Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The SUN Never Shines On TV

It's schadenfreude time as SUN TV shut down for good this past Friday morning at 5 AM when the screen suddenly went dark and was then replaced with the Sun logo and the caption "Sun News Network is no longer available, at the discretion of the programmer. We apologize for any inconvenience and hope you will continue to value all the channels included in your package." The station's website has also been replaced with the Sun logo and the links are broken. There was no public warning that this shutdown was imminent, some Sun staff actually found out by news reports from other networks, some of whom couldn't resist a few tactful choruses of "I told you so".

LAST MINUTES OF SUN NEWS;


(NOTE; This was probably a prerecorded segment as it makes no mention of their impending death knell and even has promos to two shows which will never see the light of day)

Setting aside old enemies like the CBC and the Toronto Star, even the conservative leaning press were not terribly sympathetic. The Globe & Mail piled on with "Five fatal flaws that led to the Sun News Network's demise" and The National Post's Jonathan Kay chipped in with "Why Sun News never had a fighting chance". Kay blamed the network's out-of-touch far-right demagoguery and did not offer many excuses for their failure but did ask for sympathy for the staff, but more on that later. First the facts ma'am;

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SUN News started up in April 2011 with the stated intent of offering a right-wing "alternative" to the supposedly "liberal media bias" with "hard hitting commentary", (a.k.a. "bloviating, blowhard assholes") like Ezra Levant, Micheal Coren and Krista Erikson. The network quickly attracted plenty of attention with their often wildly, and at times comically, slanted reporting and the hysterical and paranoid race-baiting, from Ezra Levant in particular, as well as for the Network's never ending jihad against the CBC and arts funding in general. SUN News quickly earned itself the derisive name FOX North. However while SUN TV got plenty of attention one thing they did not get was viewers. The ratings ranged from the embarrassingly anemic to the laughably pathetic, averaging a mere few thousand a day, even during prime-time. That's less than a decent Campus/Community radio station (as long as it's not run by Ryerson University). Literally the only two shows they ever had that got decent ratings was a celebrity boxing match wherein an audience of horrified Conservatives watched as Justin Trudeau pounded the snot out of Conservative bully boy (and future probable felon) Senator Patrick Brazeau and the abortive Ford Brothers Show which was cancelled after one episode. No viewers means no advertisers which means no money and SUN TV reported (according to CRTC documents), loses of $17 million in 2012 and $14.8 million in 2013.

Right from the start there were problems. To begin with the whole thing just looked ugly. The studio was a garishly eye assaulting blast of neon and dayglo, like an episode of a "Sports Centre" shot from the flight deck of the Starship Enterprise in a 1970's casino slot-machine floor. Harsh lighting made everybody look like mannequins in a Young Conservatives K-Mart store. They managed to achieve the look of a student amateur production with none of the charm.

The ugliness of SUN TV's very appearance was nothing compared to the ugliness of it's content. All of their onair talent was at best made up of smug blowhards reciting boilerplate right wing talking points, like FOX News's Sean Hannity in a cheap suit. But the need for SUN News to get attention by saying outrageous things or to create a "star" to be Canada's Rush Limbaugh, Bill O Reilly, Glen Beck or Anne Coulter led the likes of Krista Erikson to make a complete fool of herself with that infamous Margie Gillis ambush interview. Worse it led to the misguided attempt to build their foundation on the reckless, cynical, hateful, narcissistic pile of rancid trollshit that is Ezra Levant. SUN TV clearly counted on him being their marquee name but he was so over-the-top offensive and repellent that he quickly became more trouble than he was worth. His increasingly nasty rantings led to numerous complaints to the CRTC and Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (two of which SUN lost), a libel suit (which he again lost), and even a police investigation for hate crimes, which, rightwing paranoia notwithstanding, is quite rare. That one forced Levant to issue a reluctant apology after first bravely vowing he would never back down. In 2013 Levant aired a report (one of many) attacking Native protesters including some by name who turned to not even be in Canada at the time. Once again he refused to back down until losing yet another CSBC complaint. This past fall Levant did a typically unhinged personal attack on Justin Trudeau and his family which provoked a full Liberal Party boycott of the network until SUN News did a humiliating backpeddle and issued another apology. Levant topped himself after fatal the Lac Megantique train crash when he blamed "Native or Environmental Protestors" for derailing the train and committing mass murder. And what was the source of this gripping news flash? The shit between his ears. Most recently Levant followed that up with a rant claiming that Muslim students were boycotting Remembrance Day cuz they hate Canada and Freedom based on a memo (sent by one of his patriotic "sources") from a school board in Essex County. This memo actually tried to deal with parent's concerns about safety after the Ottawa attack and had nothing to do with any Muslim boycott. That led to yet another CSBC complaint that SUN would have most certainly lost if it had been heard before they went belly up.

