I read a post yesterday about one of my Gather friends and her experience at a doctor’s office which had Fox News playing in the waiting room (Hart, 2010) Now when I lived in the States I was known to leave such waiting rooms if they insisted on airing such polarizing (not to mention non-factual) material in a communal lobby. To me it says a lot about the character of those in charge if they are willing to broadcast such material, and I have no desire to be associated with their character. The one power that I could exercise consistently was my power to leave the location. I did not listen to Fox much at all: but I had coworkers who did and was able to observe the effect on them. It was like the slow effect of erosion: even though they recognized the distortion in the reporting (some called it “entertainment”) such lies and evil can eventually work their way into the most steadfast of hearts.
Fox News was one of the reasons that I was glad to come back to Canada, where we have fewer such intrusions in our lives. Most of those I speak to who had experienced Fox network in the States thought it was laughable. Much of the current polarization and partisanship that can be seen in American politics can be traced to the stories and hype generated or propagated by Fox News and its ilk. Although we have our own version of such polarity in Canada, I had hoped we were free from the extremes I saw down south. That was until recently.
This came to my attention when I was bouncing about the Internet, and I discovered a note about one of my favourite authors, Margaret Atwood. She has actively stood up against the move of a new Fox-style station in Canada, which she claims is being pushed by the head of our government system. “Prime Minister Harper… His plan is to create a ‘Fox News North’ to mimic the kind of hate-filled propaganda with which Fox News has poisoned U.S. politics. The channel will be run by Harper’s former top aide…” (Globe and Mail: Sept 1, 2010) Much though I believe in freedom of speech and the press, I would have to disagree with the P.M. using his position to push through a favoured position for this network. I had my doubts, but Ms. Atwood has the kid of character I do believe. Unlike Mr. Harper.
And apparently it is true. The new network is to be called “Sun TV” (thought it is commonly referred to as “Fox News North”). It has been pushed forward by people who were once among Mr. Harper’s top media staff (although some have resigned in the last few weeks: CanadaEast, 2010). There is quite a bit of controversy (Canadian Journalism Project, 2010) surrounding decisions being made, and it takes a bit of effort to wade through the disinformation. So it seems that the “Fox News Effect” is already touching our once news-placid country. As I started to explore more about the subject, I even discovered that my union (OPSEU) has come out against it. (OPSEU, 2010).
When I first heard that the CRTC (The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) had rejected the bid for a license, I wondered at the legality of the rejection. That is, until I dug a little deeper. It was not a complete rejection (in fact, not a real rejection at all): just rejection of a special class of station that is currently rare to grant. The owners of the network had claimed, in the application, that they were trying to introduce “an Information & Analysis channel, a completely new genre in Canada” (Globe and Mail, 2010) and that they therefore need “preferred status”: Category 1 in our network system. These are special channels that are required to be included by cable carriers and which are protected with regards to format because they are “unique”. Instead, the CRTC is telling the owners that Sun TV will be just like other news stations, in spite of their high opinions of themselves. They will have to compete for funding and positions on cable systems across the country. Considering that the those who own and promote the station, including Mr. Harper, are such staunch advocates of a “free market economy”, I think this is perfectly appropriate. They will sink or swim with popular tides.
Lastly, however, I remind my readers that we need to be vigilant in the war against such greed, propaganda, and disinformation. We have enough of it on our soil without this kind of so-called journalism. Until just the last few days (or even hours: Hollywood Reporter, 2010), it appeared that the backers of Sun TV were going to try again for a preferred status on the airwaves. We might be safe for the moment, but we should be wary. In a democracy, opinion counts: if it is heard. At the minimum sign an on-line petition asking to keep things as they are: it appears that in this case the petition actually did what it was intended to do (MarketingMag.com, 2010) and there is an investigation into falsified names being added by some who wanted to discredit the process (DigitalJournal.com, 2010). Write to the CRTC; write to your MP. Let them know your disgust with anything like Fox News. Such programming will probably eventually reach into our Canadian system, but in a free market we can put it exactly where it deserves to go.
This post was originally published on Gather.com, and is reproduced here (primarily to try to keep my writing in one spot).