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The tragedy of Sun News’ closing is the loss of a counterpoint to the existing media establishment. (J.P. Moczulski For The Globe and Mail)
The tragedy of Sun News’ closing is the loss of a counterpoint to the existing media establishment. (J.P. Moczulski For The Globe and Mail)

John Doyle: The end of Sun News is both national tragedy and farce Add to ...

So farewell then, Sun News. Gone on Friday the 13th with a wee whimper.

How to classify the closing? It is tempting to mock. Shortly after Sun News went dark came a release from Fox announcing that 10 more episodes of World’s Funniest Fails had been ordered. Tempting to throw Sun News into World’s Funniest Fails. Tempting, but wrong.

The Sun News fail is both a national tragedy and a farce.

The mere existence of Sun News was met with outrage from the start. A very Canadian kind of outrage. High dudgeon about “Fox News North” bringing right-wing ranting to Canada. Bless my soul, the True North strong and free could not possibly withstand this assault. As if we didn’t know how to watch TV with a skeptical eye and laugh at absurdity. As if we didn’t know from watching The Daily Show that you can laugh at Fox News. As if we didn’t already have Don Cherry and Kevin O’Leary. As if we didn’t already have the sort of people like the man who wrote to me, not long before Sun News launched, addressing the letter to “John Doyle, Scrotum of the Globe and Mail.”

We don’t do blunt in Canada. We do tut-tutting. We’re delusional about our media and smug about how broad-minded we are. We’re not broad-minded, often. We’re intolerant of bluntly expressed opinions and attitudes. For heaven’s sake, we’ve allowed Tim Hortons to commandeer our national self-image.

There are many things to admire about the United States and one of its admirable qualities is the vigour and strength of its media and political debate. When those who petitioned against the launch of Sun News did their complaining and wailing, that’s what they were afraid of – the arrival of the pith and vinegar of loud, finger-pointing, vigorous debate. I suspect that many who loathed Sun News and now cheer its demise feel that we should have laws against obnoxiousness.

The tragedy is the loss of a counterpoint to the existing media establishment. The loss of obnoxious voices, from that of Ezra Levant to Brian Lilley’s comic obsession with the CBC. The tragedy is that a national channel expressing blunt views is now silenced. The tragedy is that there is less challenge to our smugness.

The farce is that Sun News was never very good at doing what it set out to do. It was boring TV. Mostly, it was cheap, cheesy, terrible television. You could learn a great deal about the utter banality of well-meant but badly executed TV by watching it. Sun News tended to have terrible timing, too. One night shortly after it launched, during the 2011 federal election campaign, I turned it on and the first thing I saw was Ezra Levant waving around a giant cigar and making a speech about Cuba. Odd, I thought. There’s an election on here. Not in Cuba, obviously. But Levant was anxious to let us know his views on events in Cuba. It was Cuba this and Castro that, interminably. Levant had written a long, long analysis of matters Cuban and was talking it at us.

There is a double farce, one supposes, in the noise that Levant and his fellow Sun News ranters made. Boy, they were loud, but viewing numbers never reflected an actual interest of any intensity in the anti-this and anti-that rants. We should note that as we move on. We live under a government that, you know, would often have us believe that a lot of the views expressed on Sun News are consensus views. My posterior.

Finally, back to the tragedy element. Sun News was a nice outfit to deal with. Boss Kory Teneycke was always open, honest, generous with his time and anxious to talk about television. I once accepted an invitation to appear on Sun News (there were many invitations) and I was greeted by a gaggle of cheerful, warm and gracious people. Sara MacIntyre, whom I had described in this column as “all gum-chewing, hair-swinging, finger-wagging, mall-rat malice and attitude” went out of her way to greet me and we had a lovely chat. I liked her grace and humour.

I’ve been on CBC-TV and Radio many times. Different experience. Often rudeness and boorishness.

So farewell then, Sun News. It was nice knowing you. Not a funny fail at all.

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Follow on Twitter: @MisterJohnDoyle

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