Tuesday, September 7, 2010

 

BABY AND BATH WATER - TURFED-OUT!

The Toronto International Film Festival, one of the world's most prestigious, is about to get underway. Believe me try as he may, CTV pretty-boy Ben Mulroney is not going to be able to overcome the sad sack fact that English Canada long ago abdicated any homegrown star system to our American neighbours. In Canada there are simply no music, television or movie stars unless they first move south of the border.

While Toronto may go bonkers over the line-up of American super-personalities who will attend next week; in this country, and in English speaking Canada more specifically, our "default" stars are the parliamentarians, the politicians and the journalists who grind-out the daily media coverage of the debates, events, activities and the related travels from coast to coast.

My FaceBook friends have noted; and the Canadian Press finally now reports that there however has been an unprecedented convergence of both over the past week, and it's in fact America's "star" media which made the connection. The U.S. based entertainment trade magazine - "The Hollywood Reporter" has joined the ranks of Canadian outlets covering the controversial bid to introduce "Sun News" (Dubbed - Fox North) to cable subscribers north of the 49th. After just short of a century covering the hot American star scene, since early this month the "Reporter" has run two stories over the publicly expressed fears in Canada that the promoters of "Sun News", primarily Kory Teneycke, will turn the proposed network into a mainstream mouthpiece for the Conservative Government of Prime-Minister Stephen Harper.

Well-known author Margaret Atwood launched her own offensive against the proposed news channel about ten days ago by issuing a flurry of Twitter "tweets" denouncing the proposal from Quebecor / Sun Media and urging like-minded Canadians to sign a petition called "Stop Fox News North." Ms Atwood notes that Mr. Harper's government has a past pattern of silencing critics and she's expressed concern for the head of the regulating agency, CRTC Chair Konrad von Finckenstein - "Will CRTC head's head roll to get Sun licence? That's my concern;" she tweeted.

The CRTC has already denied Sun's bid for a category 1 licence, but concern has been expressed over an unusual decision to fast-track a revised application for the proposed channel which would allow "Sun News" to jump the step everyone else has to take: To wit - persuade cable companies and satellite providers to offer the service to their customers.

Certainly since Kory Teneycke became Vice-President of Development for Quebecor with responsibility for Sun Media's Parliamentary news service there's been a palpable neo-conservative shift in coverage. Mr. Teneycke got the job after leaving the Prime Minister's Office where he was Mr. Harper's Director of Communications. While the "new" Sun media coverage isn't always Harper positive; the most vocal critics, including long-time respected Sun columnist Greg Weston, have been turfed overboard.

Regardless of "Sun News Network's" success or not; even in its pre-licensing stage it seems to have engendered tectonic shifts in coverage of Ottawa's "Star" political scene - Not the least of which is the abrupt departure of Tom Clark from CTV's flagship political program: "Power Play With Tom Clark" after almost 40 years as one of the network's top journalists. In addition to the "Sun's" Weston, Clark joins other high-profile journalists leaving to "pursue other opportunities" including Anchors Kevin Newman (Global) and the retiring Lloyd Robertson (CTV).

In a just published commentary in the "Globe and Mail" titled: Why Does The Harper Government Do What It Does"; Carleton University Political Scientist, Jonathan Malloy describes the new Conservative ideology as inconsistent and..."in the end no one seems to have a clear explanation that makes sense of the Harper Government."

Most observers will agree that through these ending summer months the government appears to have stumbled several times from setbacks that for the most part have been self-inflicted. The wasteful spending on the Toronto Summits; the killing of the long-form census; and the controversial untended purchase of F-35 "stealth" fighter jets from the United States among them.

Somehow the scheme may be to create the kind of sharp polarization in politics here that has divided, and cripples the government, the administration and the people of the United-States, and for which Fox News (USA) bears no small level of blame. As Professor Malloy concludes in his "Globe and Mail" commentary - "One thing is clear, (Harper's) is a stubborn government that refuses to back down." But if anything, Canada's (and Canadians') history of inclusion rather suggests that we are pragmatic, common sensed, progressive, and patriotic. Hardly stubborn!

Perhaps more than ever this fall as Parliament resumes (polarized or not) Canada's news media and journalists will have a singularly significant role to play making sure Canadians are fully and fairly informed: The stakes may be that high.

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