Why Canada has overwhelmingly rejected its own conservative news channel

Sun News ChannelThe Sun News Channel permanently went off the air last Friday after a four year, failed attempt, to duplicate the success of the controversial conservative news channel south of the border.

Given that the ideology, the language, and the slogans of Sun News could have easily come from Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity, Canadians promptly branded it “Fox News North.” Among its top executives was a former communications director to conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

To understand why the network failed to attract viewers, one only needs to look at the differences between Fox News and it’s wanna be cousin. Not to mention the variances between American and Canadian law.

To this day, I hear liberal/progressive pundits in the United States tell people that Fox News is illegal in Canada due to a CRTC regulation that essentially bans lying on news programs. That is only half true.

While knowingly lying to the public on news programs can yield you a hefty fine or can get your broadcasting licence revoked, Fox News has actually been made available to Canadians since 2004. Sun News, unlike Fox News, was a Canadian company and was held to higher Canadian standards.

Freedom of the press and freedom of speech in the United States essentially allows broadcasters to say what they want, when they want, so long as it isn’t vulgar. Unlike the First Amendment, which is largely open to interpretation, Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms is specific enough to allow for stricter broadcast regulations.

Now, Sun News knew at the time of its conception that in order for it to be a success, it had to duplicate the business model that made Fox News successful south of the border. Fox News has garnered a loyal following by manipulating, misleading, and lying to the public. It’s easy to suck viewers in when you’re allowed to make up your own news stories. Problem was, being a Canadian company, Sun News couldn’t do these things.

Ezra Levant, Sun News Channel
Sun’s Ezra Levant, Canada’s Bill O’Reilly

Before Sun News went on the air in 2011, it tried to lobby the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) into revoking or relaxing the rule on “broadcasting false or misleading news.”

Although Sun News denied being directly involved in the attempt to change the rules, The CRTC quietly shot down any changes. Despite the major setback, Sun News went on the air knowing they couldn’t mold themselves into the Fox News machine of the great white north. In retrospect, it was Sun News’ first failure and it would lead to their ultimate demise.

During its four year run, Sun News channel had its fair share of controversies. But without the ability to mislead and/or lie to the public, the Sun News Channel turned to the only other thing conservatives know how to do when they want to get a point across. Which is why all their “controversies” were centered on bullying guests and liberal politicians. Despite the attention however, it was never able to translate the spotlight into ratings.

So after four years of losing millions of dollars, the experiment that was Fox News North has now ended, but why?

Some will say Canada is just not a conservative country which is why Sun couldn’t find an audience. True, but neither is the United States. The US is extremely progressive on most issues despite Fox News. Perhaps Canadians don’t like to be bullied by overbearing news anchors and pundits? I would assume that’s also true.

The real reason Sun failed so miserably is that without the ability to manipulate the masses, conservatives don’t have a leg to stand on. I would argue that if the CRTC had changed the rules to Sun News’ liking, they might still be on the air.

Thank goodness Canada has the ability to keep these “no lying” regulations in place. Now… If only we could hold our politicians up to the same standard.


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