Sun News Network launches

The right-wing Sun News Network launched Monday afternoon with a slogan promising "hard news and straight talk."

The right-wing Sun News Network launched Monday afternoon with a slogan of "hard news and straight talk."

Dubbed "Fox News North" by critics, the TV station features on-air personalities such as conservative author Ezra Levant and Winnipeg-based talk-radio host Charles Adler.

One of the driving forces behind the network's agenda is former Tory spokesman Kory Teneycke. A former communications director for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Teneycke is vice president of Sun News. He's derided other news outlets as "lame-stream media." 

Though he briefly resigned after lashing out at critics of the venture. He has since quietly returned to the Quebecor fold  and is co-ordinating Monday's launch.

Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau argues that the other Canadian news networks are not only left leaning, but also failing to capture the attention of Canadians. He says viewers are being driven to CNN.

"Years of uninspiring Canadian news… means viewers are fleeing to American networks to get their fix" is the message at the Sun News website.

However, that doesn't seem to be the case during the current Canadian federal election. Last Tuesday, immediately following the federal leaders English debate, CBC News Network ratings soared to an overnight, estimated 626,000 viewers across Canada compared to 103,000 on CTV News Channel and 27,000 on CNN.

After Wednesday's French-language debate, CBCNN drew 363,000, CTVNC 83,000 and CNN 61,000 (all data BBM Canada). Contrary to Péladeau's claims, Canadians seem to like the established news networks.

The challenge for Sun News will be the weeks and months right after the May 2 vote.

While there are some TV veterans among the Sun News team (journalist David Akin worked at CTV News, Sun Morning co-anchor Pat Bolland has worked the business beat at CBC, CNBC and BNN), others are relative TV rookies. Radio pundit Adler and Sun Media columnists Levant and Brian Lilley all have key, prime-time slots to fill. 

Another prime-time anchor featured prominently in the publicity run up, Mercedes Stephenson, left the station just days before launch  after it was determined she was "not a good fit."

Sun News Network is still haggling over attempts to get an airing across the country. Last week, it announced its first major distribution deal with a cable or satellite television provider.

The arrangement with Shaw Communications Inc. puts Sun News in two million homes in Western Canada and Ontario, starting Monday at 4.30 p.m. ET. While no deal is yet in place with the country's largest cable distributor, Rogers, many in Ontario will be able to view Sun News on the old Sun TV channel.