If David Lewis were alive today, he’d have a name for Quebecor and The Sun News Network: Corporate Welfare Bums.
As leader of the NDP in the 1972 federal election campaign, Lewis coined the phrase “corporate welfare bums” in a slam against big business eagerly lining up at the government trough for tax breaks and subsidies while lamenting government spending on social programs or welfare payments for the poor.
The phrase skewers a fundamental, underpinning hypocrisy of libertarians, market fundamentalists, neo-conservatives and Wall Street bankers: the Law of the Jungle should prevail for everyone else, but if we run into trouble society should bail us out.
Corporate welfare bum. I cannot think of a more apt description of the Sun News Network and its corporate parent, Quebecor.
Here’s the Coles Notes version of the story: The Sun News Network has applied to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission to grant it mandatory carriage on basic cable. If the CRTC were to agree, that would mean the channel would be delivered into every household in Canada that has cable TV, whether those households want it or not. But wait! There’s more! Quebecor wants every cabled-in household in Canada to pay 18 cents a month for Sun News Network.
Want more detail on the story? Check out the January 22nd Globe and Mail Report on Business.
Commercials paid my mortgage all those years I worked in radio. So, much to the anguish of many in Liberal/NDP/Alberta Party circles, I’ve never felt compelled to leap to the defence of the CBC every time some critic calls into question the size of its government subsidies.
My tolerance level for the diatribes of those whose politics I disagree with is actually fairly high. I might not agree with them, but if they stick to their guns, I’ll respect their consistency.
But I cannot abide hypocrisy. You can’t just believe the free market is a flawless, self-regulating thing of beauty and that government intervention is horrible when it’s convenient.
From the get-go, the Sun News Network has painted pretty much the rest of the media in Canada as lefty and boring. It has spent an inordinate amount of time going after the CBC for, well, pretty much everything CBC does including just being there, but especially for the amount of money CBC gets in government grants. Sun News Network’s point of view is overwhelmingly conservative – and that’s not criticism, it’s just plain old observation.
And you know what? It isn’t selling with the viewing public.
According to documents filed with the CRTC, on any average minute about 16 thousand people are watching Sun News Network.
The Sun News Network would have you (and the CRTC) believe that the only reason it’s failing is because most Canadians don’t know it exists. And that it’s done focus group research and that the participants say they would watch the channel if they could get it. And that the target audience – and here I’m quoting Sun News Network VP Kory Teneycke – “..skews older and male and in the case of our viewers more middle-to-lower income. They’re most likely to be on basic cable services.”
Okay…this sounds like a really bad business plan, creating a product or service for an audience that can’t or won’t buy it. But, being a soft-hearted, mushy old liberal egalitarian who believes the Constitution must be upheld for everyone, including those we disagree with, I might – might – even be tempted to let them make a case for moving to basic cable where they could allegedly reach this phantom audience they claim is out there.
But they want to force nearly every Canadian household to pay Quebecor, a giant media conglomerate, 18 cents a month. That translates (conservatively, if I may use the term) to between $15,000,000 and $18,000,000 a year the viewing public would be forced to pay for a product that there is no evidence they want or need to a company whose net income in 2011 was $383,000,000!
The difference between going straight to the government and asking for a bailout, and going before a quasi-judicial tribunal operating at arm’s length from government asking it to levy a compulsory charge on virtually every household in the nation is cosmetic. It’s still a big Corporate Welfare Bum asking society to bail it out.
Right now, Sun News Network is losing $17,000,000 a year. Any true conservative worth his salt would say, “If you can’t make a go of the business you’re in, get into another line of business!” Kory Teneycke says, “This is live or die for us.”
I say, let ’em die.