With rumors that Stephen Harper intended to replace the head of the CRTC(a man named Konrad von Finklestein) because of the CRTC’s refusal to grant Quebecor a Class 1 License, a curious series of events happened across the web. A consistently identical media attack is being waged on an activist organization, by media sources, etc, which call into question the impartiality of the media organizations involved.
A bit of background first. Quebecor applied for a rare “must-carry” license, a Class 1 License, for a specialty all-news channel, Sun TV News, which would make all the cable and satellite providers provide this channel to all customers. Such a license would be massively profitable for Quebecor.
The CRTC denied the license request, stating that there was little to differentiate Sun TV News from its all-news competitors.
Quebecor has confirmed that the proposed Sun TV News channel would have a “straight-talk, conservative” bent to it, allegedly to offer more varied viewpoints in the Canadian media landscape.
There are some serious issues surrounding Sun TV News and the involvement of the current government. Stephen Harper’s former Head of Communications, Kory Teneycke will be Sun TV News’ chief executive. Stephen Harper has also had lunches with the head of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch. He has never had a lunch or meeting with the owners or executives from CNN, MSNBC, or any other media organization.
Stephen Harper has also been on record for enjoying the kind of news Fox News provides the United States of America.
Bringing these facts together, Lawrence Martin, backed up by unnamed sources, speculated Harper may remove Finklestein from power to ensure Sun TV News gets its unprecedented Class 1 License.
This in turn spurred the activist organization Avaaz.org, to setup an online petition asking Harper to not remove Finklestein from of his job. Avaaz.org stated in the petition,
“Prime Minister Harper is pressuring the Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to approve plans for a ‘Fox News North’. If successful, this would bring American-style hate media to Canadian airwaves, and be funded by our license fees!”
While they are correct about the license fees, which every Canadian Taxpayer pays as part of our taxes, the conclusions that Sun TV News will be “hate media” are merely rumors so far, spurred by Lawrence Martin’s column.
However, several news organizations saw fit to print the exact same attack piece, “Anti-Sun TV campaign in US”, criticizing avaaz.org. The organizations that have printed the attack piece are: canoe.ca, The Toronto Sun, London Free Press, The Ottawa Sun, and The Edmonton Sun. All of these media organizations are owned by Quebecor, the same company that stands to make millions if the Class 1 License is approved.
The piece uses language like, “A far left-wing American lobby group funded by U.S. billionaire George Soros wants you to be scared, very scared. There might soon be more competition in the world of TV news.” and “What this petition is about is a group of left-wing Americans supporting interests in Canada that don’t want to see competition in news broadcasting.”
The piece notes that “Part of the campaign to stop SUN TV News Channel from launching focuses on the idea that Canadians could be forced to pay for this venture. Author Margaret Atwood took to Twitter to denounce this.” Upon examining Margaret Atwood’s twitter stream, there is no evidence that she has denounced this claim, or the petition. In fact, she tweeted this: “Free speech does not mean under-the-carpet deals that would force people to pay for Fox out of cable fees.” at 6:51 PM PST Aug 31st.
The attack piece was written by Brian Lilley. He works for Quebecor Media International, which is the owner of the not-yet-approved Sun TV News channel, as a Senior Correspondent.
Since I wrote most of the above, there has been some further information to add to the story. Apparently parties unknown signed up Andrew Coyne(Editor in chief of Macleans), Paul Wells(Correspondent, Macleans), Kady O’Malley(CBC), Stephen Wickery(The Globe and Mail) on Avaaz without their permission. This spurred avaaz.org to post the following apology:
Yesterday Avaaz experienced an attack on our “Stop ‘Fox News North’” petition consisting of fraudulent sign-ups of targeted individuals.
There is evidence of a deliberate and illegal effort designed to discredit Avaaz and violate an important form of democratic expression for Canadian citizens. If this is confirmed we will request a full investigation, and help to bring the perpetrators to justice.
It seems likely that the people behind this attack wanted the public to think that Avaaz is a spamming organization. They targeted key journalists in an effort to damage Avaaz’s reputation in the press.
It remains to be seen who(whether singular or in collusion) did this action, or what the intentions were. avaaz.org has no obligation to be fair and balanced in its reporting of facts, unlike the media organizations that run the attack piece.
It should also be pointed out that avaaz.org is campaigning against the use of Canadian tax dollars to fund what many fear will be a “Fox News North”. This reporter has no objection to a Fox News North, as long as it is not paid for with Canadian tax dollars. The attack piece by Brian Lilley says that Sun TV News never asked for Canadian tax dollars, ignoring the fact that they did implicitly ask for them with their request for a Class 1 License.