Monday, February 8, 2010

Fox News and the GOP

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By John Smith

Fox News surrounds itself with slogans like "Fair and Balanced" and "We Report, You Decide." They claim to be a balancing force in the media offering a completely unbiased network. Sounds great doesn't it? Too bad these descriptions are not the truth, as we take a closer look at Fox News we can clearly see that a bias is present.

Fox News was founded on October 7, 1996 by Rupert Murdoch who is the CEO of Fox's parent company, called News Corporation. Murdoch, a subject of criticism for his influence in media also runs The New York Post and The Weekly Standard, both highly conservative periodicals. The BBC News says, "To some he is little less than the devil incarnate, to others, the most progressive mover-and-shaker in the media business." (Walker) Fox's president, Roger Ailes, was for decades a Republican operative in DC, a veteran of both the Nixon and Reagan campaigns. He is most famous for his role in Bush Seniors media campaign in the 1988 presidential race. "With Ailes" help, Bush turned a double-digit deficit in the polls into a resounding win by targeting the GOP's base of white male voters in the South and West, using red-meat themes like Michael Dukakis' "card-carrying" membership in the ACLU, his laissez-faire attitude toward flag-burning, his alleged indifference to the pledge of allegiance--and, of course, paroled felon Willie Horton" (Ackerman). Ailes once said to a Time reporter (8/22/88): "The only question is whether we depict Willie Horton with a knife in his hand or without it." The founders and president of Fox brought their tactics with them in the networks creation. Consistently, and across the board the holdings of New Corporation are promoting, repeating, and amplifying GOP-friendly messages, and Fox News is the best at it.

Example, examples, examples. Now some may doubt that Fox News is promoting the GOP's conservative message, so the follow are just some of the many proofs of this statement. Taking a look at studies done on Fox News, instead of simply stating bias new reports from Fox, which occur every day, give us this. In a poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports during the 2004 election process, it was found that 34% of respondents believed that Fox's goal was to "help elect Bush" (Voters). In another study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) it was found that in a 19 day period the ratio of conservative to liberal guests on Fox's show Special Report with Brit Hume (which is meant to provide crossfire type debate on political topics) was 50:6 (Ackerman). Another study by a UCLA political scientist attempted to examine the bias of news agencies, he looked at how many times reporters cited a specific topic and compared it with how many times congressmen mentioned the same topic, Fox News was found to be extremely right in its reporting(Sullivan). Quoted in a documentary on Fox, Former Fox News producer Charlie Reina said, "The roots of Fox News Channel's day-to-day on-air bias are actual and direct. They come in the form of an executive memo distributed electronically each morning, addressing what stories will be covered and, often, suggesting how they should be covered. To the newsroom personnel responsible for the channel's daytime programming, The Memo is the Bible. If, on any given day, you notice that the Fox anchors seem to be trying to drive a particular point home, you can bet The Memo is behind it." (Tucker) There is little doubt in my mind and many others that Fox is pushing a certain view, but in a land of free press this isn't the problem.

The problem is the effect that this bias push towards a conservative viewpoint puts on its viewers. One of the most startling effects is how Fox News affects the voting of its viewers. In a study by DellaVigna at UC Berkley some startling trends were found in the question of media bias affected voting. For instance, between October 1996 and November 2000, Fox News Channel was introduced into 20 percent of US towns. Using voting data from these towns, an investigation into Republican voting share took place. It was found that in the Presidential elections between 1996 and 2000, republicans gained 0.4 to 0.7 percentage points in the towns which broadcast Fox News. The estimates further imply that Fox News got 3-8 percent of all its non-Republican viewers to vote Republican and that Fox News increased turnout to the polls (DellaVigna). In the 2004 elections, it was found that 97% of Fox viewers voted Bush over Kerry (Ackerman). These results are astonishing, directly showing how since its inception Fox News bias reporting has affected US policy in the form of who is getting elected to office.

In the US, our news culture is that of an "objective" one. Journalists take stories and attempt to give a fair report on both sides of the issue, and there is no problem with this. However, as we all know this type of reporting isn't always the case, and I'm not saying the right is the only ones putting bias into the news. The problem with Fox is that it claims it isn't bias and that it is reporting accurate, un-politically affiliated news. In fact it claims it is the only un-biased news agency, and the network begins to shudder with even the slightest mention of a right wing tilt. With the addition of Fox News Channel, we now also have a national conservative TV station to spread Fox News and the ideology it represents. This failure on Fox to admit their bias and claim they offer fair reporting is causing our nations media to be skewed towards the center - right of the political spectrum. "Fair and Balanced", I don't think so.

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