Xtra
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SunTV: We broadcast porn so the CBC doesn’t have to

BY ROB SALERNO – They say wild animals are most unpredictable when they’re cornered — I guess that’s true of Sun Media, too. 

Yesterday, The Canadian Press broke the story that Citizenship and Immigration Canada staged a fake citizenship ceremony where bureaucrats stood in for new immigrants for reporters for Sun News Network to videotape and broadcast, and that this was done with the encouragement of Sun and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. The story raises a number of troubling questions about the government’s collusion with a private broadcaster, the ethics of the journalists involved, and the money and time spent on staging this ceremony to benefit a for-profit business. But for some reason, Kenney apologized to Sun News Network for what the bureaucrats did. He ought to be apologizing to all Canadians, as Sun should apologize to its approximately 4,000 audience members.

Well, the people at Sun News Network were just outraged, OUTRAGED, that anyone would call their ethics into question. Of course, it’s not news to regular readers of Xtra that Sun reporters tend to lack basic ethical judgment and intellectual curiousity. But the official response from Sun News Network in the form of an editorial by columnist Brian Lilley is a breathtaking piece of denial and misdirection. It appears that videos on Sun’s website aren’t working as I write this; I’ll update with an embedded video when it becomes available.  [UPDATE: The video now appears viewable here, but it can’t be embedded.]

Lilley starts by defending Sun News’s integrity, claiming that they simply “did not know that these people were fake” — that the ceremony was being staged by bureaucrats and didn’t feature actual immigrants. So, to be clear, Lilley is saying that Sun journalists aren’t unethical; they’re just gullible.

Look, I’m not here to make Brian Lilley look stupid. That’s his haircut’s job, and I wouldn’t want to put it out of work.

But what about that email from Sun producers that Canadian Press turned up in which they suggested that CIC stage a fake ceremony for them to broadcast? Well, Lilley says that email was sent more than a week earlier, so Sun couldn’t have expected CIC to act on it. And maybe it refers to a completely separate fake ceremony that they could videotape at some other time for a non-journalistic, completely ethical reason! Shut up! I’m not the one on trial here! 

Sun host Krista Erickson calls the whole story a “drive-by smear,” which is just so offensive, because that’s the Sun’s stock and trade. Just to show us all how it’s done, Lilley launches into the deflection phase of the editorial.

In the House of Commons yesterday, politicians wasted time in question period posing “six questions!” about the Sun/CIC story as if this were real news. And then to prove how much more useless the opposition parties are, they asked two questions about “transvestites” not being able to fly, and absolutely no questions about the “state broadcaster” airing “pornography.” Which, wait, what?

Look, we already know Brian Lilley is a proud homophone homophobe. But you’d think, as a journalist, he’d take a minute to actually understand the story he’s belittling. It’s not about “transvestites” not being able to get on planes. It’s about new regulations that appear to make it impossible for many transgender people to board planes in Canada, because their presented gender doesn’t match the sex on their identity documents.  

[As an aside, isn’t it weird that identity documents even bother to mark the bearer’s sex? I don’t need a passport to tell me I’m male, and most people looking at me could figure that out on their own. It doesn’t establish identity, and it’s not like a terrorist who obtains or makes a fake passport would be stymied by the need to put down the correct one of two genders. For all its usefulness, we may as well ask, “Are you circumcised?” and “How long is your erect penis?” Then when a flight steward says, “I’m sorry, Mr Lilley, but I just don’t believe you have more than two inches down there. You’ll have to submit to a strip search in order to fly,” he would understand what trans people are feeling about this.]

As for the state broadcaster showing porn, naturally, I assumed Lilley was referring to the Sun’s own tradition of running bikini-clad models in all its papers, since when I hear “state broadcaster,” I naturally think of a broadcaster that uses salaried government agents to stage events for broadcast. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who made this mistake. 

As it turns out, Sun media had just gotten a bug up its ass about a show called Hard that CBC’s French language service, SRC, had made available on its web distribution service. SRC bought the show from France’s Canal+ and wasn’t broadcasting it over the air. Hard is a show about a widow who inherits her husband’s pornography studio and keeps it going for various reasons. Here’s its French Wikipedia page.

I managed to watch an episode last night, and man, calling it “pornography” is quite a stretch. There are some butt shots and a plotline about one of the main characters who has a penis that is “énorme” (you never see it), but you don’t even see boobs. This would be tame by French standards. In fact, butt shots have appeared on standard broadcast television for decades (NYPD Blue, anyone?), and boobs go over on cable channels all the time. Actually, a very similar-sounding reality show, Family Business, aired on Showcase for three years.

And isn’t it bizarre that anyone at Sun would object to a show about pornography, given that its parent company, Quebecor, also owns the cable company Videotron, which makes a tidy profit selling actual 24-hour pornography channels? Or is this yet another attempt to scare CBC out of a market that Sun wants for itself?

But yes, dodge the issue. Thanks to Sun’s integrity-filled journalism, Canadians coast-to-coast now know they can get low-grade French butt shots online. Unfortunately, once the story broke, CBC rushed to put restraints on the show so that it can now only be watched online between the pervert hours of midnight and 4am, unlike the titties in Sun Media pages, which can be seen at any time of the day once you hand over 50 cents to the guy at the newstand.

Not even Conservative Culture Minister James Moore was buying this line of garbage, and now Sun Media has turned its ire toward him. They want an apology for calling one of their journalist’s integrity into question, and they want Harper to fire him and “replace him with someone who doesn’t appear to be in bed with the taxpayer-funded state broadcaster.” Which, wait, what? Isn’t it the minister of culture’s job to be in the CBC’s business? 

I don’t love rushing to the defence of Conservative politicians, but as far as they go, Moore’s one of the better ones. And when Sun starts questioning anyone’s “objectivity,” you can’t do anything but laugh.

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