You know, if having a national news network run by Stephen Harper’s former communications director means I never have to ever listen to another Conservative drag out the tired canard of the so-called “Liberal media” then I think this whole Fox News North thing might just be worth it. Frankly, I thought they’d give up that sad persecution complex when they sent Mike Duffy to patronage heaven to become the most partisan shill the Senate has seen in years, but I underestimated their lack of bashfulness at making ridiculous arguments that fly in the face of all logic (my mistake, really).
But seriously, say what you will about Quebecor and Sun Media, but they’re businesspeople and they're not dumb. Launching a new news network requires a significant investment in infrastructure, resources and talent and I’m sure they’ve done their homework. They must have done the research and come to the conclusion there’s a sound business case here.
I’ll admit, I’m sceptical though. This would be the third national news network for Canada (sorry ROBTV, you don’t count) after CBC Newsworld and CTV Newsnet. I think all those networks have changed their names, but I don’t really watch them often enough to keep up. The CBC couldn’t afford chairs for awhile, I do remember that. Peter Mansbridge isn’t getting any younger, guys.
We’re not the United States though, which is able to (barely, I think) support CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Canada has a fraction of the population and the advertising revenue to support three networks and there are only so many Alpacas to be farmed, and only so many times Patrick can take out life insurance.
I also don’t believe we’re as conservative a country as the U.S., so I wonder how much of an audience this network will hold once the novelty wears off. And, frankly, setting out to design a network with a particular bias seems silly to me. I have to wonder, just how interesting would it be?
If you like having your worldview constantly reinforced, if you never want your opinions or assumptions to be challenged, then conservatives may enjoy such a network. Fox South certainly has an audience; it’s an undeniable business success. But for me, I certainly can’t speak for all Liberals, but I’d find it boring never being challenged in my beliefs. I like a little intellectual stimulation; it’s good for the soul, and for my beliefs. And I don’t think echo chambers make for particularly compelling television either.
I also reject the premise this network seems founded on, that a liberal media bias permeates the rest of the press. I’ve been a journalist for over 10 years now (not covering politics obviously, but the IT industry) and I can say with some authority the only thing most journalists are biased towards is a good story. Bad for Liberals, Conservatives, Natural Law, they don’t care if it will get the ratings.
I get pissed off at the media all the time for alleged conservative bias. Often the same media my conservative friends complain about being liberally biased. Which either means those media outlets are just giving it to all as deserved and we're both wrong, or they're just really, really crappy and we're both right.
But as a journalist, I’m perhaps not as hostile to this new network as some of my progressive brethren may be. The media is hurting in this country; the profession of journalism is hurting. So if Quebecor wants to invest millions of dollars to hire journalists and build a new media organization, I view that as a positive. Jobs for journalist = good.
I think designing it with a bias is silly, but whatever happens on the op/ed side of the network, if they keep hiring respected professionals like David Akin on the journalism side of the house – and give them the freedom to do what they do well -- then I’m confident some real journalism will be happening there, and we do need more real journalism in Canada. I think that opinion/news wall will be the thing to watch going forward though.
So I say welcome our new Conservative television overlords. And at the end of the day, in the best of conservative theory and dogma, the market will decide the value of Fox News North. Either it will prove a viable business model, or it won’t, so I say let the market decide. And unlike Conrad Black, I don’t think Pierre Karl Péladeau is a fan of losing money for ideological reasons. If there’s no market, this new network will become Keith Olbermanized pretty quickly.Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers