You are on page 1of 11


"We paid $3 billion for these television stations. We will decide what the news is. The news is what
we tell you it is!"
-- alleged comment by David Boylan, station manager for Fox Tampa Bay (WTVT Ch 13) to two
reporters who are currently suing the network for firing them and censoring a story about the use
of bovine growth hormone in Florida cows.

I have no doubt that if someone intimately tied into the Fox News Channel were to read this article
they would immediately label me a seditious-evil-lying-communist-scumbag-bastard who hates
America. This, of course, is so far from reality that it's laughable. After spending some time
analyzing and evaluating the Fox News Channel, I have formed a similar opinion. The Fox News
Channel is so far from reality that it's laughable -- which is why it's an industry joke.

Relying on the Fox News Channel as your only source of news is like using MAD Magazine as a
legitimate source of news. The Fox News Channel's reporting style is so biased and skewed that
trying to obtain any real information from a news report is quite challenging. Fox News is a joke
because it provides info-tainment rather than reality-based news coverage. Fox News Channel is a
"news channel" in name only. The network is what L.A. Times Editor John S. Carroll calls

Although TV news in general is sensationalist, Fox News has descended so far from objective
journalism that it only provides small scraps of actual information. Like Ishmael in Herman
Melville's Moby Dick or Nick in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Fox News is a modern day
example of the "unreliable narrator." Fox News places an acute spin in nearly every story it presents
and in some cases presents untruths as truth. Fox News Channel is a running commentary on the
news rather than traditional objective reporting. To its credit, the network's style of entertainment-
journalism has resulted in a steady increase of viewers.

Though CNN is still the leader in cable news revenue, Fox News has experienced a larger spike in
viewership than any other TV news network in the past five years. The Project for Excellence in
Journalism's State of The News Media 2004 shows that "Fox News in 2003 was up 53 percent
overall (to 1 million viewers on average) and 45 percent in prime time (an average of 1.7 million
viewers) over the year before." Funded by the Pew Charitable Trust and Columbia University
School of Journalism, the PEJ studied many aspects of CNN, MSNBC and Fox and released its
report in March 2004.

"Television news is still something viewers watch mainly in a passive way," notes the report. "Yet
when the technology changes and the media converge, the advantage may depend more on which
media and which outlets have the strongest news gathering and storytelling abilities." Clearly, Fox
News has tremendous storytelling abilities. In the past year, only Fox's news programs saw an
increase in watchers. "Looking at the medians, CNN and MSNBC lost viewers in 2003, while Fox
News saw an 18 percent rise in its median monthly audience," reports PEJ.

The report goes on to say: "In January of 2002, Fox News for the first time surpassed CNN in total
viewers and held its lead . . . (Fox News at the time averaged 1.1 million viewers in prime time
versus 921,000 for CNN. MSNBC, a distant third, averaged 358,000 viewers in prime time.) . . . A
year later, in January 2003, Fox News had maintained its advantage (with 1,014,000 viewers on
average, compared with 721,000 for CNN, and 252,000 for MSNBC). And immediately after the
war in Iraq, it appeared in May that the network was possibly pulling farther ahead, holding onto
more of its wartime audience than CNN."

The chart below shows the Fox News' audience spike:

Prime Time Cable News Viewership: 1997 to 2003

A Pew survey asked avid TV watchers to identify their favored news source as either cable or
network TV. The chart below shows how, over the past few years, American audiences increasingly
favor cable over network news. Statistically, cable news held a 36-point advantage over network
news (49 percent cable, 13 percent network).

Where People Go for National/International News

When asked about which specific cable stations viewers prefer, the Pew survey found that though
CNN, owned by AOL Time Warner, still maintains the lead, Fox is steadily gaining in viewer
preference. The report mentions that the 24-hour format, the increase in cable connectivity across
the country, and the slightly younger audience can all be attributed to Fox's gains. Additionally, the
Iraq War in 2003 gave cable news overall a big boost. "War was good for cable," said the PEJ
report. "It was especially good for Fox News . . . The big winner was Fox News, which managed to
increase its lead over CNN."

