Christopher Dornan of the Carleton University School of Journalism doesn’t think the Fox News version of “fair and balanced” vitriol and mean-spiritedness will play in Canada.
So the question becomes, what does Quebecor see as the persona for this proposed new TV channel?
The very thought of a Canadian Fox News knock-off is enough to give not-so-worked-up citizens the willies. There’s nothing wrong with different media outlets adopting different political perspectives. It happens as a matter of course, and it’s perfectly healthy. The Sun papers from their origins have championed a right-of-centre populism (deep distrust of the nanny state, unswerving support for the police, and a little comely eye candy for the lads on the factory shop floor). The Globe and Mail is a financially conservative journal that can lean progressive on social issues (same-sex marriage, decriminalization of marijuana). The Star is openly proud of its liberalism.
No, it’s not that Fox News in the U.S. is a transmitter tower for conservatism that sets Canadian teeth on edge. It’s not even its bombast. It’s the channel’s mean-spirited vindictiveness. Opposing viewpoints are entertained, if at all, not so that they can be debated but so that they can be debased: brayed at, mocked, vilified. The channel has the none-too-bright persona of the schoolyard bully, personified by one of its signature blowhards, Bill O’Reilly.
Is this what Mssrs. Teneycke, Lavoie and Peladeau have in mind? Me, I’m not convinced that seed will grow in Canadian soil. Our hard-right conservatives may be zealous, but they stop just shy of being zealots.
Preston Manning was no Ross Perot, and Tory Keneycke is no Roger Ailes, president of Fox News. Stephen Harper may be a hyper-controlling monomaniac, but next to Dick Cheney he looks like Lester Pearson. And you may find Ezra Levant wrong-headed, but he’s not wrong in the head. Glenn Beck, with his bug-eyed mixture of paranoia and delusions of grandeur, is a different kettle of fish entirely. In the U.S. he has a television show and a messianic following. In Canada, he would be under observation in the Clarke Institute.
Dornan noted that publications in Canada that cater strictly to the hard right have had trouble paying the bills. Exhibits A and B are Alberta Report and the National Post.
Note this from a June 11 Globe and Mail story:
… Market researchers familiar with right-wing audiences say the Quebecor network cannot style itself too conservatively if it hopes to attract significant advertising dollars.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Conservative who works in market research in Toronto said right-wing talk shows – which are almost solely on local AM radio stations – tend to attract an older and downscale audience with far less disposable spending than advertisers prefer. “It’s not the demographic most national advertisers are going after and that’s why talk radio is in local markets.”
The Tory market researcher predicted that this is why the Quebecor venture will likely copy the Fox News formula of lively public affairs TV with larger-than-life personalities – but not necessarily toe a uniformly conservative line. “The conservative bent is not fundamental to the formula,” the researcher said. “Kory thinks most public affairs TV is boring and he wants to mix it up.”
Dornan had one great idea: That the new channel be required to offer homegrown versions of the Daily Show and Colbert Report (both currently carried on CTV, my employer).
According to the Globe and Mail:
Mr. Teneycke has tried, unsuccessfully, to recruit comedian Rick Mercer whose show, The Rick Mercer Report,is a mainstay on CBC television.
Teneycke did bring over former CTV colleague David Akin, who left Canwest News Service to host a show and serve as Ottawa bureau chief. He only linked to the Quebecoor news release on his blog, but Akin had more to say on Facebook about his new gig.
He also made the following tweets on June 10:
@JulietONeill But perhaps I’m too sensitive :) !
And the Globe does indeed quickly clarify http://bit.ly/cGYsze as I was certain my former employer would …
@JulietONeill (Sigh) I’ve given up! No matter what it seems, all have written me off as a captive of the forces of darkness …
I told Akin the following on Facebook:
If you didn’t see it last week, CBC political reporting veteran Don Newman, former host of CBC Newsworld’s Politics show, took a shot at this proposed entity.
From the Globe:
Mr. Teneycke pulled no punches in defending his network, lashing out at Mr. Newman in return. He used his Twitter account on the Internet to label Mr. Newman “Canada’s answer to Helen Thomas.” It’s a reference to the long-time White House reporter who resigned in embarrassment this week after she said Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Germany, Poland or the United States.
I can see now that the new network will serve to elevate the level of discourse.
Akin pointed by tweet to this post by blogger Jeff Jedras.