Why Sun News failed

It was Fox News without the budget or the talent, writes Jaime J. Weinman


 
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Ezra Levant. (Pawel Dwulit/CP)

Ezra Levant. (Pawel Dwulit/CP)

Conventional wisdom will say that Sun News failed because there’s no market for Fox News-style loud partisanship in Canada. And while conventional wisdom is, to be honest, usually right (conventional wisdom was that Sun News wasn’t very good), I think it’ll be wrong in this case. There’s always a market for conservative news, and they’re not always the people you might expect.

I know one person, liberal on most social issues and very liberal on economic issues, who still watched Sun News a lot because of Israel; it was the “pro-Israel” network, the antidote to the perceived anti-Israel bias of the rest of the media. I didn’t agree, but if Sun had managed to get a larger number of the people who think the media has a lefty bias, it would have been fine. There are always plenty of people who think the media is too far to the left. Just look in any comments section in the world.

Sun didn’t get those people, though, or not enough of them. I think that was basically because it wasn’t as good as Fox News —not good in the moral sense, but in the sense of the calibre of talent or production values. Sun News was the latest in a long line of Canadian networks and Canadian shows that are obvious copies of a more successful American product. It was Fox News without the budget or the talent, and it’s the budget and talent that makes Fox News what it is. Otherwise you’re better off listening to talk radio, without the unappealing pictures to distract from the talking. Not everyone was a dud: Michael Coren is not exactly my kind of TV personality, but he is an experienced TV personality, and knows how to put a show together. But there weren’t enough competent shows to make Sun competitive with Fox News.

Like many ersatz products, Sun seemed to think that simply being Canadian would give it an advantage with Canadians over Fox News. This may be true (though maybe not) for an outlet that’s built primarily on reporting. But the Fox model is mostly about punditry, discussions of the issues that matter. Most of the issues that matter on a channel like this are not specific to a particular country. Regardless of the status of gay marriage in your country, the issue of whether gay marriage is right or wrong is pretty much the same everywhere. Reactions to many other things, from Charlie Hebdo to the “war on Christmas,” play out similarly from nation to nation, and you’re mostly going to see better performances on Fox. Even Rob Ford you could hear about on American TV.

So what Sun was counting on was that it would get people who wanted to see a conservative take on the stuff Fox won’t touch: Canada-specific politics. One problem with that assumption is that Canadian politics simply aren’t divided enough to sustain that kind of hyper-partisan approach. Oh, we’re divided; everyone is. But the States is just more divided on issues that have long since faded into conventional wisdom here. U.S. conservatives have long opposed universal health care, and even now there’s a chance it might be overturned. In Canada, as in most countries, even conservative politicians won’t oppose national health care. (The U.S. does have socialized medicine for old people, Fox’s target audience, and sure enough, almost no one on Fox will openly advocate getting rid of Medicare, any more than Margaret Thatcher would try to denationalize U.K. health care.) We just have too many political issues where the divide of “acceptable opinion” is too narrow for a rip-roaring partisan TV debate.

Which is to say, if you’re going to make a conservative pundit network, most of your bread-and-butter topics are going to be not the CanCon ones, but the ones you share with Fox News. That means the only way to survive is to match the competition — spend more money, get better sets, better TV personalities, blonder blonds, angrier old guys. TV punditry is theatre, and people don’t want to watch a cheap performance.


 

Why Sun News failed

  1. I disagree. Sun News assumed Canadians would like a Canadian Fox News. We have Fox News on our cable. Who watches it?
    We’re Canadian; not American.
    I’m reminded of the story of the three sieves. Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?
    Sun News, and it’s American cousin, fail these tests.
    They’re just not Canadian.

  2. Sun failed because it was hyper-partisan crap, and not ‘news’ at all. Fox is the same….they just have more crackpots to get through.

    A Conservative used to be a respectable thing to be….prudent, careful, thoughtful, responsible…..not any more.

    It’s been turned into some kind of religious circus….anti-science, anti-reason, anti-women, anti-gay….

  3. I am disappointed that author of the article missed some key points that two commentators bellow hit the nail on the head.
    It would be interesting to find out how many out of 8000 people that watched “The News” were from Alberta versus the rest of Canada? I am glad they went out of business, and not soon enough.

    • You could get an idea of where the viewers were from by visiting the sun news media website and reading the comments section. Most were from Alberta with some from Ontario. Same bunch everyday, far right tea party types mixed in with conspiracy theorists. It was a crazy place and somewhat scary as these people were right off their rockers. I wonder where they will spew their hatred now?

  4. Rather ironically, the reason cited for their failure was they were unable to get on the standard cable bundle bandwagon, apparently victims of the leftist CRTC partisan agenda. Typical Con BS, socialize the investment in order to privatize the profits.

