Could it Happen in Canada?
It's been almost two years since Donald Trump was elected President in the US. The early talk of impeachment has disappeared and it's clear Trump will be in office for another two years and maybe six, if he runs and wins the next election.
It's been fascinating watching the way the American news networks have covered the Trump administration. If Fox News likes it, CNN doesn't and vice versa. Much of the truth has been replaced by "whose side are you on."
The question remains, could this sort of biased news coverage happen on a major Canadian network and if not, why not?
Could it Happen Here?
As I watched the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing and then saw him confirmed over the weekend as the story seemed to end with a whimper instead of a bang, I asked myself the same question many Canadians have over the past two years – could the same thing happen here?
I’m not talking about the appointment of a Supreme Court judge turning into one of the biggest political tug of wars in years, I’m talking about the way so many stories in the US are deeply divided by left and right politics and media coverage. Could the same thing happen in Canada? Could we have political coverage as biased as the politicians the American media covers?
Anything is possible, but I don’t see it happening and perhaps the news media is the saving grace. The media in Canada, generally speaking, isn’t similar to the US when it comes to political coverage and I don’t see that changing. It’s not what Canadians want.
Some may see the CBC as left-leaning and you can find examples of some newspapers being overly critical of government or being pro-business, but generally speaking the Canadian media is pretty balanced. Thank God for that, because as the years go by, that’s one of the biggest differences between our two countries.
Fox Rocks the Ratings
I remember the first time I watched Fox News. It was two years ago, just before the US election and a friend and I were in Los Angeles. I sat there with my mouth open as one “commentator” after another yelled at the camera about locking up Hillary Clinton. My God I thought, whatever happened to balanced reporting? I was a little late to the party on this one because balance and fairness went out the door at Fox News years ago.
I turned to my friend and asked if he could imagine seeing anything like that in the Canada media. He nodded his head no. Here we are two years later and I’m asking much the same question.
The reality is though Fox News has big ratings in the US, far outpacing CNN and MSNBC. That doesn’t make sense to me but it is reality. Fox dominates cable news ratings, so it has a product that’s successful.
This summer a survey of over 4,000 people rated Fox News as the most trusted brand on American TV, something else that floored me. It was done at roughly the same time as President Trump had his infamous news conference in Helsinki with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. I was in Hawaii at the time and the way Trump’s bizarre comments were smoothed over by Fox News was shocking. It reminded me of the way storylines are explained on WWE programming.
I’m not American and it’s not my country, so I dislike making political statements about what’s happening there. The point I am making is, political coverage in Canada is far different, and for people to suggest our media is changing too simply isn’t true.
Why it Won't Happen Here
Some point to the right-wing Rebel Media as a comparison and have called it “Fox News North.” It’s been around for almost four years, but hasn’t moved the needle and it likely will never have anything more than a niche audience in Canada.
To really have an effect on where people get their news in Canada, one of the major TV networks would have to take a major turn to the right and I don’t see CBC, CTV or Global doing that.
As much as there are similarities between Canada and the US, the way Canadians think about politics and politicians is much different. What’s perhaps more important is the way we react to news coverage. I hate to generalize, but we like to have fairness and balance in our reporting. It’s fundamental in our support of the news we consume.
Numbers have fueled Fox. It’s been dominant in the cable news rating wars for years, long before Donald Trump arrived on the scene. I simply can’t see Canadians in large numbers supporting a cable news network with a right-wing political agenda like Fox, where it doesn’t let facts stand in the way of a good story.
I watch CNN, but I’ve also noticed how anti-Trump it has become. That’s not good either. It reminds me of the days when the Southam newspaper chain in Canada generally took a position on the left after the Sun chain emerged and always took a position solidly on the right. Southam seemed to be forced to shift the way it presented the news.
As much as I didn’t like the Postmedia-Sun merger, I also didn’t like newspaper chains taking different editorial positions. What’s wrong with simply reporting the news?