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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sun TV and the liberal media

Jeffrey Simpson of the Globe and Mail is grumpy about the standard conservative line that the media is left-wing: "It’s an article of unshakable conviction among the hardest core conservatives that the “media” tilt liberal or leftward," he writes in an op-ed today.

The argument is bunk on its face. If you totted up all the clearly right-wing outlets and commentators and put them against the leftish-wing ones such as the Toronto Star, the right-wing voices would win every time – from AM Radio, to Maclean’s, to the National Post, to most of the former CanWest papers, to editorial elements of The Globe and Mail and, most notably, to the Sun newspapers.

Facts, however, never got in the way of ideological conviction. So to those on the hard right, the media are, and have always been, liberal, socialist and otherwise in cahoots with the squishy establishment that runs Canada.

Facts rarely get in the way, if the people involved are partisans (or so says the study I've just linked to). But is Simpson right? Do we really have a right-wing media? Is Simpson suggesting that there's a conservative bias amongst Canadian media outlets?

One clarification we, or, rather, Simpson, should make is this: What worries those on the right who fret about "the liberal media" isn't the opposite editorials pages, or the editorial pages, or those outlets that don't conceal their ideological or philosophical commitments. There's nothing the matter with a Naomi Klein opinion piece, or an environmental program by David Suzuki. No one is duped into thinking that they are dispassionate commentators without a grinding wheel and an ax.

Those who claim that the media has a lefty-liberal bias are concerned about the news pages, and the news outlets. When Rex Murphy tells us one thing or another, it's clear that he's expressing his opinion. But when Peter Mansbridge tells us something, the implication is that he's giving us "just the facts." And maybe Mansbridge is just giving us the facts, but don't get sidetracked by the specifics -- the point is, conservatives are concerned about apparent bias in hard news coverage.

Lydia Miljan and Barry Cooper wrote Hidden Agendas: How Journalists Influence the News to try and calculate how much of an impact on news coverage the make-up and personal political convictions of journalists had. The findings were mixed, and hardly qualified as buttressing the claims of the more radical conservative "liberal media bias" commentators. But they did find that the CBC differed more significantly from the general population than did other English-language outlets.

And, in part, that's what grinds the gears of the conservative pundits. None of us have to pay for CTV or the Globe and Mail if we don't want to. If we don't like Jeffrey Simpson very much, we don't have to contribute to his salary by paying for the Globe. But if we're miffed about David Suzuki then what? Do we have a say about whether or not he gets our money? No. He gets it, because the CBC gets tax money.

Simpson's grumpiness is motivated by a grumpiness about Sun-TV, the outfit being pushed by former Stephen Harper big wig, and former pusher of ethanol subsidies, Kory Teneycke. Now I'm no fan of Teneycke, but I'm looking forward to Sun-TV like almost nothing else. I'll probably disagree with the pundits on that television station more often than not (except, probably, on economic issues), but the possibility of high entertainment is too much to ignore.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on July 14, 2010 in Media | Permalink


Kory is a friend of mine . I really want this network on the air.

Posted by: Roy Eappen | 2010-07-14 3:36:28 PM

The fact that Canada's MSM is attacking the new station before it even airs is evidence that the current MSM is slanted to the left. Those who have power are always hesistant to relinquish.

Interesting difference between the left and the right. The left seemingly wants to restrict alternative ideas and opinions, whereas the right welcomes the debate.

Posted by: Leigh Patrick Sullivan | 2010-07-14 4:25:22 PM

"It’s an article of unshakable conviction among the hardest core conservatives that the “media” tilt liberal or leftward,"

Hilarious. If the media really were right wing that would mean the following contradiction:

1) right wingers oppose their own allies
2) left wingers defend their own enemies

Posted by: h2o273kk9 | 2010-07-14 7:46:40 PM

There is no doubt that the current MSM is slanted, or agenda-driven if you prefer. Frankly, I expect the news to be reported without any agenda, be it left, right or centre. If the new station is able to do so, then I shall be a supporter. However voicing opinion before it is even on the air hinges on the unhinged.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-07-14 9:34:49 PM

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