by Ryan Stevens
Two of the most common slogans for Fox News’ 24-hour cable network are “Fair and Balanced” and “We Report, You Decide,” but just how fair and balanced is the notoriously conservative news station? According to polls and statistics, Fox News’ impartiality leaves much to be desired.
Fox News’ bias began with the station’s creation, which was advertised as an alternative to the otherwise extensively liberal media, therefore intending to offset the opposing bias. This inherently set the organization on a path that led to what is commonly criticized as a full-time conservative propaganda machine. Though it is often claimed that a truly unbiased news station cannot and does not exist, Fox News’ partisan alignment, both blatant and veiled, has progressed to create a station that is no longer reliable.
From its creation, Fox News has been based on a broadcasting style commonly referred to as the Fox News Fear Factory. This paranoia manufacturer is designed to operate 24 hours a day, pumping out stories that play on the fears of the public, and often disguise opinions and political commentary as factual news. Stories are frequently covered that deal with cases against political correctness, President Obama and even secular viewpoints, which are often demonized. Bill O’Reilly once introduced a story as “another victory for the ACLU in its war on Christianity” and went on to say that the American Civil Liberties Union is “part of the anti-Christian cabal in America that sees the Christian majority as oppressors.” While his statements may contain partial truth that relates to a trend in cases, there was not even a small attempt to hide the blatant bias.
But Fox News’ overt bias is not only displayed in its news coverage, but also in its subtle overlap of news and opinion. One of the network’s main tactics is the use of talking heads, individuals on the show who become popular and recognizable because of their frequency on the show. Many of these characters are well-known such as Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and the notoriously abrasive Glenn Beck. In fact, according to an investigation funded by Columbia University School of Journalism, “Fox News uses the ‘talking head’ format for percent of its evening broadcasts.”
The problem with this approach is that often the characters of the organization are overlapped in news and opinion sections.
Large portions of the network are devoted to the opinions and personalized subjective views of their talk hosts, (such as the O’Reilly Factor) but are not clearly labeled and are formatted in the same way as their regular news reporting. Often the distinction between the two types of programs is difficult to make without prior knowledge of the station. Sean Wilentz, a Princeton historian has said that Roger Ailes, one of the founding members of Fox News has “combined opinion and journalism in a wholly new way — one that blurs the distinction between the two.”
But where is the line between bias and unreliability drawn? Fox News’ pervasive prejudice has created misconceptions about the world that have even been recorded in political surveys. In 2003, the University of Maryland Program on International Policy Attitudes Research Center (PIPA) released the results of a study conducted on perceptions of U.S. involvement in Iraq. The study explored misconceptions about links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, and World Public opinion about the U.S.’s involvement in the Middle East. The study found Fox News viewers had the highest frequency of misperceptions about the conflict in all three categories, leading by around 10 percent in each. In fact, viewers of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show”,an admittedly partial comedy program were more informed about similar issues than Fox News, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Fox News has gone beyond bias and moved to present misleading and falsified facts. Despite the rampant claims of the network that its news is impartial, News Corp., an affiliate of Fox News, has donated $1.26 million to the Republican Governors Association, a move that clearly reveals even further partiality.
Jon Stewart, host of “The Daily Show,” after being verbally attacked by Bill O’Reilly on one of Fox News’ opinion programs said that “Fox has taken reasonable concerns about this economy and [Obama], and turned them into a full-fledged panic attack about the next coming of Chairman Mao.”
Personally, I don’t hate biased television, as long as they don’t call it “news.”
Stevens is a sophomore majoring in English and French. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.