You know what’s great about Sun News Network? No, it’s not the seamless marriage of perpetual fury and Wayne’s World-esque production values. It’s not even the daily five o’clock cutoff, where all the female talent goes ‘poof!’ and the Sun set becomes a soapbox for hours of spitty white male outrage. The best thing about the folks who bring you “Hard News, Straight Talk” is their utter lack of consistency. Or, since we’re all we’re straight talking here, let’s call it what it really is: hypocrisy.
Just over a week ago, the Sun News people grabbed hold of the story about interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel having been a member of the Bloc Québécois… and, well, hasn’t really let go since. Just yesterday the network fronted a story touting Turmel’s membership in the BQ as well as the “radically separatist” Québec Solidaire. ‘Byline‘ host (and, in the spirit of SNN’s trademark hyperbole, the network’s in-house right-wing commie-baiter) Brian Lilley took to his blog to decry Turmel’s separatist past and supposed radically communist leanings. “Quebec Solidiare is no mild-mannered left-wing political party or your grandfather’s labour movement political action group, they are full on commies,” Brian wrote.
Brian has every right in the world to denounce radical left-wing fringe elements, real or imagined, in Canadian society. However, he might have taken a look in his backyard before getting all frothy. Had he done so, he’d note that QMI, Sun’s own press agency, which provides much of the content to the Sun chain of papers, regularly publishes the bon mots of one Jacques Lanctôt. Why, just today Lanctôt wrote a breezy 700 words about the delights—”justice, peace, health care and culture for all”—of Castro’s Cuba.
You be the judge as to whether Lanctôt qualifies as ‘radical’, based on his past: he was one of the driving forces behind the Front de libération de Québec (FLQ) and founder of the FLQ’s ‘Liberation cell’ that was responsible for the kidnapping of British trade secretary James Cross in 1970. He served three years in jail as a result, and went into exile for eight years after his release. Now he writes for the same outfit as Brian Lilley, who for some reason has made no mention of this flagrant infiltration of a known communist, separatist radical into one of the largest media companies in the country. What if the CBC had published the columns of a known communist, separatist radical? You think we’d be hearing the same silence?
As for run-of-the-mill, non-kidnapping, non-radical separatists: Quebecor, the company that owns Sun News and the Sun chain of newspapers, employs those too. There’s former PQ minister Joseph Facal and Richard Martineau, who also hosts a show on Quebecor’s LCN all-news network. Hell, even former premier Bernard Landry, the man who once compared the Canadian flag to a “red rag,” once wrote for Quebecor—before his union sympathies got the better of him and he gave up his column during the Journal de Montréal lockout in 2009. If there’s a pan-Canadian outfit that promotes the thoughts and words of separatists and radicals, it seems the NDP has a competitor.
Oh, and remember the news about Conservative Transportation Minister Denis Lebel being a Bloc Québécois member? I asked the folks at the media monitoring service Infomart to find the number of times SNN hosts talked about it. The answer: once, on August 9. How about Turmel’s similar dalliance with the avowed separatist party? 936 times between August 2 and August 11. Straight news, indeed.
Finally, a digression. Last June, Sun News journalist (and proud SUNshine Girl) Krista Erickson grilled dancer and choreographer Margie Gillis, asking her, among other things, “the sum total of grants and public money [Gillis] has received throughout [her] career.” It was a cutesy bit of TV: pit the airy, Atwood-inflected arts type against Erickson’s blond indignation and watch the sparks fly. SNN would be guilty only of ripping off what Fox news does every day, were it not for one not-so-small detail: Quebecor, Sun News’s parent corporation, regularly avails itself of taxpayer dough—and complains, loudly, when it doesn’t get it.
Exhibit B: in 2010, Quebecor President Pierre-Karl Péladeau threatened to sue the Canadian Media Fund when it refused to pony up money for TVA’s Star Académie, our very own version of American Idol that is, in Péladeau’s words, “the biggest success in the history of Canadian broadcasting.”
Now why would the biggest success in Canadian broadcasting history need even one cent of taxpayer money? Sounds like the kind of hard biting question for Sun News, doesn’t it?