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A multimedia goodbye to impartiality

March 18, 2009
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3 Comments leave one →
  1. scottjsroberts permalink
    March 20, 2009 12:10 PM

    This is lifted from my 2007 dissertation on the rise of 24-hour news channels,

    Fox News and the great divide:

    “The rise of Fox to become America’s most-watched and most controversial 24-hour television news channel shows that despite sharing common stylistic similarities America can still produce television news which is radically different to our own. As media commentator Richard Tait establishes:

    “Fox stands for a different approach to news – populist, politically partisan (despite its claim to be ‘far and balanced’) and aggressively patriotic, (Tait 2004).

    The nearest equivalent to Fox News in Britain would be The Sun newspaper. In both outlets Murdoch’s influence is reflected in an editorially conservative right-wing agenda, (Marr 2004).

    Despite the continuous attacks on its journalistic integrity by those not aligned with the Republican Party, such as Former President Bill Clinton. None of this had dented its long-term supremacy over the once dominant rival CNN, (Graff 2006).

    America’s political culture helps explain how Fox News became so successful and so unique. Before the late 1980s American television news had mirror that of Britain as it was federally instructed to maintain objective journalistic balance across its news programming (Limburg 2006).

    The key turning point came in 1987 when President Ronald Reagan decided to remove this long standing federal law known as the Fairness Doctrine in favour of self-regulation and independence, (Limburg 2006).

    The impact of this deregulation led to a major boom in very outspoken and successful national talk radio shows hosted by ultra-conservative political pundits such as Rush Limbaugh, (Limburg 2006).

    The shows could be completely non-objective and politically biased, (Limburg 2006). The hosts had complete freedom to say whatever they wanted because there were constitutionally safeguarded by the First Amendment and had no obligations to maintain impartially.

    So in effect, the creation of Fox News brought the polarising and opinionated nature of talk radio onto the television screen (in a very successful way). But as you’ll see from my next post, Fox may be popular, but that doesn’t mean it serves a great purpose when it comes to informing Americans.

    Sources:
    Tait, R. (2004). ‘Really objective news’ outguns the liberals, RTS [online], July, Available from http://www.rts.org.uk/magazine_detasp?id=3540%sec_id=653

    Graff,V. (2006). ‘You’re so bloody one-side – it’s unbelievable, Guardian, [online], 2nd October, Available from
    http://www.media.guardian.co.uk/broadcast/story/0,,1885157,00.html

    Limburg, V. Fairness Doctrine, U.S. broadcasting policy, The Museum of Broadcast Communications, 2006, Available from
    http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/F/html/fairnessdoct/fairnessdoct.html

    Marr, A. (2004), My trade: A short history of British journalism

  2. scottjsroberts permalink
    March 20, 2009 12:13 PM

    This is a continuation from my 2007 dissertation – regarding Fox News/impartially

    “Many Americans seem content for public figures such as broadcasters to have their political philosophy established in the public domain, in the belief that objectivity can still be preserved, yet equally many are not happy with the direction taken by outlets such as Fox News, who wear their political opinions on their sleeves (Greenwood 2006).

    Although vastly popular with a large number of Americans, the partisan and non-objective nature of Fox News may have weakened the integrity of journalism in the eyes of traditionalists, (Green wood 2006).

    The film maker Robert Greenwood was so incensed with Fox’s approach to journalism that he produced the documentary film Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism in 2004.

    Most worryingly is the view that Fox’s opinionated style of coverage has on occasions grossly misinformed its viewers. A study by the World Public Opinions research organisation in 2004 concluded that 67% of Fox News viewers were more likely to believe that America had found clear evidence that Saddam Hussein had unquestionable links with Al-Qaeda compared to 45% of ABC News viewers, (PIPA).

    (Hargreaves & Thomas 2006:p98) outlines the fear that “news with a slant” can impede on the ability of viewers to gain an accurate perspective and make informed decision.

    This currently remains the biggest deterrent preventing commercial broadcasters from being allowed to bring the non-objective and opinionated style of journalism personified by Fox News to Britain’s television screens.

    The broadcaster and conservative political commentator Nick Ferrari argues that such a restriction is not conducive with an independent pluralistic television market

    “Why? In this country, newspapers like The Sun can happily exist alongside the Daily Mirror and The Daily Telegraph against The Independent. Why on earth can’t that be the same with our television offerings? (Ferrari 2006).

    It is clear that although many believe Fox News has distorted the traditional values of television news and alienated significant sections of the American audience there are broadcasters on this side of the pond such as Five’s former Head of News, Chris Shaw, who are interested in piloting the approach in the belief it could be commercially successful

    “I’d be interested to see for regulatory reasons whether we could get away with “hat because they [Fox] do take sides, (Hargreaves & Thomas 2006:p98)”

    Summary

    Fox News may have changed the dynamics of traditional journalistic objectivity, (across one network at least), but as outlined throughout this section, its popularity has proven to be a corrosive factor when it comes to informing the public in a balanced way.

    Sources

    Greenwood, R. (2004). Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s war on journalism

    Hargreaves, I. Thomas, J (2002). New news, old news: And ITC and BSC research publication, Available from,
    http://www.ofcom.org.uk/static/archive/bsc/pdfs/research/news.pdf

    Ferrari, N. (2006). TV news needs strong onions, not another bunch of funky sets, The Independent. 31st July, News:p12

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