
Sun News management said the intent is to mimic the Sun chain’s “irreverent” and “provocative” approach, and although some right-wing voices would be heard, a “range of [political] opinion” would be offered.
The network is the brainchild of Sun News VP Kory Teneycke, a former director of communications for Prime Minister Stephen Harper who has ridiculed other news outlets as “boring” and “lame-stream media,” a term favoured by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
It was Teneycke’s strong Conservative ties going back to the Mulroney years that initially stirred controversy around the issue.
In an effort last year to stop Sun News, an international activist group, Avaaz.org, gathered names for an online petition which accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of attempting to “create a Fox News North” in order to “push American-style hate media onto our airwaves.”
In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Teneycke said Canadians, conservative or otherwise, are ready for television that provides more lively, personality-driven debate.
“Whether you love it or hate it, whether you think we’re on the right track or the wrong track, I only care if you are watching,” he said.
Levant said in a YouTube video that he “will allow more dissidence and critical letters on my show than the CBC ever does.”
“I regard our network as a rebel network, a dissident network,” he said.
“I’m not pretending that I’m an objective reporter—I’m an opinionated commentator and I say that right off the top. No one is being tricked into thinking I’m a down-the-middle, even-handed reporter. I’m a flavourful, opinionated guy.”