It's no bedtime story--Rick Mercer turned down an offer to headline Sun TV News.
Spoke with the comedian Wednesday and he confirmed that, yes, newly appointed Quebecor vice president Kory Teneycke--until less than a year ago Stephen Harper's director of communications--called him up, met with him for drinks and made a pitch for Mercer to join the proposed right wing news channel. Have the full story here at The Canadian Press.
Mercer says he met Teneycke and heard him out on the new venture "some time ago." The hard part was clamming up about the offer the past few months.
He admitted he was intrigued at the prospect at being part of a start up. He eventually decided to "dance with the one who brung me," slyly quoting former Tory prime minister Brian Mulroney for his reasons for sticking with CBC.
Stealing the Rick Mercer Report would have been a big coup out of the gate for the proposed Quebecor specialty channel. The Tuesday night series is coming off its best season ever, averaging over a million viewers a week. It begins an eighth season on CBC in September. Beyond that, it is a bargain, relatively inexpensive to produce and yielding a big return in ratings.
Insiders also know Quebecor chairman Pierre Karl Peladeau--no fan of the public broadcaster--would dearly loved to have stung CBC by stealing its comedy star. You can bet lawyers are double checking those Dragon's Den contracts.
Not generally known is that fact that the Rick Mercer Report is independently produced. Mercer takes every renewal year-to-year--a fact that provided a window for Teneycke to make his pitch.
Mercer thinks there's room for a right wing news service in Canada and is encouraged to see the likes of former Canwest Ottawa correspondent David Akin among the early SUN News hires. "I can't imagine he will suddenly go on television making up facts like the people at Fox News do," says Mercer, "so I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt."
He also is keeping a watchful eye on Sun TV New's bid for a specialty licence. Should Quebecor somehow win a category 1 licence--a "must carry" bonanza the CRTC has said they are not in the business of giving out anymore--he wonders about push back from consumers who may not want to be forced to pay for the new service. "In fact, I think SUN TV columnists would call it a tax on hard-working Canadians," he jokes. (Consumers, in fact, don't have to subscribe just because their carrier offers it.)
'Course, some have been using the word "tax" for years inj connection with the network Mercer decided to stick with.
In any event, he's glad about one thing: "I’m happy people are getting hired and that there are jobs on television."