THE BLOG
02/05/2012 11:41 EST | Updated 04/06/2012 05:12 EDT

Sun Flameout: Fake Oath, Fake Outrage

Quebecor's media properties have been conducting for some time an eye-rolling vendetta against anything CBC does because, big surprise, it is a competitor. It cloaks its animosity with the virtuous fig leaf of concern for taxpayer dollars but that is about as genuine as its "new Canadians."

The revelation that the Sun News Network broadcast a phony Canadian citizenship ceremony right from its own studio fits in nicely with all the other fakery coming from Quebecor, owners of Sun News and persistent CBC adversary.

The Sun News version of reality programming underscored the stark difference between it and the CBC. While CBC did, and has, telecast real citizenship ceremonies, the Sun sham occurred because it would not leave its studio to actually go to an actual event like, well, real reporters do.

The citizenship and immigration department even suggested a number of ceremonies Sun News could cover but, according to documents released to the Canadian Press, somebody at Sun News responded with "We can fake the oath."

The end result was that most of the people reaffirming their oaths were federal employees described as "new Canadians" in the broadcast. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's office apologized and blamed underlings for rounding up the phony new citizens. No responsibility was taken by Kenney. Ironically this is the same Kenney who has banned Muslim women from wearing veils when reciting the Canadian oath of citizenship in case they were pretending to be someone else behind that burqa.

Of course Quebecor's Sun News did not accept any blame either. Everyone was so busy pointing fingers at each other, it's surprising nobody lost an eye.

Had the fake performance happened at the public broadcaster, one can just imagine the apocalyptic coverage Quebecor's Sun newspapers and TV network would have given the story. And at the centre would have been the evil, uncaring, unprofessional, wasteful CBC.

Quebecor's media properties have been conducting for some time an eye-rolling vendetta against anything CBC does because, big surprise, it is a competitor. It cloaks its animosity with the virtuous fig leaf of concern for taxpayer dollars but that is about as genuine as its "new Canadians." If it was truly concerned, it would attack the people handing out the money, not the people receiving it. But that would mean criticizing its friends in the Harper government. Much easier to bark at the CBC.

We have both worked for lengthy periods for both Quebecor and CBC as senior editors and producers and neither of us work for them anymore. To witness the continual attacks on CBC from Quebecor and its supporters in the Conservative caucus is disheartening.

The CBC is not without serious flaws. It has been badgered, especially in some local markets, to virtually abandon news and chase ambulances and fire trucks for ratings rather than chase meaningful stories. It is hidebound by middle and upper management long in tenure and short in creativity. It spends too much time contemplating its own genius and not enough time showing it.

It also continually drops anvils on its own feet by doing things like refusing to release how much it pays for various jobs in the organization. You can go on a CBC web page and find out how much a host/producer earns with the Ontario Educational Communications Authority, but you can't get see how much a CBC host/producer makes. Add tone deaf to the flaws.

But, by the end of the broadcast day, with all its faults, it is journalistic light-years from the fizzling firecracker that is Sun News, which ignores in its enmity how much CBC is required to deliver.

CBC provides radio and television and online productions in English and French across the country, including the barrens of Northern Canada for which no other media outlet, save the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, shows much interest.

And to provide those services, yes, it is funded by Canadian taxpayers. But so are some of Quebecor's operations. CBC has accused its various divisions of accepting government handouts through a number of taxpayer-funded programs, so it can hardly claim virgin status while portraying CBC as some kind of brothel that must be shut down.

But, these are all facts and realities that play no role in Quebecor's corporate agenda nor, apparently, in its definition of news: "Welcome to Canada, you immigration department bureaucrats; now back to our top story on the number of trucks CBC uses."

George Stephenson, an award-winning journalist, is a former Manitoban newspaper editor and radio producer having worked at the Winnipeg Sun and CBC. He is currently a publications editor and web master for a Manitoba union.

Shirley Muir has been a print editor and broadcast producer working for The Winnipeg Sun, CBC and WTN, racking up several awards. She was President of the Canadian Association of Journalists in the 1990s. She is now president of TheMediaBank.ca, a public affairs firm headquartered in Manitoba.