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Partiality

January 26, 2009

US media works in a slightly different way to that of the UK, and there are very distinct biases in the intentions of some of the major US networks, notably those of Fox and MSNBC. 

Fox News has had a reputation of edging right of centre for years, with numerous books and documentaries noting that fact in great detail, despite the network’s defence of being ‘Fair and Balanced’.

Politically, the criticism of Fox stroking Republicanism was never higher than in the left-wing documentarian Michael Moore’s book Stupid White Men, where he went so far as to claim Al Gore’s loss of the 2000 election was down to Fox. He believed whilst the votes were being counted and the whole nation waited with baited breath, Fox simply announced a Bush victory. The other networks -not wanting to appear out of the loop- duly followed the claim and the nation was informed across the board Bush had won, hours before the counting would have even finished. 

In the 2008 annual report on American Journalism by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, Fox retains its status as the strongest news station for viewing figures, with hit show host Bill O’Reilly up by 11%. One of the more notable ‘interviews’ he gave was of the then Democratic Presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama. 

In the following 3 segments tensions rose in what can only be described as a pretty difficult time for the now President Barack Obama. Some of the questions asked were very pertinent, but not all that ‘Fair and Balanced’. Bill O’Reilly has been criticised before in the distorting of facts and use of misleading statistics by media watchdog groups such as Media Matters for America and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, and yet his show, The O’Reilly Factor, is still the No.1 rated program on cable news. The report also said-

 

Some analysts believe that cable channels, as they reach saturation point in terms of new audiences, are creating these confrontational shows or personalities to draw viewers in – in effect, more entertainment-like programming.”

 

MSNBC’s answer to Bill O’Reilly is Keith Olbermann. His show, Countdown With Keith Olbermann, was up by 15% in 2008 according to the report, but despite starting as a newscast it has now changed to a more left wing opinion. His repetitious claims of Bill O’Reilly being ‘The worst person in the world’ have driven a division between the stations even further than their own ratings would have us believe. The scales of fairness and balance are less split between the two stations than heaped with all of both. 

Amid rising disapproval, MSNBC pulled both anchors Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews prior to the election for fear their heavy-left bias was too far from neutral for the station at that time.  

Political polls from the two networks throughout the summer were like repelling magnets defending their candidates, and doubts lingering over their respective polls soon gave way to irreverence.

I believe some neutrality does still remain in the ideologies of certain US media outlets, but it seems despite eroding credibility, their viewing figures continue to grow. Whether that says more about the comparitive neutrality of their competition or the entertainment of their broadcasts I don’t know. 

Maybe there are just more TVs.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2009 11:10 PM

    Ali, Daphne and Tom, just an idea but should we have a post just for comments, or a page or something? Then we dont have to trawl for comments or make new posts just asking questions/etc… Shall we twitter and then RSS it from twitter? I think another group are twittering and it might be a good idea. Just a thought.

  2. January 28, 2009 11:21 PM

    Hey Owen,

    This is a really interesting post and I think we can definitely flag up the differences between the UK and US media in our presentation.

    The Obama interview is fascinating to watch for me, simply because I haven’t had the chance to watch much US media. Bill O’ Reilly constantly attempts to almost tell Obama what Obama himself thinks and refuses to take any of his answers on board.

    It’s like the interview becomes more about Bill O’ Reilly than the presidential candidate (as Obama was then). And yet, when we consider the issue of whether the news should entertain as well as inform, its a fascinating watch.

    Although I’m unsure what conclusions I draw from the interview, it’s stimulating in a weird kind of way. In a time when the BBC doesn’t think it can show an aid appeal for Gaza because it compromises the impartiality of the channel, it’s almost refreshing to hear a news report that is so loud and proud, so clear of it’s identity and the line it takes. It reminds me more of newspaper journalism in this country. You buy a certain paper because you know and like their editorial slant, same as viewers in America must know what they’re getting when they choose to tune in to a certain channel. In the UK, allegations of bias seem far more subversive and hidden, and in a way unrealistic – can any news channel be completely impartial ALL of the time?

    Owen – are there any other US news channels that attempt to be more impartial and neutral in their views compared to Fox or MSNBC?

    What about the media regulation in the US? Do they have codes of practice that they need to follow or does the media there have much more free reign in their editorial decisions? I really look forward to hearing more,

    Ali

    P.S. I wrote this comment just before you posted yours but I think the comment thing is a really good idea if you know how to do it! As for twitter, I may need you to show me how but it could be a really good way of comparing our thoughts.

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