Monday, June 14, 2010

Harper's lunch in New York with the Fox News biggies

Canadian Press has some news that paints some important background optics for Harper and Teneycke as tomorrow's public media announcement by Quebecor is set to occur. These are the kind of details that make it look like there is indeed a Conservative intent to set up a network aligned with Conservative interests:
On March 30, 2009, Prime Minister Stephen Harper sat down for lunch in New York with Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes.

The meeting was not on any public itinerary released by the Prime Minister's Office and only came to light when The Canadian Press searched media consultant Ari Fleischer's mandatory disclosures with the U.S. Justice Department.

Ailes is the longtime Republican communications guru who is the president of Fox News Channel, which is owned by Murdoch's News Corp.

Harper's soon-to-be-ex-communications director Kory Teneycke was also present.

Four months later, Teneycke had left the PMO - barely a year into his job as Harper's chief spokesman - only to pick up a contract with Quebecor to explore a project that Ottawa insiders almost immediately described as a fledgling "Fox News North."
Oh to be a fly on the wall at that lunch. Here is what a few of the flies had to say:
For the record, Teneycke said Monday the Quebecor venture was not discussed at Harper's New York meeting with the Fox News leadership last spring.

Asked what was discussed, PMO spokesman Dimitri Soudas responded by email that "the prime minister meets with a wide range of people from the business, cultural, telecommunication and other sectors when travelling or here at home."
See? All innocent, move along. The Quebecor venture was not discussed. But was the concept of a conservative television network being brought to Canada discussed in any sense? How to go about it, etc? Teneycke's had Fox News north on the brain for years, says Don Newman. But the concept never came up. Anyway...

The CP report also details Peladeau's lobbying efforts of the Harper government over the past year, including meeting with Harper himself twice, along with Flaherty, Clement and Moore.

Going way down the road here, but how a Harper Conservative cabinet could possibly intervene in an unfavourable CRTC decision, say, to deny the "must carry" on the main dial plan, just got that much harder. There is a clear conflict of interest here, on its face, even before you get to this news of contact that Harper's had with the Fox cahunas. Harper's former PMO Director of Communications launching a news business means Harper and his cabinet should recuse themselves in the first instance. This meeting gives further impetus to that perception of fostering a network for political purposes and for this cabinet to contemplate touching such a CRTC decision, if it ever got to that point, would be poison.

Update: Of course, before it ever would get to the prospect of the Harper cabinet having to overturn a CRTC decision, the decision would have to be over-turnable:
...Quebecor wants the channel to be mandatory on basic cable, guaranteeing it a revenue stream.

Regulators won’t automatically approve that, but the odds are they’ll find a way. The bureaucrats will be well aware that the Harper government will strongly favour the new channel, which will be far more friendly to its agenda than the existing networks.