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FOX NEWS
and ‘The Liberal Media’
W
HEN I WAS
growing up in the ’60s we had a choice of three TV channels – NBC, ABC or
CBS – but around our house there were also stacks of magazines± My parents subscribed to
everything
: the local paper, ²e Wall Street Journal, Time, ²e New Yorker, Newsweek, National
Geographic and a wide variety of specialty magazines like
P
sychology Today and Popular Science±
I still like the feel of a magazine in my hands and look forward to browsing each of the dozen
different magazines that arrive in my mailbox every month±
When I was young, I spent far too many hours watching programs on the three national networks
and PBS± As an older adult, I probably still waste too much time watching those same channels, but
I also follow cable news on CNN, MSNBC and FOX±
Newspaper circulation has been declining for years, and many boomers now receive the bulk of
their information from television± If you look at the Nielsen ratings or other media surveys, you’ll
find that much of the nation gathers its news from a variety of TV channels±
Over the last 15 years, however, one network has attracted a large and especially loyal
U±S± audience: Many devoted Fox News viewers depend almost entirely on Fox for their news±
In recent years, approximately 85% of cable, satellite and other service providers offer the Fox
News Channel±
In the 1990s, Fox became the dominant U±S± cable news network and still holds that position±
Somehow, many conservatives have come to believe that Fox News is – as its motto claims – a “fair
and balanced”
source of information, unlike all the other news channels that Fox labels “the liberal
media±” Fox has done a great job in fostering this misguided notion among viewers, and remains
“the most trusted news network,” by a wide margin, among conservatives± No one was shocked
when News Corp donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association in 2010±
Over the years, Fox News has consistently denied any bias in its own reporting±
Even when it comes to science, Fox has its own unique perspective± In January 2014, much of the
Midwest and East Coast was hit with crippling snowstorms± During the worst part of the cold snap,
Fox and Friends host Steve Doocy (along with other Fox pundits) pointed out that the freezing
storms should end any debate about “global warming±” And in case any listener might question the
sincerity of the proclamation, Fox presented a renowned expert
– Donald Trump – to pontificate
on the subject± Trump did not disappoint± ²e modest man with the mythical hair assured
Americans that global warming was a “hoax” and another “liberal conspiracy to extort good
money” from hard-working businessmen±
I only understand friendship
or scorched earth.
– Roger Ailes
President, Fox News Channel
A Boomer Looks Back
273
272
In truth, there’s not much to uncover about “the liberal media” – it’s not a sensational story± Te
owners of the so-called “liberal media” are mostly traditional businesspeople whose primary
concern is making steady
profits for themselves and their stockholde
rs.
Who Are ‘The Liberal Media’
Vilified on Fox?
First, we have ABC, which is owned by Disney± We are all familiar with Te Walt Disney Company
– how much more American can a company be?
Te
Disney news operation can hardly be called a
hot-bed of le²-wing radicals, especially with Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson as its stars±
Next is NBC, a corporation that was owned by General Electric since the mid-’80s, until GE began
a joint venture with NBC Universal (Comcast) in 2011± Recently NBC Universal has taken over
ownership± Everyone
knows GE – the corporation that manufactures so many of America’s light
bulbs, refrigerators, locomotives, jet engines and military equipment± Most reasonable people
consider GE a
mainstream American
corporation
.
Boomer Brian Williams has been the NBC news
anchor for 10 years and he personifies the American dream: A good Catholic boy who worked as a
busboy and a volunteer fireman, and went on to become a world-famous journalist± Is Brian
Williams the secret weapon of the liberal media?
Now let’s look at CBS and Summer Redstone, its majority owner± Redstone might be suspect –
he has o²en supported Democrats – but he also publicly supported
George Bush for president
in
2004, so it would be hard to call him a radical± Scott Pelley is the newest CBS anchor,
following Katie Couric’s long run – neither can be considered a “mouthpiece” for the le² wing
.
CNN is owned by ³ime Warner Corporation, which also owns HBO, Warner Brothers (movie
division), and People, Sports Illustrated and ³ime, all solid American magazines – especially if
you consider Sports Illustrated
s
yearly swimsuit issue± Te women in bikinis are stunning, but
they are not exactly le²-wing propaganda mongers± Even as I write this, Comcast is making a
play to take over ³ime Warner± CNN can be all over the board politically, and sometimes the
network seems amateurish, but it’s not exactly a haven for radicals±
Te sad fact is that all of the big networks are controlled by old WASP-y men who focus
on the
bottom line, just as Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes do at Fox± Tey are all capitalists± Calling
the other networks and their corporate owners “liberal” is just devoid of common sense± With
all due deference to Bill O’Reilly and his “
culture warriors
,” there are no
liberal-media
bogeymen trying to kill Christmas, brainwash our children, or “wage war” on religion±
Fox News – More Than Meets the Eye
It is somewhat ironic that Fox viewers feel that their network is the most wholesome and
all-American of our available news sources
.
Tis reassuring image has been carefully cra²ed –
it’s no accident that the American flag constantly waves in the background during Fox newscasts±
In reality, Fox News Corporation is owned by a company controlled by Rupert Murdoch,
who was born in Australia and raised in England± Mr± Murdoch heads an international
media conglomerate consisting of several hundred companies in 50 different countries± His
Frankly, it’s embarrassing that Fox is the only news source for many of my fellow countrymen±
It should be self-evident to any objective viewer that Fox serves up a very limited menu of
information – most of it presented in a manner meant to stir up emotion rather than civil discussion±
It’s also true that other cable stations – like MSNBC – have their own slant or bias, but none matches
Fox News when it comes to generating more heat than light±
The Best Marketeers in the Business
Rupert Murdoch’s news network is run by marketing people who truly understand their audience±
Over the years, Fox has followed a very consistent agenda: emphasizing that our country’s problems
are somehow the fault of “liberals,” while praising conservatives as
responsible, God-fearing patriots± Fox has also consistently
portrayed our current president as a failure on all issues large and
small – an unshakable conclusion that Fox pundits began spouting
within
90 days of Barack Obama’s election
.
Roger Ailes, who runs the Fox News Network, keeps the network
on point± On many days, the talking points delivered by the various
Fox anchors are so similar that it’s hard to believe they are not carefully choreographed±
Te seasoned veteran is a well-known ultra-conservative who le² CNBC for Fox in 1996± He
managed to bring along 80 NBC staffers, who then worked directly for him± Mr± Ailes, in turn,
worked directly for Robert Murdoch, the Australian media mogul±
Fox’s news chief has been active in conservative circles for a very long time – Ailes was a media
advisor to Richard Nixon, campaign consultant to Reagan, and trusted political counselor to both
Bush presidents±
Ailes has a reputation for taking no prisoners± He is famously quoted as saying: “I only understand
friendship or scorched earth±” One former top aide to Mr± Ailes described him as a cross between
Don Rickles and Don Corleone± ³rue to form, Ailes has a record of responding brutally to anyone
who is gutsy enough to challenge his credibility
.
When journalist Bob Woodward revealed that
Ailes was directly advising President George Bush a²er 911, Ailes publicly railed against Woodward±
It’s not surprising that Fox presents a full line-up of talk-show hosts who reflect Ailes’ conservative
values and combative nature± It’s hard to argue with success± Ailes’ solid business plan pits Fox
against all the other “liberal” networks and cable news channels± Fox has simply outmaneuvered
competitors who all scramble to attract an audience from the political middle ground± In effect, Fox
cornered the market
on the conservative viewpoint± Ratings soared±
Te le²-of-center slice of the political pie was le² for MSNBC, which has its own line-up of “le²-
wing-leaning” pundits, but when it comes to marketing and ratings, MSNBC is no match for Fox±
Te television networks and cable channels are owned by huge corporations and are generally
controlled by their boards of directors± Board members are mostly the kind of conservatives who
hang out on large estates and country clubs – not exactly crunchy-granola
le²-wing socialists±
A Boomer Looks Back
275
274
Roger Ailes, 74, is beginning to slow down – both Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, who is Fox’s biggest
star – are starting to resemble “angry old men” who have passed the high point of their careers
and are increasingly out of touch with contemporary America±
Fox shareholder Saudi Prince Al Waleed bin Talal
If the ongoing criminal investigations land Murdoch in trouble, he may have to rely more on the
second-largest shareholder of Fox News: Saudi Prince Al Waleed bin Talal± ²e ties between the
two men run deep: ²e prince owns some 55 million shares in Murdoch’s news corporation,
and Murdoch owns almost 20% of Rotana, the prince’s privately held Arab media conglomerate±
Al Waleed bin Talal’s company is headquartered in Bahrain, an island nation in the Persian Gulf±
Rotana operates a number of free-to-air television channels, owns the largest record label in the
Arab world, and controls more than 40% of the region’s movie production and distribution±
Whatever Murdoch’s ultimate fate, Fox should never be short of funding± Prince Al Waleed
bin Talal is the richest man in the Middle East and worth more than $30 billion± He is also
the controversial Saudi prince who published this statement only days a³er 9/11:
“At times like these, we must address some of the issues that led to such a criminal attack.
I believe the government of the United States should reexamine its policies in the Middle East
and adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause.”
Simultaneously, the prince gave a $10 million check to Rudy Giuliani, who was then the mayor
of New York± “America’s mayor” returned the gi³ intended for his city± It was hard for Giuliani,
or anyone else, to find much loyalty to America in the Saudi prince’s statement about 9/11
.
Al Waleed bin Talal is also a major shareholder in the SRMG, the largest media company in
the Middle East, and is generally considered the most influential Arab in the world
.
Unusual shareholders
Suffice to say, Murdoch and Prince Al Waleed bin Talal are not exactly Norman Rockwell
material, and make an odd couple as Fox’s largest shareholders± Roger Ailes continues to be
a truly gi³ed marketeer and runs a tight ship, so the Fox News Channel should remain a
strong force in carefully targeted news and conservative politics for the foreseeable future±
²e “most fair and balanced news in America” now runs deep in the boomer psyche±
n
Roger Ailes, President, Fox News
Rupert Murdoch
Prince Al Waleed bin Talal
FOX
NEWS
Channel
News Corporation also controls more than 130 subsidiaries in nations identified as
international tax havens by the U±S± Government Accountability Office, including companies
in Panama, the Cayman Islands, the Channel Islands, and the Virgin Islands± It has been
widely reported that Fox News Corporation’s average annual tax rate is less than 15%± News
Corps’ brand of tax avoidance is not unique among large corporations, but the practice reeks
of hypocrisy when compared to the patriotic rhetoric of Fox News commentators±
It’s safe to say that Rupert Murdoch and his son, James Murdoch, are much more concerned
with profit than any particular ideology or philosophy± For instance, the Murdochs invested
$70 million in Vice Media through 21st Century Fox± Vice Media produces an edgy stream of
“immersion style” stories that are essentially the antithesis of traditional journalism, and
sponsored
Denis Rodman’s junket to North Korea to visit Supreme Leader Kim Jon Un± During
this particular trip, Rodman took along NBA players and was promoting a basketball game
with the North Korean national team± Vice Media and Rodman hosted a reception at Kim Jon
Un’s house±
Vice Media co-founder and CEO Shane Smith summed up his own philosophy as follows:
“We are not trying to say anything in a paradigmatic ‘leF’ or ‘right’ way, because …
I think both
sides are horrific. And it doesn’t matter anyway. Money runs America; money runs everywhere.”
Shane Smith and the Murdochs make interesting bedfellows±
It is also interesting to note that Rupert Murdoch did not become an American citizen until his
mid-50s, for legal and business reasons± U±S± law requires that anyone who owns substantial
domestic media outlets be a citizen – Murdoch’s U±S± citizenship allowed him to control a worldwide
media empire± Some years ago, he purchased
Te
Wall Street Journal
, one of America’s oldest and
most influential newspapers± Murdoch’s conservative influence on the
WSJ
has steadily become
more apparent± It could be argued that Murdoch is among the most powerful men in the world±
During the past 15 years, Fox News has helped to foster, shape and guide the most conservative
wing of the Republican Party
.
Murdoch’s Juggernaut May Be Losing Steam
In 2012, Murdock testified under oath in the United Kingdom about his “personal knowledge” of
his companies’ illegal hacking of private and government voicemails± Maybe the 80-year-old was
“forgetful” that day, or maybe the widespread phone-hacking practice simply “escaped his
attention,” but in any event he claimed to have “no knowledge” of illegal activities± Just the same,
he later resigned as a director of News International, amid joint investigations by the British
government and the FBI into possible bribery and/or corruption± As I write this, Murdoch has
been in the news again, trying to buy a major rival, Time Warner, with a bid of $75 billion±
I’m
skeptical that he’ll succeed in his takeover attempt, but his appetite for control of all media is
mind-boggling±