Sun News anchor quits

The right-wing upstart Sun News Network has lost one of its prime-time anchors just days ahead of next week's launch.

Mercedes Stephenson gone on eve of network launch

Quebecor Media Inc. CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau announces Sun News Network on June 15, 2010 in Toronto. The network will launch next Monday, without anchor Mercedes Stephenson. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

The right-wing upstart Sun News Network has lost one of its prime-time anchors just days ahead of next week's launch.

A spokesman for the conservative news channel says Mercedes Stephenson was not a good fit for the 24-hour outlet and that the split was mutual.

The Sun columnist and military analyst had been hired to co-host a political series called Daily Brief with David Akin, the Sun's national bureau chief in Ottawa.

Quebecor Media spokesman Serge Sasseville says the show will continue with Akin as the sole host but refused to provide details for Stephenson's departure.

Dubbed "Fox News North" by critics, Sun News Network  launches Monday with the slogan "hard news and straight talk."

 Its online promo promises a sharp edge and contrarian viewpoints, with on-air personalities including veteran journalist Brian Lilley, conservative author Ezra Levant and Winnipeg-based talk-radio host Charles Adler.

"Sun News Network is here to give you an opportunity to hear your point of view — to hear a different point of view," business anchor and Sun columnist Theo Caldwell says in the promo.

Stephenson could not immediately be reached for comment.

A recent piece by Toronto Sun columnist and co-founder Peter Worthington promised a perspective that would be distinct from "a field of thinkalikes."

"Most important, is not to be intimidated by political correctness," Worthington writes in a column dated April 9, posted online.

"Newspapers are losing circulation, in part because they fear controversy. The media won't tackle the Muslim issue realistically, won't analyse the black crime honestly, avoids anything that might upset the arrogance of some in the 'gay' community, avoids offending official language issues, is uneasy at analysing immigration problems, fears delving into the effects of multiculturalism."

One of the driving forces behind the network's agenda is former Tory spin doctor Kory Teneycke, who serves as vice president, Sun News.  

A former spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Teneycke generated chatter about SunTV last year, deriding other news outlets as "lame-stream media."

He briefly resigned in September saying that controversy over his involvement made him a liability to the outlet. At the time, Sun News was petitioning federal regulators for a broadcasting licence.

The news network announced its first major distribution deal with a cable or satellite television provider earlier this week.

The arrangement with Shaw Communications Inc. puts Sun News in two million homes in Western Canada and Ontario, starting Monday.

The head of CBC's English services said she looked forward to seeing what Sun News brings to the mix.

"The more players in the news market the better," Kirstine Stewart said after a recent speech at the Empire Club. "I think it just kind of feeds into the fact that Canadians have a huge appetite for news."