Friday, February 26, 2010

The Evil Fox News

"How does that channel call itself news by the way?"

This was a question posed to me last night by an Old Liberal Family Friend. (I had cited a number that he just assumed that it came from Fox News because I'm a Republican—never mind that the figure actually came from a CBS/NYTimes poll. But I digress.)

Like most Republicans, I hear this screed time and time again. And I wonder, "What is the obsession with bashing Fox News? Is it because the channel airs conservative viewpoints under the slogan "Fair and Balanced? Is that it?"

I think the repulsion starts with the name. Fox News is owned by Fox Entertainment Group which is a subsidiary of News Corporation, the second largest media conglomerate behind Disney (source: Wikipedia). In short, Fox News is a brand of FEG and NC. Within that group, it distinguishes itself both externally and internally from Fox Sports, Fox Radio, Fox Network and others, by calling itself Fox News because—not to be smarmy and condescending—the predominant programming on the channel is news. Pretty clear. Or so one would think.

But this is lost on my Old Liberal Family Friend, apparently. Why? I believe it's because Fox News has both news programming and shows.

Like too many liberals, my Old Liberal Family Friend apparently can't seem to make the distinction between a news program and a show. Along with with other "Faux News" bashers, my Old Liberal Family Friend seems to believe that anything airing on Fox News constitutes "news" given that the channel's name is Fox News. So, the logic goes, when Sean Hannity is on it's "news." Glen Beck? News. Greta Vansustren? News. Bill O'Reilley? News.

In any circle, that's called a sweeping generalization. And it's an uneducated and ignorant one at that.

Sorry, but none of those are news programs; those are shows on Fox News, just like Keith Olbermann, Hardball, Rachel Madow and Mad Money are shows on MSNBC. Or the Today Show or Good Morning America are shows on NBC and ABC. They are not news programs; they are shows, period—much like opinion columns in newspapers.

Just like the Big Three, Fox News does have hours devoted to just news. In fact, on a daily bias, they devote more to their news programming than do ABC, CBS and NBC combined. This, however, does not register with my Old Liberal Family Friend.

But goes the reply, ' But that makes those views representative of the channel at large!'

Yeah, so what's your point? This is true whether one is speaking about Fox News or the New York Times.

Do those shows have a conservative bent? No doubt. Hannity, Beck and O'Reilley are clearly conservative. (Though Beck and O'Reilley have claimed otherwise.) The political shows (or round tables) on Fox News indeed feature the likes of Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes, etc. So yes, Fox News does represent the conservative viewpoint on their shows.

And what is the matter with that?

Given that Fox News is an island in sea of liberally slanted TV news—ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC and even CNN to some extent—that makes them a 4.5: 1 underdog. Is that fair? Is that balanced? No, it's not. (And that ratio holds true in major city editorial boards as well. On average, liberal columnists routinely outnumber conservatives 4:1 on most ed. boards.)

I watch little in the way of political shows or round tables. I also rarely watch cable news programs as I prefer to read my news. Yet, in my limited observations tuning into Fox News shows, I've always been impressed to see that the guest panels are routinely peppered with folks from NPR, the Democratic Nat'l Committee, Free Republic, NYT, WaPo, progressive think tanks and so on. The ratio runs at least 3:2, if not greater in some cases.

I can also say with confidence that I've tuned in to Olbermann, Matthews and Madow and that they cannot make such a claim.

Yet Fox News is still unfair and unbalanced.

I'm amused by the attention liberals give to Fox News, ranting about how conservatively biased it is, or how it's an arm of the Republican party, while at the same time they give scant attention to the repeated liberal bias of MSNBC and the Big Three; in fact, I would contend (by example*) that turn a blind eye to it entirely as long as it fits their world view. (This is not to say that conservatives don't do the same, they do. I think they're aware of it too. The difference being that conservatives don't put on airs or speak about being open minded and tolerant when, in fact, they're not.)

Ultimately, liberals are threatened by Fox News; their views and agenda are being brought out into the open and challenged, so I understand the motivation to attack and discredit. And because no media outlet has ever openly done that before, Fox News is being quite fair and balanced.

* "Fake, but accurate", anyone?

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