Less than one week after Toronto's Newstalk 1010 announced the cancellation of their controversial Sunday afternoon radio talk show, Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug have landed another plum media gig, as hosts of Ford Nation, a new weekly talk show scheduled for Monday evenings on cable channel Sun News Network.
"It is the age of reality television, and there is nothing more real than the Fords," said Kory Teneycke, the network's vice-president.
The one-hour, pre-taped show will air at 8 p.m. (ET), a timeslot currently occupied by Ezra Levant's The Source.
The move comes less than two weeks after Sun, which is battling low viewer awareness and poor penetration – it is in about only 40 per cent of Canadian homes – said it was scrapping its daytime news programming in favour of opinion-oriented shows. In landing the Fords, Sun has scored two of the world's biggest media stars of the moment, ensuring high viewer interest for the Monday, Nov. 18 premiere.
For the Fords, who have been under fire from media outlets around the world over the past two weeks, the show offers a friendly environment that could allow them to get back on message.
Sun is calculating that the programs bookending Ford Nation – The Arena with Michael Coren, and Byline with Brian Lilley – will benefit from the increased tune-in.
But it also could risk offending the network's base: Even the Toronto Sun, owned by Sun's corporate parent, Quebecor Inc., has turned away from the Fords, calling repeatedly over the past two weeks for the mayor to resign. And other formerly friendly media are turning, too: On Wednesday afternoon, radio host Bill Carroll of Toronto's AM640 said he had turned down an offer from Doug Ford for an on-air interview, "because I'm tired of the non-answers."
There is little to ensure Ford Nation will be more than a novelty act. While journalists and Toronto's political class tuned in to the Fords' Newstalk broadcasts, the show averaged a 3.7 share, indicating fewer than 4 per cent of people listening to the radio on Sunday afternoons – a notoriously quiet time – tuned in.
Even if the Fords catch on with Sun viewers, their tenure may still be short-lived. Federal regulations prohibit a candidate who is campaigning for elected office from being an on-air TV or radio personality. In municipal elections, a candidate must vacate his or her on-air position two months before voting day. Sun News would therefore have to replace the Fords by Aug. 27, 2014, if both run for re-election.