Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple has re-confirmed that Fox News' supposed "objective" news coverage is filled with conservative-leaning programming.
In a March 27 blog post, Wemple watched Fox from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET -- the times that Fox officials have claimed are dedicated to objective news reporting -- and found that while there was "straight-up news coverage," there was also "ideologically tilted coverage":
The Erik Wemple Blog counted 14 meaty, beefy segments totaling around 64 minutes in which a rightward tilt was somewhere between slight and overwhelming. Here are some examples of how Fox News engineered the slant:
On Friday, Fox News's Alisyn Camerota substituted for the distinguished Megyn Kelly as host of "America Live," which runs from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Camerota moderated a discussion between two guests on the clash between the Democrats and Republicans over the federal budget.
The discussion was ho-hum, as many discussions on the federal budget tend to be. What put it in the column of tendentious Fox News coverage was not so much how it proceeded, but what preceded it. Fox News producers chose to tease the segment with the ad below, which comes from the Congressional Leadership Fund, a group that bills itself as "focused solely and exclusively on maintaining the Republican majority in the House of Representatives."
The ad repeats a frequently invoked talking point for Republicans in the battle over government spending: Families have to balance their budgets, so why doesn't the government? When Democrats are faced with that argument, they generally point out that families carry debt in the form of mortgages and student loans and the like.
Yet Fox News didn't play a Democratic attack ad with any such talking points.
These findings don't disprove the Pew study, but they call into question Fox's claim that its 9-to-4 is objective.
Wemple went on to note that, while Fox claims a hallmark of "moderated debates between two people of opposing points of view," many of the interview segments he watched consisted of a single guest, typically one who is conservative-leaning.
Wemple also highlighted how the personal agenda of Fox News chief Roger Ailes is reflected in Fox's "news" coverage:
One-sided coverage of Obamacare comes from the top. In his new book on Fox News chief Roger Ailes, author Zev Chafets asks the executive what he'd do if he were elected president. Killing the Affordable Care Act tops his list of priorities. His on-air lieutenants do a wonderful job of carrying forward that sentiment.
From the March 28 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Top conservative media voices spoke out on the need to keep stories accurate and in-depth, while at the same time citing some of the right-wing media's worst stumbles as points of honor during a panel discussion Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
It has been a rough few months for the right-wing media. After a variety of observers pointed to its ineffectiveness during the 2012 election, it has come under fire again over the last month as major stories from The Daily Caller and Breitbart.com have imploded.
But such concerns were largely ignored during the CPAC panel titled "Survivor: Conservative Media," which was billed as an examination of the future of right-wing publications. This comes as little surprise, given that representatives from both the Caller and Breitbart.com were featured panelists.
Moderated by Scottie Hughes of the Tea Party News Network, the panel included Katie Pavlich, news editor at Townhall.com and a Fox News Contributor; Seton Motley, a Breitbart.com columnist; Keith Urbahn, co-founder of Javelin; and Lars Larson, a conservative radio talk show host.
While defending their past work, each appeared to espouse traditional journalistic values of accuracy, in-depth reporting and balance.
"Listen to what everyone else is saying, but don't be afraid to break from the pack," Larson said. "When there is a story, get on it, because there are too many stories that are a sleeper. Fast and Furious was a sleeper for a long time."
Larson referred to the botched ATF mission, which Pavlich and others had baselessly spun as a a conspiracy by the Obama administration to implement stronger gun laws.
On March 12, the New York Times published an article on Google's acknowledgement of privacy violations during their Street View mapping project that quoted "consumer watchdog" Scott Cleland attacking the online search giant. When you're talking about issues having to do with online content, calling Cleland a "consumer watchdog" is a tough sell given that he's paid by the companies that provide broadband internet services to advance their interests.
Here's the Times' characterization of Cleland:
Complaints have led to multiple enforcement actions in recent years and a spate of worldwide investigations into the way the mapping project also collected the personal data of private computer users.
"Google puts innovation ahead of everything and resists asking permission," said Scott Cleland, a consultant for Google's competitors and a consumer watchdog whose blog maintains a close watch on Google's privacy issues. "But the states are throwing down a marker that they are watching and there is a line the company shouldn't cross."
It's true that Cleland is a for-pay Google critic and much of his time is spent attacking the online giant. But a "consumer watchdog"? Cleland is the chair of NetCompetition.org, a group that, per its mission statement, promotes "competitive Internet choices for consumers." Among the members of NetCompetition.org: Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, AT&T -- basically every big provider of fixed or mobile broadband.