The chart below shows how Fox News is gaining on the leader:

Where People Go for National/International News, Specific Channels: January 2002 - October 2003

Why has the Fox News Channel become so popular? Basically, it's entertaining. The Fox News
Channel is colorful, positive and engaging with good-looking anchors and an up-beat style. The
network uses flashy graphics and triumphant music to punctuate its programs. The PEJ report notes
that its study found that overall, the "Live" presentation of cable news presents an aspect of
importance and immediacy to the viewers. "The most notable finding here is that cable news has all
but abandoned what was once the primary element of television news, the written and edited story.
In doing so, it has de-emphasized the story package's strengths, namely the chance to verify, edit
and carefully choose words and pictures. The stress in cable news is on immediacy and cost
efficiency of the live interview and unedited reporter stand-up," said the report.

Cable news is fast-paced and repetitive. The study found that "rather than covering a comprehensive
menu of issues, each morning the cable channels settle on a limited number of core stories that are
then repeated, and only occasionally substantively updated, as the day proceeds. The level of
repetition on cable is enormous. The level of updating is minor."

In its study of 5,570 story segments, the PEJ report noted that investigative stories only make up
11% of newscasts. Interviews, reporter standups and anchor reads account for 77% of cable network
news. This format is the backbone of Fox News. In its evening newscasts, Fox News uses "talking
heads" for 83 % of its new programming (this includes external interviews, internal interviews,
reporter standups, and anchor reads). In contrast, CNN uses talking heads for 66 % of its evening

"Fox News uses this time period to showcase its panel of in-house experts (13 percent of the time,
compared to 6 percent at CNN and 10 percent at MSNBC), the most notable fixture being Brit
Hume's panel of political pundits on 'Special Report,'" notes the study.

And this brings us to the juicy stuff: The content of the Fox News Channel.
The News
The content of the Fox News Channel is a direct outgrowth from the views held total
by its owner: News Corp. and CEO Rupert Murdoch. Fox News Channel was assets
launched in 1996 "as a specific alternative to what its founders perceived as a as of
liberal bias in the American media" (the network stated this in the lawsuit against March
Al Franken and Penguin books). 31,
2004 of
Australian-born, but now an American citizen, Murdoch heads the huge News mately
Corp. which owns the Fox TV Network; Fox News; Fox Sports; FX Network; US$52
National Geographic Channel; 20th Century Fox movies and home entertainment billion
(including, appropriately, all of the Star Wars films); Fox Sports Australia; the and
STAR Network in Asia (based in Taiwan); British Sky Broadcasting/BSkyB, annual
DirecTV (U.S.), FOXTEL (Australia), and Sky Italia (Italy) direct broadcast revenue
satellite television services; TV Guide magazine; 175 different newspapers in the s of
UK, Australia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the U.S.; HarperCollins Publishers; approxi
the National Rugby League; Mushroom Records and more. Murdoch has created mately
a worldwide empire. billion.
In October 1999, Time Magazine remarked that "Rupert Murdoch is the first Corpor
press baron to be a monster of the entire world. That's globalization for you." ation is
The Time article goes on to say that Murdoch's "achievement is that he is the ied
only media mogul to have created and to control a truly global media empire. He interna
understood sooner than anyone else the opportunities offered by new tional
technology--computers, satellites, wireless communications--to create first an media
international press and then a television domain." and
Controlling the news is obviously important to Murdoch's vision of the world. compan
The Murdochian viewpoint is largely centered on obtaining money and power -- y with
which is the ideology for which the Fox News Channel stands. Those who operati
control the news also determine the public discourse. In the United States, ons in
Murdoch has obviously tapped into the political and social agenda championed
by the Republican Party. The views of News Corp. and Fox News, however, are y
not the ones of the mainstream Republican Party, but those who reside on the far segmen
right-wing of the political spectrum. ts:
The Republican Party, or GOP (Grand Old Party), is a traditionally dominant
force in American politics. Since the inception of the nation, the Republican televisi
Party has stood for what are called conservative values. Over the centuries, on;
however, the term conservative has changed quite a bit and now has transformed cable
into political party focused on American superpower dominance, a corporate- networ
controlled economy and Judeo-Christian ideals. The Heritage Foundation think k
tank states that conservative means to promote "the principles of free enterprise, mming;
limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a direct
strong national defense." The conservative agenda by itself is not terribly bad; broadc
however, the Fox News Channel has contorted the Republican Party views into ast
something both strange and disturbing. satellite
"All across America, there are offices that resemble newsrooms, and in those magazi
offices there are people who resemble journalists, but they are not engaged in nes and
journalism. It is not journalism because it does not regard the reader — or, in the inserts;
case of broadcasting, the listener, or the viewer — as a master to be served," said newspa
Los Angeles Times Editor John S. Carroll in a Lecture on Ethics delivered at The University of
Oregon in May 2004.

