Opinion With Michael Coren

Fall 2011 CSANews Issue 80  |  Posted date : Sep 02, 2011.Back to list

Early this July, I accepted an extremely generous offer to host a new prime-time show on Sun News TV. Coren Tonight airs weeknights at 7 p.m., repeated later in the evening. I've hosted a show for more than 12 years at Crossroads Television, presenting 3,000 episodes, winning a dozen awards and interviewing thousands of guests, including prime ministers, IRA leaders, Marxist revolutionaries, Nobel Prize winners, authors and activists from every political affiliation you could imagine. We have been extremely controversial at times, dealing with issues that other television shows would never approach, and have relished breaking barriers and poking fun at the status quo and the establishment.

Sometimes, we have gotten into a little bit of trouble but, in all that time and over all of those shows, I never witnessed as much hatred and hysteria around a television enterprise as I have concerning Sun News. For that matter, in almost 30 years of journalism in Britain and Canada, I don't think that I've seen such hatred and hysteria. It's as though a rock has suddenly been lifted and the creatures beneath run wild in panic. In this case, the creatures are critics and pundits, metaphorically screaming their displeasure. Between us, some of the fiercest of them applied for jobs at the station and were rejected, or assumed that they should be approached and never were. There is none so angry as a journalist scorned.

The screamers can be subdivided. First, there are the allegedly sophisticated types who accuse Sun TV of lacking in intelligence. This tends to be what people on the left say about people on the right; the irony is that they say it because they can't win arguments against the other side. In other words, because people on the left are intellectually inferior, they turn to abuse and insults. What fun! It's also extremely out of place in this context, because Sun host Ezra Levant has written two bestsellers, my 13th book has just entered its fourth printing, and the likes of Charles Adler, Brian Lilley and David Akin (the other prime-time hosts) are some of the best-read and most informed people in journalism.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many, if not most, people on Canadian television, who are often achingly insular, have little world experience and are guided more by weeping Oprah than by wise opinion. As one woman journalist said to me, "Sun is, like, you know, like, stupid. Whatever." No joke – I took down her words verbatim. In fact, this chorus of disapproval has now become standard in what are regarded as left-of-centre circles, just as is the case with Fox News TV in the United States – usually from people who have never seen the station.

We even get the example of people criticizing the lighting and camera work at Sun TV, which is actually extremely funny. Why? Because the people doing the criticizing would not know a television light if they fell over one and have no idea what lighting is meant to do or look like. The same goes for camera work. They've simply heard this complaint from someone else who knows nothing about television and they repeat it, assuming that it makes them sound intelligent. 

Then there are those who dislike the station's alleged conservatism. Fair enough, I suppose, but this is mere tribalism. The CBC has worn its liberalism and socialism on its publicly funded sleeve for decades. Which is worse: a private, self-financed station having a stated opinion, or a public, state-supported one claiming objectivity while slavishly following a particular ideology?

After the leftists come the lazies. These are the television critics who are so intimate with the established networks that they sometimes resemble publicists, rather than commentators. Anything new is threatening to them, and this paradoxical conservatism makes them incapable of offering "fair and balanced" thoughts regarding the revolution that is happening in Canadian television.

The truth about Sun News is that ratings and advertising are far ahead of predictions – believe me, I would not have left a safe, well-paid job if this were not the case. As for the future, it is almost inevitable that the same political and cultural shift in this country that made the Tories the natural party of government, will eventually lead to Sun News being one of, if not the leading television station in Canada.

Change can be scary to vulnerable and needy people. Suddenly, the world is a bigger place and it's time to grow up. Sorry guys, you can't keep a good country down, and you can't keep a good television network down either. 

Don't hide from the Sun, bathe in it.

Coren's new book, Why Catholics Are Right, is published by McClelland & Stewart 

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