To make things worse SUN lost it's free over-the-air signal within a year when it turned out they hadn't properly applied for such a signal in the first place. That was entertaining. That also left them relying purely on cable access.

tec difficult




So what do you do if you are a rabidly right-wing corporation who is morally opposed to "big government picking winners and losers" or "bailouts"? Why; blame the CRTC of course and demand a bailout for themselves. Duh.

Accordingly in 2013 SUN TV shocked many of their ideological soulmates when they applied to the CRTC to demand "mandatory carriage", a complicated scheme whereby all cable subscribers would be forced to buy (and pay for) SUN TV whether they wanted to or not. "Mandatory Carriage" is usually given to channels that serve a public interest such as the Weather Channel or described video for the blind, or for channels that reach under-served communities like aboriginal, multi-cultural or francophones. Most people who are not right wing assholes have no problem with this. But it certainly was never intended to bailout a for-profit corporation. And that's not even taking into account the embarrassing fact that SUN News had a loud and well documented history of opposing the very idea of "mandatory carriage" from their very inception. In fact during their initial license application process SUN News had explicitly denied that they ever had any intention of applying for such a socialist program. SUN TV head Kory Tenekye went so far as to state that any suggestions to the contrary were "slanderous lies". Once SUN TV had gotten it's license they went on a slash-and-burn campaign against such subsidies and arts funding, notably with ambush interviews such as Ezra Levant inviting an obscure indie band called Living With Lions only to browbeat them for accepting a small arts grant. The shell-shocked teens sheepishly returned the grant, so score one victory for "The Little Guys" I guess. This led Krista Erikson to up the ante by inviting on award winning modern dancer Margie Gillis on the pretext of discussing her work only to harangue her about arts funding (an issue Gillis is not an authority on, much less in charge of) in a bullying interview full of ad-homminum attacks and right-wing soundbites. That one so disgusted people that they filed a record number of complaints to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. After these appetizers SUN TV upped the ante and went on the warpath against their real enemy; the CBC, in a series of attacks on the CBC's funding. This even leading to Teneyke testifying in government hearings on the CBC. Finally having enough of these attacks the CBC responded with an expose of it's own on the fact that SUN News through it's parent company Quebecor was the beneficiary of millions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies every year, far in excess of the penny-ante grants given to the hated artists SUN TV targeted. That one hurt SUN News where it would hurt any media organization; attacking their basic integrity and honesty. Kory Tenekye reacted with outrage, threatening a lawsuit, but then quietly backed down. By that time he must have known that SUN would be applying to the CRTC for mandatory carriage and this would not be good time to be having that particular fight, especially since they would lose. Rather than spend more time on this here you can read the article I wrote at the time here and here and here. (My; I have bashed them a lot haven't I? I am a terrible person. More on that later)

Speaking of jihads against big government boogie men; there was their crusade against the CRTC itself. "Big Government Overeach" doncha know. All good conservative regularly rail against CRTC regs in general so when the CRTC finally pulled the plug on the notoriously inept Ryerson station CKLN in 2011, Ezra Levant took the opportunity to attack the CRTC with a laughably slanted and blatantly dishonest report that claimed that CKLN was shut down for "playing too much hip-hop" and slyly playing the race card. It was the kind of snide hatchet job only a professional activist could like. Accordingly in an example of breath-taking cynicsm the sneeringly far-left marxist CKLN spokesman Andrew Lehrer who would normally be reduced to posting smirking tweets calling Levant a racist (which he is) gleefully tweeted and re-posted Levant's article like garlic to ward off the CRTC during CKLN's predictably fruitless appeal. When it comes to politics weasels of a feather flock together. Naturally when SUN TV discovered they would need to suck up to the very same CRTC in 2013 this principled campaign suddenly dropped out of sight.

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When SUN TV made their CRTC application for "mandatory carriage" they sound found out that karma's a bitch when even most conservative pundits reacted with open disdain. To say nothing of the legions of enemies SUN had been busy making since going on air; Muslims, Aboriginals, Gays, Francophones, Roma, Greens, Unions, feminists, atheists, artists, all the groups SUN TV had targeted for insult and abuse for the past three years pounced on SUN like a pack of jackals on a wounded wildebeest in an blizzard of letters to the CRTC opposing the application. I actually fired off one myself and wrote a blog urging others to do the same which some did. It turned out the CRTC probably didn't need much of a push, the SUN's application was pretty flimsy on it's face, even setting aside it's blatant hypocrisy. During the hearings SUN executives got a rough ride with Kory Tenyeke reduced to saying that SUN TV would be forced out of business without the subsidy. The CRTC was not sympathetic; pointing out that when SUN had applied for the license in the first place they had swore they would not need such subsidies and it was not the CRTC's job to bail them out now. The answer was no. However the CRTC did allow that there might be a need to reassess some of their policies around the bundling and placement of news channels. Leading to another round of hearings last year.

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Looking to slap lipstick on a pig SUN TV grabbed at this like a drowning man and pushed their way into the hearings to urge some sort of bundling arrangement that might force cable companies to carry SUN in a solid bundle of news channels thus once again forcing at least some customers to buy the wretched channel. I considered writing again but after carefully reading the CRTC's terms of reference for the considered revisions I decided against it. The suggested changes seemed reasonable enough and certainly not worth opposing just to torment SUN News some more. Besides I also couldn't see anything that would actually save SUN TV anyway despite their whistling-past-the-graveyard bravado.

It turned out that the CRTC did indeed make several changes to their rules which would incidentally lead to including SUN TV in more packages, and group the Canadian news channels together to make them easier to find. It would also make SUN TV available in areas where it had not been. Much of this was pretty obvious stuff but that didn't stop SUN TV from doing a victory lap. However my reaction was a shrug. Making your product more available is irrelevant if you have a shitty product that nobody wants. You would think that rabid free enterprise capitalists would get that. As for the areas of the country that SUN was previously unavailable; that was mostly in areas where SUN TV's patented blend of rightwing paranoia, race-baiting, war mongering and oil company worship would be least likely to find a friendly audience; Quebec, The Martimes and the Far North. SUN TV's problem was never that people couldn't find it, it was that they didn't want it.

Accordingly SUN TV's ratings did not improve but then things got more complicated when the owner of Quebecor, SUN News's parent company, Pierre Karl Paladeau announced he was going into politics as a high profile candidate then leader of the separatist Parti Quebecois. That was weird. One of the defining characteristics of the SUN Newspaper and TV empire was it's strident federalism and disdain for Quebec nationalists so the revelation that Paladeau was a separatist all along came as quite a shocker showing just how cynical the whole enterprise was. The damage that might have caused to to the credibility of SUN News was somewhat lessened by the fact that Paladeau would have to divest himself of his business holdings. Accordingly an offer came from Post Media (who own conservative news paper The National Post) to buy out SUN Media. However after SUN TV lost their bid for mandatory carriage Post Media took a look at the numbers and decided SUN TV wasn't worth the trouble. Post Media would buy the publishing arm of SUN but left SUN TV out of the deal. Then stepped up radio exec Moses Znaimer, founder and former owner of Much Music, Bravo, CITY TV, CHUM and current owner of ZOOMER Radio to make a bid for the channel and save the day. Znaimer has a successful record in TV and might have been able to save the floundering network somehow. Ezra Levant certainly thought so and issued an asskissing statement welcoming his new master, although I suspect that if he had bought SUN TV one of Znaimer's first jobs in re-branding would have been to fire Ezra Levant. As it turned out the deal fell through when Levant's current bosses demanded too much of a cash payout in severance. That's right; in a fine example of twenty-first century capitalism the thoroughly inept management of SUN News, after losing millions of dollars, demanded so much money to fuck off that they ended up sinking the whole deal. Next to these clowns the idiots behind Target Canada look like Andrew Freaking Carnegie.