  5. Oh . . . I thought the article just consisted of the picture, to explain the failure.

    When I saw that I wouldn’t have thought any words were needed.

  6. Huh. I had low expectations coming in to read this, but I actually think you came very close to the mark on this. Good analysis.

  7. If you want to outdo anyone, you can’t just imitate them. You have to know THEIR influences. FOX is just the acceptable edge of the edgy conservative news. SUN NEWS should have been imitating the news sources that FOX takes note of. INFOWARS news was routinely picked up and regurgitated by one-time FOX personality Glen Beck. FOX personality Bill O’Reilly is a lighter version of radio personalities Rush Limbaugh and Mike Savage. If you want to make conservative news work in Canada, you drink in the guys who are driving the discussion, not the lighter imitators (FOX). Blonde babes, for instance, are part of what make FOX work – but they don’t have a place with any of the news personalities FOX is influenced by. If you imitate FOX you’ll want blonde babes and smarmy know-all personalities. If, however, you imitate the people driving conservative discussion you’ll want commentators with quasi-photographic memory that can recall news events from even decades past in detail. That is true of Alex Jones, Limbaugh, and Savage. That’s their attraction.

  8. In the end – no matter what people think, and no matter how good or bad they are/were – we essentially gave unlimited access to Canadian markets to the foreign media outlets and threw our own people under the bus.

    So now all we will see is how “horrible those people at Sun were” and at the same time we will have American media news or the same old, same old and agenda driven cbc and ctv.

    Nothing new there – which is why the internet news channels have become the place to see what is happening around the world.

    Quite frankly I see far too much gloating and not enough informed people – most of whom have only (if ever) watched such a tiny amount of the old Sun News that they only repeat what they read from the other haters.

    Even the closing statement of this author – another entitled Canadian – shows his personal bias.

  9. I found Sun News to be interesting. They touched on issues that were important to Canadians. Production values came up short and I found Ezra Levant to be crude and rude at times, but I value conservative thought. Many of the people commenting here call conservatives “haters”, simply because they have an opinion that differs from many in the “mainstream”. I do feel that Canadians are a people that is less inclined to sensationalism and social rants, but at the same time, given the likes of a thorough thinker like Krauthammer, who is a Fox News regular, there is ample room for thoughtful discourse and commentary that is conservative. Sun News was not perfect, by any means, but they will be missed in the areas they did well, i.e., Israel etc. I hope other voices for conservative thought will be raised in their absence.

    • Valerie;
      Well said; we do need a Conservative voice in Canada on an ongoing basis.
      Sun News was one such alternative. Whether one agrees with them or not; tis better to have both sides of any argument in any and all democratic decisions.

      • CBC and CTV are not left leaning. If they are, it’s because the left often gives more consideration to the middle class than to the wealthy and corporations. The left also cares more about environmental issues. In many cases, it’s the more wholesome thing to agree with the left. They have more of a sense of decency.

  10. I initially liked the idea of a Sun News channel. I hoped it would offer some perspectives too often avoided by the tame, and often lame, CBC. I find that CBC and CTV never offer a point of view that is not accepted liberal dogma – sigh! However, I soon became tired of the endless Liberal/Trudeau bashing and the endless Israel can do no wrong line and the endless “Ukrainians good – Russians evil” propaganda. Also – I am not religious so spare me the moralizing! I have rarely tuned in in recent times, so I will not miss them – but I do wish that CBC and CTV could rise to the challenge and do some meaningful investigative journalism once in a while!

  11. What makes Fox News and the TEA Party work is the south. Backwards ass hillbillies who get their education from Fox News, Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty.

  12. SUN TV failed because it wasn’t profitable for a number of reasons.

    1. Main reason it failed was due to lack of access provided to the station that was given to other similar stations. The CRTC bent over backwards to ensure that the folks at SUNTV didn’t get a fair shake in the market place. The CRTC didn’t like the “message” of SUNTV…and made sure that no one else could hear it.

    2. The parent company didn’t put enough money in the station to allow it to succeed. Low budget, means low production values. SUN doesn’t have access to the 1 BILLION given to the CBC, so they couldn’t afford to have foreign offices, or reporters all over the world.

    3. Cable companies put them on channels that no one visits. Most people never even knew the station existed.

    4. Low budgets meant that the same crew were the only folks viewers could see, and it became a station where you see the same 5 people all day.

    5. Little too “strident” for the average Canadian.

    The main loss however, will be to Canadians who would like to hear both sides of the story. Only the folks at SUN dared call terrorists, and terrorism by the real name. Only SUN sent people into mosques to video tape and expose the spreading extremists views readily available in Canada.

    No worries though…..folks like Ezra Levant, and Brian Lilley won’t be calling it quits just yet. They will just find a different venue to get their message out.

    At least now I can cancel my Bell.

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