When I watch this channel, I find myself amazed at the overt agenda it portrays in trying to take on other news establishments. It is clear that Fox News is distinguishing itself by portraying a fairly conservative agenda. I suspect this is just a way to generate ratings while separating itself from what has been called “liberal media times. ” “With the ascendancy of Fox News Channel, we now have a national conservative TV network in addition to the established centrist outlets. But like the mainstream networks, Fox refuses to admit its political point of view. The result is a skewed center-to-right media spectrum made worse by the refusal to acknowledge any tilt at all. Fox continues to drive home their motto “fair and balanced” news, which is not the case.”
Fox could potentially represent a valuable contribution to the journalistic mix if it admitted it had a conservative point of view, if it beefed up its hard news and investigative coverage (and cut back on the tabloid sensationalism), and if there were an openly left-leaning TV news channel capable of balancing both Fox’s conservatism and CNN’s centrism. Here is an analogy: Fox is like a weak sports team that continues to lose to a stronger sports team, thus in an effort to generate a sense of spirit, it creates an artificial rival. Fox has done this by placing a left-wing liberal label on CNN.
The difference between the two networks is that while such conservative-friendly fare airs on CNN some of the time, Fox has oriented its whole network around it. Contrary to what Ailes and other right-wing media critics say, the agenda of CNN and its fellow mainstream outlets is not liberal or conservative, but staunchly centrist. The perspectives they value most are those of the bipartisan establishment middle, the same views that make up the mainstream corporate consensus that media publishers and executives are themselves a part of. It’s politicians who stake out centrist, pro-business positions within their parties who win the adulation of the Washington press corps, like John McCain and Joe Lieberman during the 2000 campaign. Both parties are constantly urged by the media to “move to the center.”
Some have suggested that Fox’s conservative point of view and its Republican leanings render the network inherently unworthy as a news outlet. Some believe this view is misguided. The United States is unusual, perhaps even unique, in having a journalistic culture so fiercely wedded to the elusive notion of “objective” news (an idea of relatively recent historical vintage even in the U.S.). In Great Britain, papers like the conservative Times of London and the left-leaning Guardian deliver consistently excellent coverage while making no secret of their respective points of view. There’s nothing keeping American journalists from doing the same. Oh, do not forget about the BBC.
Fox News host a series of shows that do not offer an alternative point of view. True, Hanity and Colmes is designed to create a debate from the left (Colmes) and from the right (Hannity), but if you watch this show closely, you will see that colmes is a meer part to drive the show’s debate style. He is rarely the center of attention, nor is the liberal point of view:
On the left is Alan Colmes, a rather less telegenic former stand-up comic and radio host whose views are slightly left-of-center but who, as a personality, is completely off the radar screen of liberal politics. “I’m quite moderate,” he told a reporter when asked to describe his politics (USA Today, 2/1/95). Hannity, a self-described “arch-conservative” (Electronic Media, 8/26/96), joined Fox when the network was started, and personally nominated Colmes to be his on-screen debating opponent (New York Times, 3/1/98). Before the selection was made, the show’s working title was Hannity & Liberal to Be Determined–giving some idea of the relative weight each host carries, both on-screen and within the network. Fox sometimes sends a camera down to Hannity’s radio studio during the network’s daytime news programming, from which he holds forth on the news of the day. Needless to say, Colmes does not receive similar treatment.
Fox has become the modern day Goldwater in that conservatives who feel as though they have been silenced for years, now have a champion that provides hope from the liberal thought process of liberal intellectuals and political figures. When I taught Advanced Placement Government and Politics, I always taught that news outlets avoided “agenda” news. They could not risk creating an archtype that would cost them viewers. Well, forgive me and many textbooks for poor teaching. Fox has proven me wrong.