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Margaret Wente

Who's afraid of right-wing TV? Add to ...

"We're taking on the mainstream media!" Kory Teneycke declared the other day as a dozen people from the mainstream media earnestly scribbled notes. "We're taking on smug, condescending, often irrelevant journalism. We're taking on political correctness. We will not be a state broadcaster offering boring news by bureaucrats, for elites, and paid for by taxpayers. We'll be unapologetically patriotic."

The combative Mr. Teneycke is big news in media circles these days. As the front man for the new Sun TV News Channel (also known as Fox News North), he styles himself a giant-killer. The giant is us, especially the insufferably liberal CBC (which used to employ Mr. Teneycke as a right-wing commentator, but never mind). The MSM have shut out conservative points of view. We're out of touch with ordinary Canadians. What the public wants is more straight talk and red meat.

At the same time, my leftish friends are in despair. In their view, it's they who have been shut out. The mainstream media, they argue, are already largely right-wing and vast swaths of it - including talk radio, the Sun newspaper chain, the National Post and Maclean's magazine (on account of Mark Steyn, I guess) have been hijacked by the forces of darkness. The Globe and Mail's Rick Salutin, who has been published in the mainstream media for more than 30 years, often talks as if he is the last of the Beothuks.

Personally, I'd love it if Sun TV took off. If our brains haven't rotted out from watching Al Jazeera, we can probably endure Ezra Levant. The trouble is, will we want to? For sheer entertainment value, our right wing can't possibly compete with the American right wing. Show me a conservative in Canada who sincerely believes that Barack Obama was born in Kenya or that Sarah Palin would make a terrific president. Next to American conservatives, our conservatives are wimps. Who's going to stay glued to Sun TV when it lands that exclusive interview with Vic Toews?

But the real trouble with attack TV in Canada is not (as some people claim) that the national temperament is too polite. The trouble is that despite all the posturing and theatrics, our politics are too middle-of-the-road. In the U.S., the politics are poisonously and often self-destructively partisan. Here, it's sometimes hard to tell who's left or right of whom on what. The Conservatives are guilty of foolish spending on the summits. The Liberal Leader is to the right of Stephen Harper on Afghanistan. So go figure.

In the end, this network isn't principally about ideology at all. It's about the money. Sun TV's backer is Pierre Karl Péladeau, a right-wing Quebec media tycoon with loot and connections to burn. Right now, he has a money-losing Toronto TV station, to say nothing of his struggling Sun newspaper chain. But once he gets his cable licence, he'll also get a licence to print money. That's because Sun TV will be largely funded by you, the TV viewer, through your cable fees. Specialty TV channels are nice to own because they generate a steady stream of revenue even if you and I never watch them. As CTV's Tom Clark remarked to Mr. Teneycke, "You're running a channel that believes in fundamental conservative values ... and yet your business model relies on sucking on the public teat." Not unlike the condescending, parasitic CBC.

I wish this story mattered as much as the mainstream media seem to think it does. The truth is that more Canadians are watching the World Cup than all the Canadian and American news networks put together. I think I know why. At the end of the day, I'm sick of news. After a hard day's work here at the intellectual property factory, I need a break. So I go home and tune into TLC. There's something about female cops clapping handcuffs on the bad guys that is irresistible. Call me lowbrow. But I want more of that.

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