"To the contrary," he said, "it regards its audience with a cold cynicism. In this realm of pseudo-
journalism, the audience is something to be manipulated. And when the audience is misled, no one
in the pseudo-newsroom ever offers a peep of protest."

Carroll goes on to say that journalists of the past such as

"Lippmann, Reston, Murrow, Sevareid and others . . . are
still held in high regard. They were, foremost, journalists,
not entertainers or marketers. Their opinions were
rigorously grounded in fact. It was the truthfulness of
these commentators — their sheer intellectual honesty —
that causes their names to endure. Today, the credibility
painstakingly earned by past journalists lends an unearned
legitimacy to the new generation of talk show hosts.
Cloaked deceptively in the mantle of journalism, today's
opinion-brokers are playing a nasty Halloween prank on
the public, and indeed on journalism itself."

opinion of
Fox News is
that it is situated somewhere between journalism and
propaganda -- but leans closer to straight ahead attack
politics. The perversion of the Fox News Channel is
that it is nothing more than a pulpit for the ultra-
conservative wing of the Republican Party. The Fox
News Channel presents sprinkles of news punctuated
with interviews and commentary which promotes its
own viewpoint. Sitting far away from objective fact-
based journalism, Carroll comments that "if Fox News
were a factory situated, say, in Minneapolis, it would
be trailing a plume of rotting fish all the way to New

One often-cited research study about the faulty news

coverage of Fox News is from the University of
Maryland Program on International Policy Attitudes
(PIPA) Research Center. Released in October 2003
and titled "Misperceptions, The Media and The Iraq
War," the researchers from Knowledge Networks in
Menlo Park, Calif. conducted a poll with nearly 10,000
respondents. The study was to see the frequency of
misperceptions concerning the news coverage on the
Iraq War. The questions focused on whether Iraq was
involved with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, whether Iraq
was supporting al-Qaeda terrorists, whether weapons
of mass destruction have been found, and whether
world opinion was for or against the U.S. invading
Iraq. The reality was that no links between the Iraqi
government and al-Qaeda terrorists have ever surfaced and no weapons of mass destruction have
been found. In general, world opinion about the U.S. invasion of Iraq is overwhelmingly negative or

The study found that nearly two-thirds of Americans had vast misperceptions about the war. For
example, in one poll, 68% said they believed that Iraq played an instrumental role in 9/11. "In the
run-up to the war with Iraq and in the postwar period, a significant portion of the American public
has held a number of misperceptions that have played a key role in generating and maintaining
approval for the decision to go to war," stated the study.

The study also noted that "the extent of Americans' misperceptions vary significantly depending on
their source of news. Those who receive most of their news from Fox News are more likely than
average to have misperceptions." The problem with the Fox News Channel is NOT that it supports
the Republican Party or conservative views. The problem is that Fox News distorts the news to
serve its purpose so much, that fact and reality are lost in a sea of half-truths and innuendo.

The charts below from the PIPA study show the channel by channel viewership breakdown of those
who held misperceptions of the Iraq War:
Certainly, the data indicates that watching other networks can also foster misperceptions, but Fox
News sits embarrassingly at the top.

The ideological leader of Fox News is CEO Roger Ailes. It is Ailes vision of a pro-Republican
news organization that has given rise to the Fox News media spin. Ailes has worked as media
consultant to Republican Presidents Nixon, Reagan and Bush Sr. and was the head of CNBC before
taking the helm at Fox News.

In response to the LA Times' John Carroll, Ailes wrote in the Wall Street Journal editorial page that
Carroll "deliberately confused our highly rated news analysis and opinion shows like Bill O'Reilly
with our hard news coverage. Mr. Carroll cites not a single example of what he calls
'pseudojournalism' from our actual news coverage. He cites only Bill O'Reilly's opinions and an old
push poll that purports to show that more Fox News viewers believed things that were not true
about Iraq and the War on Terror than did viewers of other outlets. But he cites no instance of our
having reported any of these things."

Well, Mr. Ailes, allow me. I would be happy to expose how the Fox News Channel's techniques of
fact twisting and non-reporting contribute to the network's deceptive news coverage. I did not watch
Fox News during the buildup to the Iraq War, so I can't comment on specific instances of deceit.
However, the network uses many methods which are commonplace throughout its programming.

The Fox News Channel works in the following ways:

• As shown in the PEJ investigation, Fox News uses the "talking head" format for 83% of its
evening broadcasts. The network can choose its own "experts" to comment on the news.
Usually, these experts hold an opinion in line with the network's pro-Republican Party bias.
Though "liberal" or Democratic Party representatives may also appear as talking heads, they
are always outnumbered by speakers holding the Fox News viewpoint. The majority of
experts or interviewees on the Fox News Channel are in line with the network's views.
• Because the use of talking heads is so pervasive throughout their broadcasts, there is a
seamless blend between "expert commentary and analysis" and the so-called "hard" news
stories. Even written/edited/voice-over news stories include commentary by the reporter
during and at the end of the report.
• The majority of Fox News Channel coverage is focused on politics. Though Fox News
offers full coverage of the life and times of Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and Brad Pitt,
most of its news stories have some connection with political issues. Once again, the focus is
the Republican Party.
• The Fox News Channel uses patriotism to sell its newscasts. With a digitized American flag
constantly flying in the upper left corner of the screen, Fox News always places the United
States in the positive light. The network's intention is to make the viewer feel patriotic for
watching the network. The Fox News TV screen is filled with red, white and blue in both
the text and backdrops.

When presenting hard news stories, the Fox News Channel always includes the network spin. The
network uses a number of techniques to mutate reality. Here are just a few:

• Method #1: Non-reporting. A news story about rising gas prices blames regional
environmental clean air standards. According to Fox News, "some officials say
environmental regulations are driving up prices by forcing fuel refiners to develop different
blends." This is only partially true. The reporter does not mention other factors including the
lack of refining capacity in the United States; OPEC holding back production; the simple
economics of high-demand in the U.S.; poor fuel efficiency of U.S. vehicles; and the fact
that even with price increases, the U.S. STILL has the lowest cost per gallon of gas in the
world. The Fox News spin is that the only reason gas prices rise is because of those liberal
environmental laws. (June 3, 2004)
• Method #2: Conceptual Name Calling. A news story about global warming is titled "Junk
Science." The first line of the newscast says: "The global warming treaty known as the
Kyoto protocol is politically dead in the U.S. But the treaty's left-leaning environmental
extremist supporters haven't given up their fantasy of creating a socialist global economy
through controls on energy use." This report includes no scientific evidence of global
warming and ends with the comment that "the junk science-fueled Kyoto protocol would be
an economic suicide capsule." (June 4, 2004)
• Method #3: Political Name Calling. The Fox News Channel makes a sharp distinction
between Democrat and Republican and liberal and conservative. Network news always
identifies political party affiliations. For example, a report on Congressional hearings
involving Bush administration Attorney General John Ashcroft said Democrats "accuse
John Ashcroft" and "Democrats kept focus on a series of memos" which lead to a "frustrated
Attorney General" who did his best to stay on topic. The newscast portrayed the Democrats
attacking Ashcroft who was only trying to protect the U.S. from terrorism. (June 9, 2004)
• Method #4: Warped Reporter Analysis. In a report
about Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry,
reporter Carl Cameron's voice-over identified the
public's "lagging perception in the polls that he can
protect the country from bioterrorism" and the
"Massachusetts Democrat as usual slammed the
President for not doing enough to protect the
homeland." Cameron then goes on to explain how
George Bush increased the defense budget. The
report then shows a poll map of states the candidates
will focus on, with it clearly showing that Bush
already won the election (see image to the right).
Cameron ends the report with Vice President Dick Cheney attacking Kerry. Cameron says
"Cheney slams Kerry" and "Cheney focused on Kerry's various positions on the Patriot
Act." The report then shows a video of Cheney saying that Kerry takes "both sides" of
important issues. (June 3, 2004)
• Method #5: Skewed Statistics. Fox News' anchor Brit Hume said in a report that "Two
hundred seventy-seven U.S. soldiers have now died in Iraq, which means that statistically
speaking U.S. soldiers have less of a chance of dying from all causes in Iraq than citizens
have of being murdered in California, which is roughly the same geographical size. The
most recent statistics indicate California has more than 2300 homicides each year, which
means about 6.6 murders each day. Meanwhile, U.S. troops have been in Iraq for 160 days,
which means they're incurring about 1.7 deaths, including illness and accidents each day."
Not only is this report silly and illogical, but does not take into account the populations of
California versus U.S. soldiers in Iraq. On a per capita basis, these statistics make no sense.
(August 27, 2003)
• Method #6: Unflattering Images. When choosing pictures and video, Fox News chooses
ones to serve its needs. For example, to the right are images the network used to identify
political differences between John Kerry and George Bush. Clearly, the network choose a
pretty bad picture of Kerry. Video clips also show lowlights of Democrats and highlights of

Nearly every report on the Fox News Channel includes some method to help manifest its political
views. Rarely is any reporting objective or reliable. However, commentary and opinion is the most
used convention of news transmission on Fox. The Fox News regular talking heads always present
a pro-Republican political view. Brit Hume, Fred Barnes, David Asman, Bill O'Reilly, Sean
Hannity, Tony Snow and others are all conservative Republicans.

Some comments, however, border on the ludicrous. For example, on

June 3, 2004, Bill O'Reilly's comment for the day started with "Hi. I'm
Bill O'Reilly. Thanks for watching us tonight. Another victory for the
ACLU in its war on Christianity." His comment was about how the
American Civil Liberties Union was able to get the cross removed
from the county seal of Los Angeles and, says O'Reilly, the ACLU is
"part of the anti-Christian cabal in America that sees the Christian
majority as oppressors." That day, actually, Fox aired three other
commentary-style reports about the case all accusing the ACLU of
hating Christians. This combination of news and commentary is the
standard on Fox News. Using the method of non-reporting, the Fox
News Channel broadcasts failed to mention the ACLU's involvement
in Michigan where the group sued on behalf of a Baptist minister who
was unconstitutionally denied a permit to conduct baptisms at a lake
operated by the Department of Natural Resources. The ACLU has also joined The Christian
Defense Coalition in Virginia in a similar case.

Media watchgroup Media Matters for America did a rundown of the Fox News Channel
coverage/opinions about a speech given in May 2004 by former Vice President Al Gore. Charles
Krauthammer, on FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume, on May 26: "It looks as if
Al Gore has gone off his lithium again." Mark R. Levin, as a guest on FOX News Channel's
Hannity & Colmes on May 26: "And half the country thinks he's [Al Gore is] a mental patient. ...
They think he should go back to the dayroom he came out of." Linda Vester, host of FOX News
Channel's DaySide with Linda Vester, on May 27: "Some pundits have said they thought he went
off his meds." Oliver North, as a guest on FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes that evening:
"Somebody needs to check this guy's medication. This guy has got a problem." In fairness, I linked
over to and watched the Gore speech. It was well written and passionate speech.
However, in the world of Fox News, Gore's passion is insanity.

