Skip to content

‘Fox News North’: Tempest at a Tea Party?

September 16, 2010

Quebecor Inc’s announcement for plans to launch a 24-hour news channel called Sun TV News, aimed at Canadian conservative viewers, set off a fierce debate in the Canadian mediascape, with the plot getting thicker and thicker from its initial June announcement. That was when Quebecor CEO Pierre Peladeau announced that former spokesperson for Prime Minister Harper, Kory Teneycke, would head up the project as VP of Business Development, with an investment from Quebecor estimated to be $100M over five years.   Reputedly to be loosely based on the format of the very right-wing Fox News in the United States, Teneycke was reportedly in talks with various Canadian conservative pundits to serve as hosts for the cable show (Krashinsky, June 14; Chase, June 11).

Teneycke’s youth and solid conservative credentials garnered much press; in a profile by Globe and Mail journalist Steven Chase it was reported that Teneycke wanted to use Sun TV as a way to skewer some of the “bête noires of the Canadian right. ‘If you have a teacher or examples of teachers who are trying to jam lefty philosophy down your throat, please send me an e-mail,’ Mr. Teneycke told a high-school student at the March conference [2010 Manning Networking Conference]. ‘I’d love to make them famous’” (Chase, July 9).

Quebecor Media asked for a must-carry license (Category 1) for their station, citing special consideration as an information and analysis channel; the CRTC rejected this, saying that no top-category broadcasting licenses would be available until October 2011 at the earliest.

In August Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin asked whether Harper was curtailing the CRTC’s independence related to the issuing of the request for Sun TV:  “Do the CRTC board members actually think they can get away with delaying or denying Mr. Harper’s wishes on Fox News North? Do they really believe they have some kind of independent power”, he wrote. He further suggested that insiders were reporting that Harper wanted Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein out before his mandate is set to expire in 2012, with one offer of an ambassadorship in Chile.  Vice-Chairman Michel Arpin’s term was not renewed, fueling further speculation of disagreement of Harper with the CRTC. Martin further reported that: “The CRTC is supposed to have some independence. It is supposed be at arm’s length. But, in this government, arm’s length has a different meaning, as in knuckles’ length”.

In response, von Finckenstein wrote a letter to the editor published in The Globe and Mail, vehemently denying any abrogation of their independence:

“I would like to categorically state that no one at any level of government has approached me about the Sun TV application, the appointment of the CRTC’s vice-chair of broadcasting, or my own mandate.

Quebecor’s application is being treated according to the CRTC’s well-established processes. The application was published on Sept. 1 for comment, and a public hearing will be held in Gatineau, Que., starting on Nov. 19. The CRTC will then make a decision on the basis of the evidence on the public record.”

Meanwhile, an online petition, ‘Stop Fox News North’, was initiated by Avaaz.org, a membership driven global online advocacy organization that develops campaigns for social justice. As of September 15, the petition had garnered 81,920 signatures.

To CRTC Chair von Finckenstein and PM Harper:
As concerned Canadians who deeply oppose American-style hate media on our airwaves, we applaud the CRTC’s refusal to allow a new “Fox News North” channel to be funded from our cable fees. We urge Mr. von Finckenstein to stay in his job and continue to stand up for Canada’s democratic traditions, and call on Prime Minister Harper to immediately stop all pressure on the CRTC on this matter.

Celebrated literary novelist Margaret Atwood signed on to the Avaaz petition, and told Jane Taber of the Globe and Mail that “Of course Fox & Co. can set up a channel or whatever they want to do, if it’s legal etc., …But it shouldn’t happen this way. It’s like the head-of-census affair – gov’t direct meddling in affairs that are supposed to be arm’s length – so do what they say or they fire you. It’s part of the ‘I make the rules around here,’ Harper-is-a-king thing”.

Commented Marc Raboy, Beaverbrook Chair in Ethics, Media and Communications at McGill University: “The CRTC is one of the most important Canadian government agencies when it comes to ensuring the democratic function of Canadian media and equitable access for Canadians to those media. As in other civilized countries, it is meant to operate independently, at arms-length from the government of the day. This is a good moment to consider whether Canada is as civilized as we like to think it is…”

In mid-September Avaaz alleged that someone had fraudulently signed the petition with the names of several journalists, as well as the Sesame Street character Snuffleupagus, thus attempting to taint the integrity of their petition.  Avaaz asked the Ottawa Police and RCMP to probe this allegation, citing proof that an Ottawa based web address was used to add the names of the petitioners: “We do not yet have all the facts, but it appears to speak to the poisonous political climate and deeply deceptive tactics that have been bred by the radical right in Canada and its progenitor in the US. It is precisely this kind of bare-knuckled, brazenly deceptive and often hateful political climate that Sun TV’s “Fox News North” appears keen to promote.” (http://www.avaaz.org/en/canada_campaign_response, their emphasis).

