Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor playerThat struts and frets his hour upon the stageAnd then is heard no more. It is a taleTold by an idiot, full of sound and fury,Signifying nothing.– Shakespeare (Macbeth Act 5, Scene 5)
The old cliché is that all good things must end. Along those lines, it goes without saying that bad things probably end too. Case in point (you choose which one): Sun News Network went off the air at 5 am Eastern on Friday morning. The network’s demise was both ironic and tragic.
Sun News Network (Fox News North, as many called it) was Canada’s sole source for vitriolic, right wing, opinion-driven reporting. There was nowhere else to go for Canadian Glenn Beck-style conspiracy propagation. As negative as that sounds, it isn’t meant as a normative judgment. Regardless of the quality of its editorials, Sun News filled a void in the Canadian news market. It offered a service that some viewers wanted. It helped society by disseminating ideas.
Unfortunately for Sun, it seems that the network rarely used more than four digits to represent the number of viewers actively engaging in its programming—an order of magnitude lower than major networks like the CBC. Furtherore, the bark-and-growl nature of its shows made the flow of ideas feel unidirectional and often aimed at the viewers’ foreheads. It’s hardly surprising that the network routinely posted huge losses.
The greatest irony in Sun’s history was its effort to seek government subsidy. The network faced a “death sentence” when the CRTC, Canada’s broadcast regulator, refused to force cable companies to include the network in all basic cable packages sold across the country like every other Canadian news network. Why did Sun apply in the first place? Forget irony—for a network that preached free market values, the CRTC pitch was desperation and cowardice.
The network’s eventual death followed a long search for a buyer in the wake of Postmedia’s purchase of Sun Media Corporation. Postmedia bought nearly two hundred newspapers in the purchase, but refused to buy Sun News Network. If the CRTC decision was a death sentence, this was the execution. It couldn’t have been more tragic! After the government refused to prop it up (in line with Sun’s small government teachings), the free market refused to pitch in. Sun’s ideological (although not practical) adherence to free market principles was its undoing. Such is the essence of Shakespearean tragedy.
Now that the dust has settled, expect the Media Party to dance on Sun’s grave and Ezra Levant to run his mouth about something. That isn’t to say that Levant will whine about Sun, just that he is a player full of sound and fury. He is also the public face of a failed experiment, a life, well, lived. History will judge whether the network went down swinging or flailing—assuming history remembers the network at all.