Now it seems the fledgling FOX News Channel (FNC) has adopted a similar strategy. Each day FNC boasts about its "fairness", with slogans like "We report, you decide" and a breath later becomes a veritable bullhorn for the Bob Dornan/Steve Forbes continuum of the Republican Party. That FNC has so brazenly adopted this right-wing slant while at the same time shouting loudly about their even-handedness seems like just another nail in the coffin for the credibility of mainstream broadcast news. Indeed, FOXs high-production values and inclusion of East and West Coast media-cum-celebrities follows the well-worn path blazed by other equally insipid "news" shows from NBC's Dateline and ABCs 20-20 to the religion-as-news shows like the Christian Broadcasting Networks (CBN) 700 Club.
But unlike Pat Robertsons CBN, which rakes in money from gullible home-bound Christians in the form of direct donations and bequests (yes, by some estimates, people have willed him over one billion dollars), FOXs news shows are bonafide loss leaders, gathering a piddling audience of only 13,000 households daily, even though it has a potential daily audience (via Cable subscriptions) of over 22 million people.
This concept of owning money-losing news operations has new meaning in late stage capitalism, which is now dominated by six or seven media companies with enormously profitable entertainment divisions. The use of loss leaders to promote political ideology was pioneered by the right-wing Washington Timesthe print equivalent of FOX News. Owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, the Times has lost over $1 billion in the past decade, yet, alas, is showing absolutely no signs of shutting down. The reason is obviousby publishing a daily newspaper in Washington D.C. the Moonies have a foothold in creating and shaping US public opinion. Throw in some millions in campaign donations, and youve greased two sides of the same wheel. Its not hard to imagine nefarious consequences of such combinations. Indeed Moon has a long history of meddling in government policy. Way back in the the 1970s, he was tangled up in the Koreagate scandal, in which he and his church were linked to bribing US officials to gain favors for the South Korean government.
Rupert Murdoch, who owns numerous local television stations and newspapers in this country and abroad, is a fitting heir to the Moonie-Method. Murdoch has used his media soapbox to political advantage. Last year he received a huge windfall in the digital-TV spectrum giveaway to the nations television broadcasters (valued at up to $70 billion.)
Murdochs henchman at FOX, News President Roger Ailes, admits in one of the stories we link to below that making money just isnt that important to Murdoch ("Viewership is not the only calculation that has meaning," he said.) Ailes, strangely absent in the FOX News barrage of self-promotion (and completely invisible on their web site), cut his "Fairness" teeth as the media adviser for George Bush's 1988 presidential campaign, now best remembered for the odious and fear mongering use of the Willie Horton TV spots. Ailes cobbled together a "news team" from the wreckage of the Bush Administration propaganda machine. When it came time to hire a host for FOXs inevitable entry into the Sunday Morning Talk Fest (FOX News Sunday), Ailes reached into the second string and picked up Rush Limbaugh substitute host Tony Snow, a cross between his mentor Rush and the velvet-fisted Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. Snow was also part of the Bush administration, first working as the presidents chief speechwriter, and later as a media assistant. Rounding out the Fox News Republican Employment Team is managing editor and chief correspondent for FOX's Washington, D.C. bureau Britt Hume. You might remember him as the former tennis partner of George Bush (while he was the White House Correspondent for ABC News.)
Some may argue that this is, in the end, a good thingthat there is no such thing as objectivity, and that news organizations are better when they act as open advocates, when they don't lie about who they are. You might not like them, but at least they dont try to hide their real bias in order to accumulate a larger audience. That argument, however, is undermined in this case by FOX's bogus claims of impartiality.
When right-wing political operatives control news networks, they are not only subject to the unusual pressures (and enmities) created by a lifetime of hardball politics, but seem to easily crumble when forced to choose between making money and making news. When a FOX News station in Tampa generated a forceful and damning story about a Monsanto artificial cow hormone (known as BGH or rBST, which is banned in several countries), a couple of sharp letters from Monsantos lawyers to Roger Ailes got the story killed, despite suspected links between the hormone and human cancer. This is perhaps the most pernicious and evil form of synergy, that over-used euphemism for news whoring.
Im not sure if the notion of FOXs Big Lie or the fact they are so uniformly unfair bothers me more. On the other hand, I may be fretting about this FOX News business too much, given their miniscule audience. But as a teacher at the University of Minnesota told me when the schools administration was dividing up "merit pay" and the faculty were at each others throat over what was really a small amount of money, "We wouldnt fight so hard about this except theres so little at stake."
For another take on this story:
So much TV news, so few viewers
It's lonely at CNN, MSNBC, and FNC
When Andrew Cunanan was found dead on a Miami Beach houseboat last month, there was relief--and disappointment. A suspected mass murderer had been stopped, but no one would ever know for sure what motivated him. Although they wouldn't admit it publicly, news executives were among those who were let down. Cunanan's suicide ended any prospects of following a long and tawdry trial of a gay serial killer. Hearsay rules
WITH MATT DRUDGE DEBUTING ON FOX NEWS, NO-STANDARDS
JOURNALISM TAKES ANOTHER GIANT LEAP FORWARD.
How Rupert uses his vast media power to help himself and hammer his foes
Fox News Channel, harnessing the vast, worldwide resources of the News Corporation. Three international partnerships, broadcast sites and news rooms around the globe. Access to more reporters and news professionals than any other network. Full, fair and balanced coverage . . . The Fox News Channel; we report, you decide.
aired throughout the day on
the Fox News Channel
Behind the Times: Who Pulls The Strings at Washington's No. 2 Daily?
The Washington Times, the right-wing daily that bills itself as an alternative to the Washington Post, is owned and influenced by Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. But most journalists seem unable or unwilling to consider the political implications of this fact -- despite the role of Washington Times executives in the Koreagate scandal of the 1970s and the Iran-contra scandal today.
Read about how Ailes & Murdoch used New York Mayor
Rudolph Giouliani to force Warner Cable to carry the FNC in New York City: