Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Rise of Fox News? The Networks Have Themselves To Blame

The people at Fox News are dumb. Dumb like a fox.

The rapid rise of Fox News has been staggering. Fox continues to “shellac” it’s competitors on CNN and MSNBC, often getting more viewers than those two networks combined. According to Nielsen, in last Tuesday’s election night between 8PM and 11PM, Fox outpaced not only the cable stations, but ABC, CBS, and NBC as well. My guess is Fox will continue to rise. Here’s why.

As the mainstream media has drifted decidedly left over the years, the lack of fair and balanced reporting left an opening for someone to step up and provide it. Okay, you believe Fox is right wing, not fair and balanced? Whatever. In either case, the media’s move to the left created an opening for viewpoints that were not being expressed. Fox stepped in and said “Thank you. We appreciate your generosity,” and filled the void.

Since left-wing ideology deems it’s views as facts, it is understandable they saw Fox as a purveyor of trash. In their view, Fox was anything but legitimate, and probably would fade into the sunset when it’s viewers came to their senses. Assuming their left-wing focus on news coverage was due to ignorance as opposed to intent (not sure we should make that assumption, but heck, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt), I have to think they didn’t believe there was much to worry about.

Fox started picking up viewers in large numbers. Why? Because they presented news the other providers didn’t. Stories that did not fit the viewpoints of the mainstream media did not find their way to the public except through Fox. As an example, during the 2008 campaign season when the Jeremiah Wright story broke, initially only Fox that covered it. When I asked friends what they thought about the Jeremiah thing, they didn’t have any idea what I was talking about. I told them they were only getting half the news, and they needed to start spending some of their time on Fox. Some didn’t take my advice, but some did. Those that did now call Fox their main source of news and don’t trust the networks.

All the networks had to do to keep Fox from becoming the 800 pound gorilla was to present the news - all the news. They could have presented it any way they wanted, but they had to present it, and they didn’t. So now I know, as do many others, that if you want to get all the news, you have to spend most of your news time on Fox.

But, you say, Fox is so right-wing. Maybe so. And most of the starboard commentators wouldn’t deny that. They take news pieces and situations and spin them to the right. But not the news teams. They are real professionals and present the news in, as they say, a fair-and-balanced manner. And, as far as the right side commentators go, no one can deny they at least present all the news, even if they spin it. They almost always have left-wing guests and contributors to present liberal views in contrast to their own. One complaint about Fox is the yelling and screaming and people talking over each other that occurs on many of it’s programs. Of course, this is because there are people on both sides of the issues arguing vociferously to sell their point of view. Tell me Marc Lamont Hill, Kirsten Powers, Ellis Hennican and Alicia Menendez aren’t liberals. Or how about Alan Colmes? You will get every viewpoint on Fox - not so the other stations.

So what did the networks do when they started seeing their market share erode? Instead of holding their noses and covering stories they did not want to acknowledge, they slammed Fox as liars, right-wing whackos, and idiots. Unfortunately, this didn’t jive with those people who had discovered Fox. The networks started looking like children, like the kid who took his ball and went home when the good players showed up. Disrespect for the networks grew as respect for Fox climbed, even among many democrats. Approximately one-third of Fox’s regular viewers identify themselves as democrats. Obviously, they watch for a reason, even if only to understand what the right wing is thinking, and hear it from the right wing, not have the left wing explain it to them.

Unfortunately for the networks, it will be difficult for them to switch course. Their contempt for conservatives is apparent, and they are so loaded up with left-wing people they don’t know how to present the opposing view. They look foolish on those occasional moments when they try. They would have to fire many of their people and hire some right wingers. Not only are they hesitant to do this, it would be extremely distasteful to them. Additionally, they have spent so much effort bashing Fox that altering their ways would leave more egg on their faces than a raw omelette. Admitting their bias would go against their grain. It would violate their true beliefs and they would feel they were doing something solely for ratings.

One of the first things learned from business courses in college is free enterprise will find a void and fill it. Fox found the void. Another thing learned is profits breed competition. Fox is profitable. If just one of the major networks shifts gears and becomes a well-balanced news organization, they will see their market share rise dramatically. If not, it will take a completely new outfit to challenge Fox in it’s ever-increasing niche.

By the way, the claim that Fox News drivel is irrelevant. If it’s news, it should be covered. The fact that many Americans think something is important makes it important.

Of course, if you think FOX News is nothing but drivel, you understand why the networks will have a hard time changing. But then, since you began reading this piece, the gorilla has gained a few more pounds.

Mercer Tyson

This is part two of a two-part opinion about Fox News on this blog. Part One, Is Fox News Divisive? Well .... Sort Of discusses political divisiveness in the country, and Fox News’ role.

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