Nov 19, 2009

Fox News is an Entertainment Channel

I have tried to be respectful of Fox News and its large viewer base in the past. I have even tried watching Fox News to give it the benefit of the doubt, tuning in to Brit Hume, Neil Cavuto, Shepard Smith, and Bret Baier. While Hume and Smith in particular have been notable for their abilities as anchors, the reporting on the Fox News channel can hardly be called objective.

That is where the 'Fair and Balanced' slogan for Fox News falls on its face. I don't care what kind of commentators appear during a channel's prime-time lineup, I can avoid the commentators I don't care for with my remote control. I don't even care whether a politically neutral person sits behind the anchor desk versus a red-or-blue-blooded idealogue. I expect the reporting that I see to be reasonably neutral, or if politically charged, equally exemplary of both sides of a controversy. Traditional broadcasts on the major networks and PBS have always struck this balance by featuring a diversity of sources and allowing strong, intelligent voices from every position to comment.

Fox's reporting, on the other hand, is sharply slanted towards the right. Liberals and Democrats are not only demonized, but they are also ignored and underplayed. When Fox News deigns to represent a liberal view point, their producers often find the most inarticulate and irrational liberal available to do so - I'm looking at you, Alan Colmes. Reports often focus around remote anchor desks that are placed in such non-partisan atmospheres as TEA parties.

Now a Fox News viewer reading this blog entry might think: What about MSNBC? MSNBC has a trio of liberal commentators (Keith Olbermann, Ed Schultz, and Rachel Maddow) and the network has taken a notable turn to the left over the past few years. While these commentators and many of their statements are not above the deceptive tactics and outright lies spun by Fox News over the past few years, the reporting on MSNBC, shared with parent network NBC, is excellent. Reporters like Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell, Jim Miklaszewski, and David Gregory meet a much higher professional standard than the low-brow reporting on Fox News.

Furthermore, networks like MSNBC and CNN have never had such a close relationship to a major political party, a single ideology, and the movements within that ideology. Fox News hosts have appeared on camera rallying anti-government TEA Party protests. Sean Hannity camped out in front of the hospital Terri Schiavo died in after her feeding tube was removed. Fox News anchors and commentators received talking points from the Bush Administration.

There is evidence that Fox News executives strictly control the content on the station through a daily memo. These memos instruct reporters to find news damaging to the Democratic Party and mandate hosts to spin issues in a positive manner for Republican politicians.

Finally, and least influential in my feelings about Fox News, is the infamous line-up of prime-time commentators featuring viewpoints as diverse as a klan rally. Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity need no introduction from me. They are well known for their extreme conservative view points and their ability to say anything, even in direct contradiction to their own previous statements, to protect and upheld the Republican politicians they are told by their bosses to support. Furthermore they have been caught falsely identifying video footage to inflate the apparent popularity of the extreme right-wing TEA Parties. The fact is that the only actual 'news' programs in Fox's daily line-up occur between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Most Fox News viewers aren't even actually exposed to news as the rest of the planet understands it - they get the editorial propaganda handed down from politicians to the Fox News management, who then dishes it out to their commentators and reporters in the form of memos.

When you combine the unbalanced reporting, questionable production decisions and clearly biased management tactics with the Fox News commentator line-up, you have solid evidence that Fox News isn't really a news channel at all: It is conservative television entertainment. It is also, as a White House aide recently put it, the propaganda wing of the Republican Party. It is a deceitful farce that Fox continues to call itself a "News" channel.

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Keep it civil and pg-13, please.