Teneycke went on the defensive. However, suspicions were raised because of Teneycke’s ability to publicly identify some of the fake petition signatures before the list even became public.

Avaaz responded with a new petition, mounting an online campaign fund:

In just 6 days, our petition to stop “Fox News North” from getting special access to our cable fees has exploded to over 75,000 signatures!

Together, we can stop Harper and his crony-media — which is why “Fox News North” has launched a full scale attack on Avaaz: with smear pieces attacking us in their own newspapers. They’ve also admitted suspicious insider knowledge of a criminal sabotage of our petition — fraudulently signing up key journalists to discredit us in the press as spammers. And we’ve received a letter from their lawyers threatening to sue us if we don’t change our petition within 24 hours!
(http://www.avaaz.org/en/canada_press_release and https://secure.avaaz.org/en/fox_news_north_attacks/?cl=742547333&v=7132)

On September 15, in a surprise move, Teneycke stepped down from his post at Quebecor, stating that his staying at the helm was detrimental to receiving regulatory approval for Sun TV: “Part of leading a team is knowing when your presence is a detriment to success” (Chase & Taber, September 15).

Meanwhile, the CRTC is set to hear Quebecor’s application on November 19th for the Category 2 specialty license, but have asked for  mandatory access – to be offered on at least one tier or package by each cable distributor, for at least the first three years.

A brief chronology (current to past)

September 16, 2010. John Doyle. 10 things you need to know about Fox News North. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/television/john-doyle/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-fox-news-north/article1709111/?cmpid=rss1

September 15, 2010. Steven Chase and Jane Taber. Former Tory Spokesman Exits Sun TV. The Globe and Mail.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/former-tory-spokesman-exits-sun-tv/article1708269/

September 15, 2010. Don Martin. Teneycke leaving was right move for Sun TV. http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2010/09/15/don-martin-with-teneycke-gone-sun-tv-can-get-on-with-business/

September 10, 2010. Marc Raboy. Harper putting the heat on the CRTC. http://media.mcgill.ca/en/harper_putting_heat_on_crtc

September 8, 2010. Letter to the editor from Konrad Von Finckenstein. The Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/sept-8-letters-to-the-editor/article1699050/

September 3, 2010. CBC Video.Anti-Sun TV petition.(Ricken debates Kory Teneycke).
http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/News/Featured_Videos/ID=1582123926

September 2, 2010. Susan Krashinsky. Quebecor takes new stab at TV license. The Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/quebecor-takes-new-stab-at-tv-licence/article1694601/

September 1, 2010. CRTC. Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2010-649. Notice of hearing19 November 2010
Gatineau, Quebec
Deadline for submission of interventions/comments: 1 October 2010. http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2010/2010-649.htm

September 1, 2010. Jane Taber. Margaret Atwood takes on ‘Fox News North’. The Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/margaret-atwood-takes-on-fox-news-north/article1692853/

Avaaz.org. Canada: Stop Fox News North.
http://www.avaaz.org/en/no_fox_news_canada/?cl=716944315&v=7018

August 19, 2010. Lawrence Martin. Is Harper set to move against the CRTC? The Globe and Mail.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/lawrence-martin/is-stephen-harper-set-to-move-against-the-crtc/article1677632/

July 15, 2010. Susan Krashinsky. CRTC refuses Sun TV’s bid for preferred status on dial. The Globe and Mail.  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/crtc-refuses-sun-tvs-bid-for-preferred-status-on-dial/article1641654/

July 9, 2010. Steven Chase. One smooth operator who’s crazy like a Fox. The Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/kory-teneycke-one-smooth-operator-whos-crazy-like-a-fox/article1635102/

June 21, 2010. Brian Topp.  The Issue with SUN TV. The Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/second-reading/brian-topp/the-issue-with-sun-tv/article1611422/

June 14, 2010. Susan Krashinsky. ‘Fox news North’ primed for launch. The Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/fox-news-north-primed-for-launch/article1603483/

June 11, 2010. Steven Chase. Right-wing television needs upscale market. The Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/right-wing-television-needs-upscale-market/article1601831/

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: