Where's Our Fox News?

I don't watch Fox News. In fact, upon having cable installed a couple of months ago I put a parental block on the channel so that I need to punch in a security code if I ever want to turn on the channel -- a trick I learned from my brother-in-law who did not want his conservative father watching FNC when he came over to his house. Turns out my brother-in-law and I are fairly wise.

Washington Post columnist Richard Morin (via Political Wire) reported this week on a recent study by a couple of economists that found that watching Fox News may have palpable effects on one's voting patterns -- an effect that in the macro may have helped change the results of at least one close election.

We report. You decide. Does President Bush owe his controversial win in 2000 to Fox cable television news?

Yes, suggest data collected by two economists who found that the growth of the Fox cable news network in the late 1990s may have significantly boosted the Republican Party's share of the vote in the 2000 election and delivered Florida to Bush.

"Our estimates imply that Fox News convinced 3 to 8 percent of its audience to shift its voting behavior towards the Republican Party, a sizable media persuasion effect," said Stefano DellaVigna of the University of California at Berkely and Ethan Kaplan of Stockholm University.

In Florida alone, they estimate, the Fox effect may have produced more than 10,000 additional votes for Bush -- clearly a decisive factor in a state he carried by fewer than 600 votes.

The first lesson to learn from this study might be to follow the lead of my brother-in-law and stick a parental block on Fox News -- particularly if you have children of impressionable ages. There's little worse than waking up one day and finding out that your son or daughter has become a raging conservative (a la Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You), so shielding your children from FNC might not be the worst idea in the world.

But the larger lesson from this piece is that there is severe unbalance in cable news. While the Republican Party has a channel that is wooing voters over to its side, the Democratic Party is clearly lacking in such critical infrastructure -- not to mention the fact that there is a clear dearth of progressive voices in political television.

If progressives are serious about retaking the reins of power in this country -- not just marginally, narrowly winning an election here or there, but coming to possess the type of power the GOP currently wields in Washington -- they must build the requisite infrastructure. The Center for American Progress, Air America and other such endeavors (yes, including the progressive blogosphere) are good starts, but they must only be thought of as a start. Until the infrastructure of the Democratic Party and its allies is even comparable with that of the GOP (I'm not talking parity here, only competitiveness), it's going to be extremely difficult for institutional change to be enacted in this country.

Tags: Fox News, Progressive Infrastructure (all tags)

Comments

25 Comments

Re: Where's Our Fox News?

The numbers for the cable news networks are tiny. I think that needs to be understood. ie, O'Reilly has a very small share. I wouldn't want to claim there isn't  a machine there that doesn't influence other  media outlets. I just want to point out what you maybe seeing are magnifiers of an entire system rather than one cable channel.  I guess this obvious, but the question becomes how does one combat an entire aparatus and whether a single liberal leaning network can overcome 30 years of ground work by the Republicans- to not only have a Fox but also AM radio, newspapers, and their influence over MSM such that MSM is so in need of seeming objective that it will accept any old lie from the right or fear being called "liberal." I am not sure capital is a enough to overcome the entrenched forces at play.

by bruh21 2006-05-06 10:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Where's Our Fox News?

I agree.

I've not seen any analysis of how much of the GOP's message is taken by voters by each of the main media types.

But I suspect that the lion's share is provided by MSM.

Fox and Talk Radio reinforce the beliefs of already-committed righties, but - my hunch! - are not as important as local TV as a mass purveyor.

(Local TV news with its big total audience, VNR-friendly culture, and acres of space to fill each night!)

The idea of a lefty Fox has been around for several years: ask yourself why a bunch of Dem moneybags haven't done anything about it by now.

For one thing, I doubt that the checkered career of AAR has encouraged investors!

So far, all we have is the Drutherland Broadcasting Company...

by skeptic06 2006-05-06 12:30PM | 0 recs
What I'd like to know

Is why every time there's any hint of an issue, the GOP has 17 people on every talk show all on point, making their points quickly, with good on-camera presence. Meanwhile, Dems have few on the talkshows, and the ones on are all over the place on message, and  I and half the Blogosphere could make their arguments better. The GOP must be putting resources into media training and staffing a rapid response for cable news that we aren't. My question is why?

Also, I never thought I'd miss Tweety, but man, that Nora O'Donnel lady belongs on Fox. No agenda there...

by michael in chicago 2006-05-06 10:29AM | 0 recs
Dems aren't the bookers

It is not like they floated a "Hannity and 'somebody'" and asked the Democrats who to cast, and someone stupidly came up with Colmes. The networks choose who they want to appear, this is not Hyde Park.

As to the message discipline charge, well there is a profound truth hidden in Wil Roger's quip "I am not a member of any organized political party, I am a Democrat". The modern Democratic Party, as organized by FDR, has always been characterized by collecting the various groups on the outside and getting them to recognize that their enemy was on the inside, i.e. The Man.

Single interest groups have lost sight of the New Deal vision, we are all on this earth together yet a bunch of selfish bastards want to centralize the goods. We can agree to disagree about the proper distribution, and classically the Democratic Party did, but simply turning the keys over to Capital because this worker group was not totally sympathetic to GLTB issues and that people who summered at Fire Beach were not particularly in tune with farmers that were being squeezed between seed suppliers and commodity buyers is to take our eyes from the prize.

It is like a big Venn diagram. Let each group within the Democratic party draw a circle with people within and people excluded because they are fundamentally hostile to your core issue. Then superimpose all those circles and see who the common enemy is. Democrats do not need and really should not want to identify on any program more specific than "common good". Which I would redefine as "Us. Vs the Man".

That the fundamental concerns of white farmers in South Dakota don't exactly overlap with the concerns of people living in either end of the Castro District of San Francisco should not obscure the fact that when you overlap the circles a substantial part of the enemy ends up being the exact same people.

And those peoples' representative is Karl Rove.

by Bruce Webb 2006-05-06 12:53PM | 0 recs
Re: What I'd like to know

Let me nitpick on language a bit here, because it affects how we think about solving this.

It is not "the GOP" that has all those people on the shows.  It's the "conservative movement" infrastructure -- the Heritage Foundation, and about 400 other similar organizations.  They are called think tanks but they are really ideological advocacy/communications/marketing organizations. They are "501c3" charitable organizations - which means taxpayer subsidized - but operate illegaly as partisan supportive arms of the Republican Party.

This is such an important distinction.  The problem is not that "the Democrats" aren't getting people onto the shows, etc;, to match the right.  As Jonathan wrote, the problem is that Progressives don't have the kinds of organizations in place that put those people on the shows.  The reason this is such an important distinction is because it tells us that to fight back we need to build organizations that reach out to the general public promoting the BENEFITS of Progressive values and a Progressive approach to issues, over and over, day after day, until the public understands and starts to support Progressive candidates and legislation.  THIS is how the Right did it.  This is how the Right took over the Republican Party and persuaded so many people to support them.

It's just basic marketing.  For 30 years we have been hearing that conservatives are good and liberals are bad and stupid and corrupt and "against God" and all the rest but we have not been hearing anything to counter that!  After 30 years of this OF COURSE this is what a lot of people think!  DUH!

Ths relates to the "issue group" argument.  INSTEAD of organizations that tell the public that Progressive approaches are better, we have issue groups, and most Progressive money goes to these groups.  But these grouls do not reach out to the general public and do not tell them that Progressives are better ad Progressive ideas are better.  And the result is that the underpinnings - support for basic Progressive ideals - of these groups erodes.  If environmental groups, for example, spent their money telling the public that Progressives are better, then the public would elect Progressives, and environment-friendly laws and regulations would be in pace to protect the environment...

by davej 2006-05-06 01:08PM | 0 recs
Re: What I'd like to know

You have some good points here.  However, you state that:  "INSTEAD of organizations that tell the public that Progressive approaches are better, we have issue groups, and most Progressive money goes to these groups."

One of the main problems Liberals/Progressives/Democrats have is that so often they are so preoccupied with demonizing Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld, they never articulate a coherent message of their own, leaving viewers/listeners to conclude that the opposition has only one message:  criticism.

This is not a winning strategy.

by Travelin 2006-05-07 10:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Where's Our Fox News?

Where is George Soros when we need him?  I think a progressive news network would do really well, since all 3 of the existing ones are trying to outFox each other.  CNN will continue to crumble following this ill-advised strategy.  

by DaveG 2006-05-06 10:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Where's Our Fox News?

I've always said that Soros or some other investor should make a run at MSNBC.  Microsoft has already indicated they want out.  It's historically been number 3 and lacks a consistent audience.  By purchasing MSNBC, you have a ready made media apparatus.  You don't necessarily have to start from the ground up, which is extremely expensive and perhaps impossible.  

Remember Fox was able to do what it did because Murdoch already owned and employed a huge media empire.  

I think a media outlet that appeals to a more progressive world view would be a very profitable outfit.  Currently, there is a large group of viewers who feel alienated.  Demographics controls television and our enormous demographic is being igored.  

You're right about CNN by the way.  Their management just doesn't get it.  

by Eric11 2006-05-06 11:34AM | 0 recs
I've seen DellaVigna talk about this paper

he lays out quite a compelling argument for media as the driving force in voter's decisions.

So, who's for starting the Anti-Fox?

by utbrian 2006-05-06 10:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Where's Our Fox News?

I wrote after the 2004 election that Fox News was the winner of that election, too.
http://www.makethemaccountable.com/artic les/And_the_winner_is.htm

And I've been saying for five years that we need a progressive media strategy.  I wrote a proposal for MoveOn.org last year that went nowhere.
http://makethemaccountable.com/caro/Prog ressive_Media_Strategy.pdf

Carolyn Kay
MakeThemAccountable.com

by Caro 2006-05-06 12:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Where's Our Fox News?


There is a reason Air America isn't booming, most liberals don't want thier news digested for them...

I use Reuters, C-SPAN, the AP-wire, and then check magazines online like washingtonpost, nytimes...to get a sense of the community I check blogs like dailykos, mydd, etc

I don't need or want anything else, I already know everything about the issues I want to know, conservatives can stand to sit there in their cars and listen to Rush say the same thing over and over...I can't, when i hear Franken talk about Iraq problems for the 1000th time, I don't want to hear it anymore I already read the daily Iraq report off the wire, nothing else happened and I don't need their opinion...if a story is going unreported, ill check the blogs for it, I don't need some guy on the radio to tell me for 3 hours about it, and I sure as hell don't need to sit infront of a television and listen to Paul Begala tell me what I already know...thats why I couldn't stand Crossfire

by thorgrim 2006-05-06 12:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Where's Our Fox News?

Totally agree.

AAR is narrowly focussed, repetitious to the nth degree, egocentric - waste of time except for those of like mind.

Trouble is, moving from talking points to discussing news and policy requires time and expertise on the part of the broadcasters.

And that doesn't come cheap.

by skeptic06 2006-05-07 03:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Where's Our Fox News?

I agree, but I think there's enough personalities on the progressive side to make a go of it.

You can find people like Olbermann, who doesn't get on a soap box every minute, but doesn't hide from the truth either. There are a couple of them on CNN too.

And, of course, political commentary would be sprinkled in with sports, weather, features, legal news, business news....you know, it doesn't have to be AAR on TV.

And just think: We can have our own Hannity & Colmes and, this time, make the consevative the dork!

(Shouldn't be too hard.)

by Bush Bites 2006-05-07 05:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Where's Our Fox News?

Another thought.

You know, if the Dems start getting people in power, they'd be able to do what the Bushies do with Fox: Just send the heavy hitters to the preferred outlet, and send third stringers to the other networks.

That would certainly help boost a new network's political importance and viewership.

by Bush Bites 2006-05-07 06:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Where's Our Fox News?

My TV is also my computer--the video card has a TV tuner built into it. Over a year ago I deleted Fox from the channel line-up, so I don't "accidentally" have to see it while channel surfing. I can still select it manually, by punching in its number, but I do that only every couple of months, to remind myself of why I deleted it. It only takes a minute or less to find out why.

Yes, we need our own version of Fox, from a progressive and--more to the point--competent, substantial and honest perspective. The other news outlets are hardly that these days. Even PBS's News HOur (which few people watch) has slanted rightward in recent years, inviting far more right-wing than left-wing guests.

This would obviously require a TV channel and lots of investment capital. George Soros, are you reading this? However, I'm guessing that quite a few progressives would be willing to invest in it if enough seed capital was provided by someone like him. And it could easily steal talent from the other news outlets. There are still a few decent journalists out there languishing in the land of fluff news.

And, at this point, I also suspect that it would have quite a few viewers. Even the mainstream public is starting to realize that it's being lied to and wants something closer to the truth at this point. If it made sure to be genuinely "fair and balanced" and have real (i.e. honest) conservatives on in addition to real (i.e. courageous) liberals on, I think it could even attract viewers from the middle and right.

It's about the content, stupid.

by kovie 2006-05-06 12:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Where's Our Fox News?

by kovie 2006-05-06 12:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Where's Our Fox News?

I have felt this way for a long time.  

The bigger question is what can we do to make this happen?

by John Mills 2006-05-06 01:15PM | 0 recs
LOL "Parental Block"

"...especially if you have children of impressionable age"

HAHHAHAHAHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

So funny, so sad, so true.

by optimusprime 2006-05-06 02:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Where's Our Fox News?

I wrote about this question the day after the 2004 election.  See PressThink,  Are We Headed for an Opposition Press?

At some point between now and 2008, either MSNBC or CNN may break off from the pack and decide to become the liberal alternative to Fox, thus freeing Fox to find a more frankly ideological formula, as well. During the conventions the logic of this move became evident. The single most shocking moment for television news people came in late summer when Fox won the ratings for the Republican convention, the first time a cable channel had defeated the broadcast networks in that competition. Everyone realized at once the power of GOP-TV and how much sense that system--the more partisan system--made. (Like a political party, FOX has a base and it reaches out for other viewers, knowing it cannot alienate the base.) If one of the other cable channels goes left, will the remaining networks that are "unaligned" stand pat, go left, or hook right? Big question.

The logic was self-evident, but it was important for mainstream journalists to deny it, and to put the idea down.  (I believe they would do the same today.)  David Shaw, media critic for the LA Times, wrote a column arguing against me.  See Two Replies to David Shaw...:

"Both the American in me and the journalist in me hope Rosen is dead wrong." Shaw argues against having a liberal news network that would compete with Fox. He says my suggestions to that effect would be terrible for journalism and democracy. MSNBC and CNN agree: terrible!

It's important to realize that Shaw (he died this year) was a liberal, and he hated the idea.  And he got juicy quotes from cable news execs who hated it too.

Finally, I discussed this whole subject just yesterday on Young Turks with Cenk Uygur and Ben Mankiewicz.  (Listen here; it's about halfway through the mp3.)

by Jay Rosen 2006-05-06 02:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Where's Our Fox News?

Excuse me Calude, but this website his not a vehicle for anti-semitism, please take your crap elsewhere, thanks.

by Epitome22 2006-05-06 03:49PM | 0 recs
Media Reform

Yes, we need to build up our own media infrastructure, but we also need an explicit program to change the way the media in general works in this country.

Here's an example to chew on:

"If all we do is fight defensive battles, the best we'll ever be able to hope for is that things won't get any worse. But that's not enough," says Sanders. "What we need is an agenda to make things better."

What are the pieces of that agenda?

They suggest:

1. A renewed look at antitrust initiatives;

2. Caps on media ownership that are considered appropriate for a democracy, including rolling back the number of radio stations a single firm can own and prohibiting media cross-ownership and vertical integration.

3. Reinvigorate the regulatory process through increased citizen challenges of the licenses of local broadcast outlets on grounds of lack of local coverage, a lack of diversity, excessive indecency and violence, or for other concerns important to the community.

4. Expansion of access by not-for-profit groups to low-power FM radio-station licenses, and tax incentives for development of new, community-based, noncommercial broadcasting outlets.

5. Funding for public broadcasting must expand dramatically to provide a model of quality journalism and diversified cultural programming.

7. Broadcasters must be forced to give candidates free air time.

8. Media conglomerates must not be allowed to impose their will on the United States and other countries via international trade deals that undermine the ability of Congress to aid public broadcasting and protect media diversity and competition.

9. Media reformers must support the struggle to expand access to the airwaves and to assure that independent and innovative journalists, writers and filmmakers have the resources to create media that reflect all of America.

I would add:

10. Bring back the fairness doctrine

These kinds of reforms are unquestionably in the public interest. Not only that, they help further progressive politics by making it much more difficult if not impossible for the kind of right-wing biased programming we have seen from Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting Company, and Clear Channel Radio to continue unchecked.

Just as the cry of right-wing activists used to be "de-fund the left," we need to use the regulatory power of the state to "de-program the right."

This should be a fundamental part of our agenda, both short-term and long-term, right alongside raising the minimum wage, campaign finance reform, and the rest of it.

by tgeraghty 2006-05-06 04:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Where's Our Fox News?

Claude, are your comments a joke?

The solution to pursuing a progressive agenda is not communism. We need real strategy, not nut jobbery.

by WithoutAPurpose 2006-05-06 06:07PM | 0 recs
Where's Our Fox News?
This is a subject about which I've thought long and hard. A few comments to the posts here:
  1. The part of the study cited demonstrates correlation, but not cause and effect. It would be great if Jonathan or someone could post a link to the full study. The Fox folks would argue that their views mirror the American public's and not the other way around (i.e. does Fox immitate life, or life immitates Fox.) My intuition says that Fox probably does indeed push its viewers to the right, but I would like to see if the data actually proves this.
  2. Implementing a progressive news network presents a Catch-22. Being a good progressive involves doing the right thing. So, if you put one of us in charge of a news network we would feel obligated to present all sides of a story. Especially since real progressive don't like other people digesting the news for them (I think someone else said this above.) What we would end up with would probably resemble the news on PBS or NPR; high quality journalism with a tiny audience.
  3. Most people watching Fox News don't even recognize the right-wing bias. They're too distracted by the zippy graphics and easy to understand language. Essentially, the production quality of Fox news is more appealing than the other networks. It's just too bad that CNN and the others don't realize that they could emulate Fox's slick production quality without copying its conservative rhetoric. Kind of reminds me of Democrats that are so jealous of the recent Republican success, they think the answer is to be more like Republicans.
  4. The progressive movement does have its own media outlet. It's called the Internet. We're just a few years ahead of our time. Everyone I know under age 30 gets 90% of their news from the net and not MSM. We're probably better off promoting CommonDreams than starting another TV network.
by WithoutAPurpose 2006-05-06 06:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Where's Our Fox News?

That last statement you made is very true. I was thinking of my own habits and those of others I know, and we do seem to get a lot more of our knowledge online rather than from traditional sources of media.

by bruh21 2006-05-07 12:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Where's Our Fox News?

>>The progressive movement does have its own media outlet. It's called the Internet.

Sure.  That sounds great.  The only problem is that too few progressive outlets on the Internet are able to pay anyone to create content for them.  We have no farm team, no bench depth.  And it shows.

From the media strategy I wrote for MoveOn.org last year, which met with a resounding silence:

This country needs an organization dedicated to establishing, developing, and supporting talented researchers, linguists, writers, investigative reporters, social psychologists, speakers, filmmakers, and cartoonists who believe in truthful reporting and commentary, and making sure their work receives wide exposure. Creating and supporting new and independent media outlets is one of the ways of accomplishing this goal.
http://makethemaccountable.com/caro/Prog ressive_Media_Strategy.pdf

Carolyn Kay
MakeThemAccountable.com

by Caro 2006-05-08 01:34AM | 0 recs

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