There would be no other suitors and so this Friday SUN TV put up the white flag. In a masterpiece of understatement Julie Tremblay, president and CEO of Media Group and Sun Media Corporation. Said; “This is an unfortunate outcome; shutting down Sun News was certainly not our goal.” No Shit, Captain Obvious. They naturally took absolutely no responsibility for their own failure. Of course.

Besides the earlier mentioned articles from The Post and Globe listing some reasons for the spectacular crash and burn of SUN TV and with which I have no dissent I'd like to add a few more;

BAD PRODUCT + POOR PLANNING = INCOMPETENT MANAGEMENT;
As I've already detailed SUN News was a truly crappy "News" channel. It looked ugly and it acted worse. Canadians simply didn't want it. Being fervent "free market capitalists" the management of SUN News should have taken steps to improve their product. That's the way business is supposed to work right? However Kory Tenekye (unlike Moses Znaimer) is not an experienced TV or radio exec, he was a Conservative Party political hack and clearly out of his depth.
(as an aside I can't resist pointing out; I've noticed that most of the most strident "free market" crusaders have no actual business experience; Stephen Harper, Mike Harris, Paul Ryan, Preston Manning, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Ezra Levant, Kory Teneyke, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, have spent their entire lives in right wing politics, think-tanks or media. Rather like how most of the most bellicose warhawks have no military experience)
I'm not suggesting that SUN TV would drop their conservative slant, distasteful though I find it. Their reason for existence was to promote the Conservative Party after all and The National Post was also started by Conrad Black for the express purpose of defeating the Liberals and electing a Conservative government. However the Post was able to look and act like a real newspaper and keep professional standards. But SUN's focus was so narrow, strident and mean-spirited that even many conservatives found them unwatchable, let alone having any crossover potential. However instead of making any changes to either the look or content of the channel, they stubbornly kept trying to push that boulder up the hill of indifference and hostility, with predictable results. SUN TV started out shabby and nasty, and they went out the same way.

TWO WORDS; EZRA LEVANT;
Nothing better illustrates the utter failure of SUN News management than their decision to build their brand around the dubious charms of Ezra Levant. Clearly they thought he was going to be their star as Canada's version of Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh or Glen Beck. Clearly Levant thought so too, but then Ezra Levant has never suffered from a lack narcissistic self-regard. However setting aside that Levant is a terrible person, he is also a terrible broadcaster. With his flat, nasally sneer and smug smirk that just begs to be punched, Levant is truly obnoxious in any context, even if he hadn't made a career of being a total asshole, which he has. Although SUN TV had some other "names" like Micheal Coren, Charles Adler, Brian Lilly, Pat Boland and Krista Erikson (until she quit), it was Levant who got top billing, as "Canada's Freedom Fighter" no less. With all the focus on Levant it's worth noting that he actually had little practical broadcast experience. Coren, Adler, Lilly, Boland and Erikson all have had extensive careers, mostly in talk radio, but Levant had not. His prior experience was as a right wing newspaper columnist, where people wouldn't have to actually see or hear him, and where he wouldn't have to hold anyone's attention for longer than a half dozen paragraphs once a week. As for his rather short political career Levant showed a consistent inability to be a team player. His vicious personal attacks and careless disregard for the facts led to many Conservatives to distance themselves and at least one embarrassing back-down after a lawsuit threat. The biggest fiasco came when Levant decided to run for office, in the same riding Stephen Harper had chosen for himself. This led to an embarrassing showdown until party power brokers convinced Levant to pull his head out of his ass long enough to step aside with all the transparently fake humility he could muster. The notoriously touchy Harper was not amused and Levant's brief, if entertaining, political career was over. So all the warning signs were there. Nothing that happened after that should have come as a surprise.

