BUSINESS

Levant crowdfunding campaign raises thousands for latest media venture

02/26/2015 12:05 EST | Updated 04/28/2015 05:59 EDT
OTTAWA - Former Sun TV personality Ezra Levant is taking to crowdfunding to help back his new media venture — The Rebel.

According to the outspoken host's website, he has already raised roughly $100,000 for new equipment and more than $15,000 a month in ongoing contributions to pay for the site's operations.

Levant said the money, which is being deposited into a Paypal account, has come from about 2,000 individual contributors.

"We will use this money as carefully and thoughtfully as we can," he said Thursday, noting the Rebel has garnered some 20,000 backers who have registered with the site or otherwise indicated their support.

"The actual final choice of equipment or expenditures may vary somewhat as our business plan evolves, but basically we're using this money to put the tools in place to execute our business plan."

The Rebel started in Levant's living room with its first video on Feb. 16 and has been steadily adding new material since then.

The campaign allows contributors to fund a wide range of individual items including cameras and computers and other, more personal, items such as a staff care package and a $10 haircut for Levant.

Contributors are being offered perks including a chance to participate in a online video chat with Levant or former Sun TV host Brian Lilley.

Those donating more than $1,000 are being offered a 15-minute phone conversation with Levant or Lilley about the news of the day and a chance to provide their own feedback and ideas.

Crowdfunding is not new ground for new media organizations.

Online newsmagazine the Tyee raised $100,000 from its readers to help expand its national coverage and named an Ottawa correspondent, while Press Progress, a project of the Broadbent Institute, also solicits donations from its readers.

Since Sun TV shut down earlier this month, Levant, Lilley and others have been producing online videos on therebel.media website offering their take on the news of the day. The site's Youtube channel has some 2,600 subscribers.

Levant said Thursday even if given a chance to put the Rebel on cable television, he'd stick with his online outlet because he doesn't face the same restrictions.

"Why would I ever submit myself to those regulatory and oligopolistic barriers willingly again? I had no choice until the Internet came along, but now I do and I'm 10 days at this, but I'm loving it," he said.

In June 2012, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council ordered Levant to apologize on air for telling a Spanish banana executive, in Spanish, to have sex with his own mother.

The following March he apologized to the Roma community after on-air remarks that prompted a hate-crime investigation.

Sun TV went off the air after negotiations to sell the troubled television channel were unsuccessful.