O Canada

Richard Fidler rfidler at SPAMcyberus.ca
Thu Oct 12 08:59:57 MDT 2000

Chris Brady wrote:

<<Any Torontonians on this list? Is the Sun owned by that reactionary
millionaire Conrad Black?>>

I'm not a Torontonian, but here's the scoop. The Sun is currently owned by a
Quebec publishing outfit, Québecor, and is part of a chain, Sun Media,
publishing virtually identical tabloids in four or five Canadian cities,
including Ottawa where I now hang out. It's a recent acquisition for Québecor,
one of several recent big media deals in Canada under the general rubric of
"convergence" between the traditional print media and cable and telephone based
communications giants.

The Sun papers, as Chris notes, combine tits and ass with extreme right-wing
views, and indeed bear a close resemblance to Rupert Murdoch's press. There's a
sad story behind them. The original Sun newspaper was started around 1970 in
Toronto by former employees of The Telegram, using their severance pay when that
daily went out of business. At the time, the Trotskyists urged the labour
movement, through our members who were delegates to the local labour council and
in articles in our newspaper, to contemplate using the funds to start a
prolabour newspaper. Our appeals, as usual, fell on unreceptive ears.

The Sun was the city's first daily tabloid and was very popular with
working-class and immigrant readers who enjoyed its simple prose and
in-your-face sauciness, a refreshing contrast to the staid (and for the most
part equally conservative) establishment press. Besides the Sunshine Girls, it
was known mainly for its pages and pages of stereo system advertisements and
classified job ads. Conrad Black's current spouse Barbara Amiel was an editor
for a while; during my stint as a lawyer I acted for a group of gay bathhouse
raid victims who sued her and the Sun for libel. (The Sun settled out of court.)

Until recently one of the major shareholders of Sun Media was the pension fund
for the Ontario teachers' unions. The Sun is virulently antilabor and the
teachers have been among its favourite targets in recent years. But as long as
the Sun chain was profitable, the unions made no attempt to influence its
political stance. What to do about the Sun was a favourite topic of those in the
labour movement who advocated that unions invest their pension monies in
progressive ventures instead of traditional capitalist enterprises and bonds.
The pension fund managers, of course, simply wanted a high return on their
investments, and couldn't care less that they were bankrolling the unions'

There are clouds on the Sun's horizon, however. Eric Reguly, a business
columnist for the rival Globe and Mail, comments in today's edition:

"... the downmarket Toronto Sun newspaper (motto: When in doubt, boobs) is
competing with new street tabloids that have one appealing feature - they're
free - for market share and are [sic] losing ground. Some media watchers think
the Suns will either have to reduce or eliminate their cover prices. The Toronto
Star [which so far has had little luck at media "convergence"] is beaming;
Quebecor is not."

Richard Fidler
rfidler at cyberus.ca

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