Tonight on his Fox News show, Bill O'Reilly hyped a recent study by George Mason University's Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) that covered stories on Republican primaries. O'Reilly said that, according to the study, claims that Fox News Channel "shills for the GOP" simply aren't true. From The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: A new study by George Mason University says that the three networks and Fox News are pretty much the same when it comes to scrutinizing the Republican field. Isn't that interesting? While the president and the Democratic Party believe FNC shills for the GOP, an academic study says that is not the case.
But as viewers of Fox know, any study purportedly showing a lack of bias in Fox's reporting should be met with skepticism. And there is certainly reason to be skeptical of the CMPA study. For one thing, they don't include specific methodology, other than to note that their researchers are trained to follow existing coding behaviors. For another, CMPA's president, Robert Lichter, is a former paid contributor for Fox News.
Then there is the issue that the study does not show what O'Reilly claims it shows. The study evaluated "ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news" but only looked at "the first half hour of Fox News Channel's 'Special Report.' " The coverage of the first half hour of Special Report, Fox's flagship "straight news" program, is certainly not representative of the entire channel, which has openly conservative opinion programming.
Of course, this study aside, Fox News has time and again shown that it acts as the communications arm of the Republican Party. Its programming is at times nearly identical to Republican National Committee campaign ads and it has a history of passing off Republican research as its own, typos and all.