A Fox News Channel regular is mentally unstable columnist Ann Coulter. Coulter's appearances on
the Fox News Channel are great theater, but devoid of reality. On May 20, Coulter appeared on
Hannity & Colmes where she said: "I think [calling Bill Clinton a scumbag] is factually correct. I
don't think you could win a slander suit on that. Truth is a defense . . . this man raped a woman.
This man molested interns in the White House, and then he lied about it and committed felonies."
Coulter is the columnist that was thrown off the National Review Online for writing, on Sept. 12,
2001: "We should invade their [Muslim] countries, kill their leaders and convert them to

Coulter epitomizes the Fox News Channel point-of-view. On Hannity & Colmes, June 20, 2001 she
said: "God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said,
'Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It's yours.'" and then on Beyond the News, June 4, 2000: "The
swing voters---I like to refer to them as the idiot voters because they don't have set philosophical
principles. You're either a liberal or you're a conservative if you have an IQ above a toaster." In her
column of June 3, 2004, Coulter writes: "The invasion of Iraq has gone fabulously well, exceeding
everyone's expectations – certainly exceeding the doomsday scenarios of liberals." I guess Coulter
did not look up the word "fabulous," but I don't think it applies when more than 800 Americans are
dead; thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed; dozens of foreign citizens have been killed or
abducted; an American was sensationally beheaded; and photographs of Iraqi prisoners at Abu
Ghraib prison in Baghdad surface showing them hooded, naked, attached to wires, attacked by
dogs, forced to simulate sex acts and assume humiliating and painful positions, and presided over
by smiling U.S. military personnel.

Overall, the Fox News Channel consistently puts a positive spin on the Iraq War. In an interview in
October 2003, Fox News host O'Reilly said: "Well, I think Fox News Channel was lucky because
we were less skeptical of the war, and the war went very well. So we won."

In fact, Fox News was so pro-war, that media mogul and CNN founder Ted Turner called News
Corp. head Murdoch a "warmonger" who "promoted" the war. "Just because your ratings are bigger
doesn't mean you're better," said Turner. "It's not how big you are, it's how good you are that really
counts . . . The media is too concentrated, too few people own too much . . . There's really five
companies that control 90 percent of what we read, see and hear. It's not healthy."

In April 2003, former BBC Director Greg Dyke presented an accurate analysis of the media
situation in the United States and in particular, Fox News. He said journalists in Great Britain were
surprised at the pro-war stance presented through U.S. television. "As broadcast journalists in the
UK, we are still surprised when we see some of the attitudes the U.S. networks have to covering the
war," said Dyke. "When we read that some network executives say that their coverage should be
influenced by 'patriotic duty,' we are surprised."

Dyke continues that after September 11, "many U.S. networks wrapped themselves in the flag and
swapped impartiality for patriotism . . . Essential to the success of any news organization is holding
the trust of its audiences. Commercial pressures may tempt others to follow the Fox News formula
of gung-ho patriotism, but for the BBC this would be a terrible mistake. If we lose the trust of our
audiences, there is no point in the BBC. If Iraq proved anything, it was that the BBC cannot afford
to mix patriotism and journalism."
Fox News Channel does not provide any reliable information. Its method of seamlessly combining
commentary and news reports has transformed its style of TV news into nonsensical jabberwocky.
Television news, in general, should not be trusted. The corporate owners, General Electric, Viacom,
Disney and News Corp., all have agendas through which their news organizations are bound. Yet,
Fox News Channel exceeds all expectations in the realm of news distortion and corporate control.
The Fox News Channel style of exploiting political pundits as commentators, anchors and reporters
presents an agenda -- not reality.