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The grind of a daily show was simply to much for Levant's meager talents which is one reason why he spent so much time in the same unhinged hysterical tirades about the various brown people who are ruining civilization. It's also a reason why he did not bother to research or fact check before going on the air with his latest easily debunked anti-muslim rant. Levant's cartoonish behavior quickly went from being hateful to farcical. Much as SUN TV saw itself as FOX North I seriously doubt that Roger Ailes would have given Ezra Levant a show of his own, much less built his network's reputation on such shaky foundations. True, Ailes did briefly give a show to Glen Beck, but dumped him as he became an embarrassment and Rush Limbaugh has been kept at arm's length. Even FOX has some standards, or at least a sense of self-preservation, but not SUN TV. I can easily see FOX hiring Krista Erikson, they always have a gaggle of bottle blonde harpies and Erikson couldn't possibly be any dumber than Elizabeth Hassleback or Gretchen Carlson. But not Levant. But Hiring Levant was one thing. We'll call that a gamble. But keeping him is inexcusable. After it became obvious that Levant was only generating complaints and the occasional lawsuit while picking stupid fights with the regulators that SUN needed to work with, but not getting ratings, he should have fired. Keep in mind other networks cancel shows and fire hosts for far less reason all the time. Political activists may see such stubborn refusal to admit a mistake as admirable courage and steadfast leadership, but for alleged businessmen it's just pig-headed stupidity. Rather like if during the Ford Edsel or New Coke fiasco those companies had responded to their miscalculations by saying "Fuck it; We spent a lot of money on promoting this lemon so you commie are going to buy it and like it".

FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND THE MARKET PLACE;
When SUN set out to be FOX North they never stopped to consider that Canada and America are in fact completely different nations with different cultures. FOX works in America because of historical demographic trends in racial politics, urban vs. suburban conflicts, regional rivalries, cold war disputes, religious extremism, a corporate media environment, and celebrity worship. Not mention slavery and a civil war. There is obviously a sizable built-in audience of resentful, older, poorly educated, whites who live in small towns and suburbs ready to believe in the conspiracy to take their hard earned tax dollars and give it to lazy black and brown people, gays, rude teenagers, uppity women, union thugs and greedy teachers while "surrendering to terrorists". Not that we don't have some Tea Party types here of course, Hell I assume even Iceland has their share. However much of what passes for political discourse in America is viewed by most Canadians as outlandish, bizarre, distasteful or downright offensive. A TV network dedicated to shrill rants about the dangers of big government, union thugs, environmental fascists, feminazi's, multiculturalism, creeping sharia law, lazy Indians, greedy gypsies, and parasitic artists, was never going to find much of an audience here.
But then again most if not all Conservatives and Libertarians in Canada worship America and secretly (or not so secretly) despise Canadians as weaklings, enfeebled by decades of big government Liberalism and Socialism, held back by Quebec, Multiculturalism and the lack of recent military glory. They also deeply believe that Canadians, at least the white, anglo variety, secretly want their very own Thatcher to subject them to a tight-fisted rule of austerity, tax-cuts, law & order and and a good shooting war, preferably against some dirty Muslims. They saw the victories of Stephen Harper and Rob Ford not as odd aberrations caused by specific events but permanent majorities and as confirmation that their time had come, in spite of the fact that public opinion polls consistently show otherwise. SUN News bought into this self-delusion harder than most. To admit mistake would call into question their entire reason for existence so they continued to live in their right-wing fantasy world. It's one thing for politicians to live this way, but not supposedly hard-headed businessmen are supposed to be able to distance themselves from personal emotions and change course when their product isn't connecting. SUN TV was selling a product that even if it had been of a higher quality, would have had little demand. Once again SUN News execs showed they had no business running a business.

FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND THEIR OWN AUDIENCE;
Levant may have embarrassed most respectable conservatives but the campaign for mandatory carriage showed that SUN TV was out of touch even with much of their own obvious audience. Even many conservatives were disgusted with such blatant hypocrisy and said so publicly. Most conservatives were happy to applaud SUN TV's attacks on arts subsidies, "tax payer bailouts", the CBC and mandatory carriage, so asking them, no begging them, to help SUN TV get the very same subsidies was a bridge too far. Rather like when a family values crusader gets caught with underage prostitutes. Even conservative politicians and pundits have some standards. At least in public. Not many mind you, but a few. Hatred in right wing circles for arts subsidies of any kind is deep, for SUN TV to cross that line, after spending so much effort in stirring up those very resentments was just too much for many self-respecting conservatives to hide their disgust. In America, where politics is more tribal and the pundit class more shameless they might have gotten away with this. But not here. SUN ended up having to play up a crude politics of tribal, us-vs-them, resentment against the "liberal elites" that were conspiring against them because SUN TV "Stands Up For The Little Guy". Rob Ford built a career around such rhetoric but a corporation can't really pull that off. Especially since they aren't promising to build a free subway to your front door.

warning angry mob ahead



In the end the only real base audience they had was made up of a fringe of poorly educated, paranoid, angry, older, white, English speaking bigots, conspiracy theorists, Islamophobics, and xenophobes. Not enough to build a respectable nation-wide brand on. At least not here. Yea team!

FAILURE TO WORK WITH REGULATORS;
Like all good far-right conservatives the execs at SUN TV held regulators like the CRTC, CSBC, Industry Canada in contempt. But they forgot they have to actually work with these people, and in the end they fundamentally did not understand the CRTC's role. As I pointed out during the CKLN fiasco; They are a regulatory agency, they are there to make sure to make sure everybody follows the rules. They are not there to bail you out of your own stupidity. When SUN TV first applied for a license they promised that they would never need mandatory carriage and submitted a business plan that they swore would work. The CRTC takes these promises seriously even if SUN TV did not. For SUN to come back just a few years later and basically say; "Remember all that bullshit we shoveled last time? Um..Yeah; Fuck that." showed a complete misreading of the CRTC's likely response. Then there's the issue of the numerous complaints to the CSBC.
A word of explanation here; contrary to what many people believe, the CRTC and CSBC (Canadian Broadcast Standards Council) are completely unrelated. In fact the CSBC is not even a government agency, it is a industry run watchdog to deal with complaints so the CRTC doesn't have to micro-manage them. However the CRTC certainly keeps track of serious complaints and serial offenders and takes that into account when license renewal time comes around. With it's record number of serious complaints and their dismissive attitude towards them SUN was not helping themselves. To have any hope of getting mandatory carriage SUN would have to argue that they were offering a service important enough to subsidize. A history of open hate-mongering, race-baiting, lying and slander hardly qualifies.
Once they belatedly realized they would have to crawl back to the CRTC to beg for their largess SUN TV execs acted like the political hacks they were by looking for a Conservative bagman to lobby the CRTC for them. Enter Mike Duffy, Canada's current favorite cartoon villain, who got into the act by getting caught lobbying the CRTC on SUN's behalf. The usefulness of this was somewhat compromised when everybody found out what a corrupt lying sleazebag Duffy The Hutt is. Leading to SUN News desperately firing off a press release that basically said "We did not have sexual relations with that corrupt Senator". You may have even caught some mention of this on by watching SUN NEWS, in between the never-ending, panting plugs for SUN NEWS. The CRTC must have been so pleased to find themselves dragged into a corruption scandal that had nothing to do with them. It also once again called into question SUN TV's basic competence not to mention their integrity.

