I'm Mad as Hell

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and I can't do a thing about it

Promises, promises…Sun News

Has there ever been a more hyped new television network than Sun News? After months of build up, promising to change the way Canadians view news and opinion, all I could see and hear was a great big thud.

Sun News is terrible, almost unwatchable. I have spent the last few days tuning in to as much of Sun News as I could stand. Usually I like to wait at least a week before talking about a new show or network. That gives the producers and the talent time to work out the bugs and get some kind of head of steam. On Sun News however, I see no hope of overcoming the problems they have within a week or even a month. Don’t get me wrong, I would like to see the channel succeed. I believe Canadians need a quality news and current affairs channel and we need to hear new and different opinions. I don’t have to agree with the content. I do have to be able to sit down and watch the content. I dare anyone to try to watch Sun News for any length of time.

The problems with Sun News are many. I will attempt to tackle the most basic failures I have seen so far.

My biggest upset is that the channel hypes non-stop and then doesn’t deliver. Almost every commercial break has a promo that talks about the new direction, the fight for freedom, the different way of doing things. So far the content is all too familiar and predictable. I saw the interview with Bob Rae on David Akin’s show, Daily Brief. There wasn’t a single tough question. There was no new angle. This interview could have run on CBC NN or CTV News Channel and felt right at home. It was as boring as any political interview I have seen by Evan Solomon but with the added non-attraction of watching unrelated footage that not only had little to do with the story, but was looped so I could see the same images over-and-over again. Worse still, I saw all the footage earlier covering a phone interview with the Sun Reporter on the campaign trail with Stephen Harper. You can’t start off by selling stale product and expect to stay in business.

Charles Adler did an interview on the first night about Cuba on the anniversary of the Bay of Pigs. Was the guest an expert? An ambassador? A professor? Even a journalist who has covered Cuba? No chance. The interviewee was a rock DJ from Alberta who has taken two vacations in Cuba. At first I thought this was a joke, especially when the DJ said he knew little about any politics, let alone Cuban politics. Sadly it was an attempt at a serious interview but provided neither heat nor light. It amounted to a waste of air time.

These of course are just examples of what I can best describe as third rate television, far less than one expects from a national network. So far the content speaks to a lack of preparedness, a need for far more research, producers and guest bookers who are at best inferior, and journalism that is at best unprofessional.

My second big beef is the incredible lack of on-air talent. Sun News has managed to put together a roster of people who are not ready for prime time on national television. The stumbling and fumbling, even from long time radio host Adler is completely off putting. The inability to find the camera to speak to time-after-time speaks to unprofessionalism that I have seldom seen anywhere, even in the classroom at Ryerson and Centennial College.

Ezra Levant’s non-stop whining and digs at the CBC have made a man I have always thought interesting, into a blowhard and a bore, even when I agree with him. An hour of Ezra, unfocused, unedited, unremitting is a test a strength I am afraid I have failed. Just to make it clear, this is not about left versus right or agreement versus disagreement. I totally agree with Levant about the CBC’s Vote Compass for example, it is wrong-headed and often biased. But a good commentator makes the point in a couple of minutes and doesn’t drone on-and-on for an entire segment repeating the same facts and charges three or four times. Further, Levant’s rants tend to the personal as opposed to a man speaking to national issues. Do I care about his lawsuit in Alberta months after the fact? You’re on the air today, at least try to be relevant.

The other on-air personalities and hosts are no better than Levant and Adler and most are worse. It is a team that has been oversold in ability and experience. It should come as no surprise that they have failed to deliver on the promises of Sun News management and the advertising hype.

I could go on to talk about the garish sets, the lack of enough pictures to tell stories, the poor studio direction, but I think you have already gotten the idea, Sun News is only different in that the level of incompetence far surpasses what we have come to expect from main stream broadcasting and journalism. Sun is not Fox News North. Fox News is hosted and produced by people who know how to do professional television. Even when I hate them, they are entertaining and watchable. Sun is neither. I was hoping for a Canadian network that would push CBC NN and CTV News Channel to improve. So far there is no chance of that. Let’s hope Sun News improves in the near future before it becomes totally irrelevant and fades into the Canadian sunset.

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Filed under: Media Commentary, , , , , , , , ,

8 Responses

  1. Jay says:

    They’re learning the hard way: “new direction, the fight for freedom, the different way of doing things”

    Sounds great to many people — except potential guests. If you want to land the people of the day [especially politicians or experts] you’re gonna have to somehow show them they’re not going to be hung out to dry for the sake of QMI’s specialty: The gotcha moment.

    What Sun TV fails to realize is that people aren’t yearning for a right wing perspective or a “fresh take” on what’s happening.

    They want the truth.

    And Howard, you know ‘the truth’ isn’t what sells papers or advertising.

  2. Howard – good call. It can only get better because right now it makes for terrible television. Most community channels have better production values. What it does more than anything else, it lowers the bar on serious media criticisms with its anti-CBC rantings. Ezra Levant reminds me of that uncle (by marriage) who you hope won’t sit next to you at the seder to talk your ear off about the media’s anti-Israel bias.

  3. Dave says:

    Interesting, although the stuff about Fox News being “watchable” stretches the credulity.

    • hlbtoo says:

      You know Dave…we all need a good laugh sometimes. Years ago I had a friend who never missed PTL because it was a source of fun.

  4. MV says:

    Howard, one of the other factors that makes Sun News very difficult to watch is the low rent production values around graphics, sets and brand. Sun News looks like community access TV circa 1990. Viewers expect a much more spohisticated on-air presentation around story-telling. Don’t these guys watch the competition and see how they use alpha channels, consistent branding and strong design to tell stories?

  5. Billy says:

    Long time reader, first time commenter. I just had to reiterate how bad the production values are. I am pretty sure a J-school using SCTV’s recycled equipment could produce better technical quality.

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