TORONTO — The Sun News Network heralded its Monday launch by featuring one of its anchors as a Sunshine Girl in the company’s newspaper chain.
Krista Erickson, who will host a daily show on the new network, appeared in the Sunshine Girl photo sporting a grey V-neck “I Love Canada” T-shirt, with an accompanying blurb proclaiming she was “rarin’ to go,” “unapologetically patriotic” and “not afraid to call it like it is.”
Erickson previously spent 11 years with the CBC.
Sun News Network was set to launch at 4:30 p.m. with a “pre-game show” with Erickson before The Source with Ezra Levant.
A spokesman for the network said that no Sun News Network officials were available Monday to comment on the launch.
Dubbed “Fox News North” by critics, the TV station’s on-air personalities also include Winnipeg-based talk-radio host Charles Adler and former BNN and CBC reporter Pat Bolland.
Sun News Network officials have said they hope the new venture will balance what they see as a “lefty bias” in traditional media.
Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau has also argued that the other Canadian news networks are boring and are driving viewers to U.S. network CNN.
One of the key forces behind the Sun News Network’s agenda is Kory Teneycke, former chief spin doctor for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Other PMO staffers who have come aboard the network include Matt Wolf and Dennis Matthews, while another — Jason Plotz —joined for awhile and then returned to work for the Conservatives.
The network already has some high-profile critics.
Writer Margaret Atwood launched a Twitter offensive against the Sun News Network, while retired CBC newsman Don Newman grumbled that it meant the end of Canadian journalism.
“They’ve been hugely successful in attracting attention to themselves and have gotten an awful lot of publicity up to this point,” said Chris Waddell, a former CBC Ottawa bureau chief and Globe and Mail business reporter who now teaches journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa.
However, Waddell says the true test will come in the weeks to come.
“The more important thing is what are they putting on the air, and what are the people they’ve got on the air doing, what are they saying, and what type of programming are they’re doing.
“Stunts that you pull in order to attract attention because you want to attract an audience, there’s a long tradition of doing that in lots of media.”
The Sun News Network is still working to get on air across the country.
It’s just negotiated a free six-month window on Shaw cable and the Quebecor-owned Videotron cable systems.
No deal is in place yet with Rogers, but many in Ontario will be able to view Sun News on the old Sun TV channel.
A spokesman for the Sun News Network said the cable deals mean the network will initially be seen in over six million homes.
Since many viewers are initially receiving Sun TV free of charge, Waddell says that a significant hurdle for the network will come half a year from now, when viewers will have to decide whether they are willing to pay for it.
“At the moment the difficulty they face is, most of their audience would be an audience that isn’t paying money to get the channel … So for the first six months or so, they’re not getting much in the way of revenue…”