DUFFY THE HUTT & KRISTA ERICSON;
jabba


As an additional CRTC related fuckup was the comical spectacle of SUN News initially going on the air with an over-the-air signal that they did not realize required a separate license. Leading a no doubt annoyed CRTC to issue an order to shut down which they did with amusing suddenness. There was little advance warning and with Ezra Levant literally in mid-rant. To quote William Hurt in "A History Of Violence"; "How do you fuck that up?!".
Another word of explanation. An application would have to first go to Industry Canada to check on the viability of the proposed signal and to make sure it doesn't interfere with any existing signals as well as to confirm the corporation is legally registered. Next it goes to the CRTC for a more in depth review of the programming and business plan. I have no idea where SUN fucked up but there's no excuse for this. It's worth remembering that rinky-dink community stations manage to get this right the first time so what's SUN's excuse? Too many Muslims in the way? Later SUN were reportedly planning to reapply for an over-the-air signal but apparently hadn't gotten around to doing so. I haven't seen such jaw-dropping incompetence since the good old days of CKLN circa 2010, but while CKLN's management were arrogant idiots, at least they were amateur idiots. SUN TV were high priced professional idiots.

MANAGEMENT GREED;
Just to recap something already mentioned, but it bears repeating. There were two offers on the table to rescue SUN TV; once when Post Media bought out the entire SUN Newspaper chain and again when that deal excluded SUN TV Moses Znaimer offered to buy the network itself. That deal fell through specifically because of the greed of SUN News execs who demanded such a rich payout that Znaimer walked away and no other offers came. Znaimer may be a egomaniac but he's not a fool. If he thought the license had some value and he could make a news network succeed he probably had good reason to give it a shot, and unlike the SUN TV execs he has the track record to make that plausible. With his breezy style and eye for talent Znaimer would have no doubt re-branded as "Zoomer News", aimed at seniors (like his current radio station) with lot's of friendly life style news and some commentary. I could see him keeping Charles Adler, business editor Pat Boland and his old-timey handlebar mustache and possibly even Coren. But definitely not Levant. He would be toast. Of course the first thing Znaimer would want to do is fire all the old, inept management and put in his own team. Hence the need for a payout. Not surprisingly they got greedy enough to scuttle the whole deal. Not surprising that is in an economic system where even the most corrupt or stupid executives are expected to get bonuses no matter how much money they loose or how much damage they cause to their own company.

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A few, probably well meaning people, like Jonathan Kay, have expressed sympathy for those staff who are now unemployed, with Kay saying if you gloat over their job losses "You are a bad person". I don't think so. These "talented young news staffers" (as some have put it) were perfectly happy to be working for a hateful propaganda machine that regularly targeted marginalized groups like Muslims, Roma and Natives who could not fight back. They happily used sleazy ambush interviews, often on the the flimsiest pretexts, sometimes on obscure figures who have no media experience on subjects they had little knowledge. They were quite prepared to broadcast blatant lies without bothering to do basic fact checking, and when they got caught they simply brushed it off until they were forced to back down in the face of a CBSC complaint or lawsuit. They regularly used ugly graphics showing blood or bombs over Muslim faces. They learned that it's OK to use vicious personal attacks, race-baiting, lying and slander as long as it suits your political agenda. If you think that's OK then you are a terrible person and a worse journalist and you are no loss to the profession. I know you would argue they were just following orders but I wouldn't go there if I were you. The best you can say about these people is that they were collateral damage and I notice that conservatives have no problem brushing off collateral damage in any other context so I'll not shed any crocodile tears over them.

As a final tribute I scanned through a few remarks in the comments section of one of the news stories about the crash and burn of SUN TV. Most were of the "good riddance to bad rubbish" variety but there were a couple Ezra Levant fans out there to send SUN off with a touch of class. One read "This is a great victory for radical Islam" (yeah those damn Muslims over at the CRTC) and another more hopeful stating; "Wouldn't it be great if this freed up Ezra to run for Prime Minister or Premier of Ontario?"

Great? That would be FUCKING AWESOME!!!