Sun News kills Ford Nation TV show after one episode

The Globe and Mail

The Ford brothers attend a taping session for their show Ford Nation in Toronto on Nov. 17, 2013. (SUN NEWS NETWORK)

Ford Nation is dead - on Sun News, at least.

Less than 24 hours after its debut on Monday night, the conservative cable news channel axed Ford Nation, its highly touted TV talk show starring Rob and Doug Ford, despite record ratings for the network.

Sun News had announced the show only last Thursday, saying it would provide a regular outlet for the Fords to speak directly to both supporters and detractors.

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Earlier this month, the brothers had parted ways with Toronto’s Newstalk 1010, their home for a regular two-hour Sunday afternoon radio program since February, 2012.

While Ford Nation pulled about 155,000 viewers, according to overnight ratings, it is a victim of the brutal economics of cable TV and the Fords’ relative inexperience with the medium: Monday’s episode took five hours to record, and another eight hours to edit, making it an unusually expensive endeavour for a niche network that is in only about 40 per cent of Canadian households.

“It’s by far the most successful thing, from an audience perspective, the network has ever done,” said Kory Teneycke, vice-president of Sun News. But the program would not be produced again.

“For the Ford brothers, we welcome them back on our network, as we do all newsmakers, to be part of our programming as a guest on another show.”

During Monday’s broadcast, Sun Media personalities Joe Warmington and Ezra Levant took turns quizzing the Fords on the controversy and how they were holding up under the pressure.

“All I can do is assure you I’m changing my behaviour,” the mayor told viewers. “I was elected to go down to City Hall to end the gravy train. It’s still not over. I have a lot of work to do.“

When Doug Ford boasted about their persistent popularity in the face of the scandal, saying it took him 15 minutes to get out of the parking lot during a recent trip to Wal-Mart after he was mobbed by supporters, his brother interjected: “Fifteen? I went out to a restaurant last night, took my family out, it took me four hours to leave the restaurant. It’s humbling.”

But Ford Nation was hampered by logistics: while the Fords’ gift for relating to regular folk was on vivid display during their live Newstalk show, the pre-taped format of the Sun broadcast left them speaking only with each other and the hosts.

That forced the Fords to fall back onto their talking points. Asked by a viewer on tape if the mayor should be a role model, Rob Ford said: “Absolutely you should be a role model. But I’m only human.” He then added: “Am I perfect? I’m not perfect. But I’ll tell you what I am perfect at - watching taxpayers’ money, creating jobs, stimulating the economy.”

The decision to give the Fords their own show was controversial even within Sun Media. “Given all we know about the Fords, I’d suggest that a healthy skepticism is warranted when it comes to whatever they plan to say on their new Sun News talk show,” wrote Lorrie Goldstein, a Sun columnist and former Ford supporter. The Toronto Sun has called repeatedly for the mayor to step down.

At least one marketer distanced themselves from the show. On Tuesday afternoon, the official Canadian Tire feed tweeted: “We've learned that a manufacturer(s) using our logo ran an ad on Ford Nation last night. We did not place the ad or target the show.” Its logo had appeared on ads for Rockwell Tools.

Other advertisers on Ford Nation, which ran during a primetime slot normally occupied by Ezra Levant’s The Source, included the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, CLR cleaner, Puresleep sleep aids, Ooma telephone service, Oreck air purifiers, and Big Boss smart-top cooker.

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