Cleland may wrap himself in the cloak of consumer advocacy, but that doesn't necessarily make it so. He's on the payroll of broadband companies to argue for policies that best reflect their interests. He is an industry advocate, one of the many axe-grinders and hired guns in the broadband policy arena looking to earn their keep by getting themselves quoted in the paper advancing the argument for their side. And that's fine, so long as the paper in question informs the reader of the interests backing the sources they quote.
From the March 8 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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FoxNews.com featured an op-ed today by Colin Hanna, head of the conservative group Let Freedom Ring, pushing federal lawmakers to "address quickly and responsibly" the threat facing the film industry from "intellectual property pirates." This is important, according to Hanna, because "Hollywood sets the tone for the world for the industry while adding billions to the U.S. economy annually. Everyone wants to see American movies and everyone, it seems, wants to be in the movie business -- even if they have to break the law as the price of entry."
Hanna's over-the-top lobbying for Hollywood and regulatory action that favors the film industry is likely owed to the fact that the Motion Picture Association of America has paid Hanna to do exactly that -- a fact that Fox News neglected to disclose.
The MPAA's 2011 tax disclosure form (the most recent available) shows a $10,000 payment to Let Freedom Ring for the purpose of "promot[ing] the film industry."
Let Freedom Ring received that grant just as the MPAA and major media companies were gearing up to push the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) through Congress. Hanna wrote an op-ed in December 2011 advocating SOPA's passage, and Let Freedom Ring launched an online petition backing SOPA and PIPA as "important pieces of legislation that are consistent with the Founders' view that property rights are important, even vital to America's success."
The campaign failed, and SOPA and PIPA were famously brought down through a combination of grassroots activism and opposition from big-name online entities like Google and Reddit. That failure left a bad taste in Hanna's mouth. His March 7 op-ed took an oblique and supremely hypocritical dig at the groups that killed SOPA and PIPA:
Congress has tried to address this issue before, but pressure campaigns relying on false information and hysterical allegations of government over-reach -- perhaps funded by entities who do not believe that someone else's intellectual property rights should be a barrier to their ability to make money -- dissuaded legislators from taking action. That must not be allowed to happen again. [emphasis added]
Yeah, we can't have outside actors funded by interested parties attempting to influence legislators on intellectual property issues. That'd be outrageous.
From the March 7 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the March 5 edition of Current's The Young Turks:
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Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano baselessly speculated that the government will invade personal privacy as a result of President Obama's executive order on cybersecurity, ignoring the fact that the order merely provides optional help for companies running critical infrastructure to combat cyber threats.
President Obama announced Tuesday during the State of the Union address that he had signed an executive order to improve cybersecurity for critical infrastructure that impacts national security, the national economy, and public health and safety."
On Fox & Friends, Napolitano said the order "goes too far," making the accusation that the order will allow the government to read personal emails and eventually punish and restrict individuals for what they say on the internet, claiming that "your freedom of expression will shrink."
But as The New York Times reported, the order has nothing to do with the Internet use of individuals, and instead introduces an entirely voluntary program to help specific companies combat cyber threats:
The order will allow companies that oversee infrastructure like dams, electrical grids and financial institutions to join an experimental program that has provided government contractors with real-time reports about cyberthreats.
It will also put together recommendations that companies should follow to prevent attacks, and it will more clearly define the responsibilities for different parts of the government that play a role in cybersecurity.
The Times further noted that according to industry experts, the most important measures needed to protect against cyberattacks still require congressional approval. Senate Republicans twice rejected cybersecurity legislation last year.
And the American Civil Liberties Union has approved of the privacy measures included in the executive order. The Hill's technology blog reported:
The executive order also makes clear that agencies are required to implement privacy and civil liberties protections into their cyber activities, according to existing privacy principles and frameworks. Agencies are also required review the privacy and civil liberties impact of their work and publicly release those assessments.
Those privacy-focused measures won approval from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
"The president's executive order rightly focuses on cybersecurity solutions that don't negatively impact civil liberties," Michelle Richardson, a legislative counsel for the ACLU, in a statement. "For example, greasing the wheels of information sharing from the government to the private sector is a privacy-neutral way to distribute critical cyber information."
Click over to Politico and you'll find an opinion piece by Mike McCurry, chair of the tech advocacy group Arts+Labs, championing a laissez-faire approach to regulation of the broadband and wireless markets, and highlighting the "investing, innovating, and competing" we're seeing from big telecom players like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and T-Mobile. There are a couple of key facts missing from McCurry's piece. First, Arts+Labs is partners with AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast-owned NBC Universal, which should have been disclosed given McCurry's advocacy on their behalf. Second, any discussion of the current spike in wireless investment has to acknowledge that government intervention -- killing the AT&T/T-Mobile merger -- made it possible.
Over the past five years, the nation's leading network providers have collectively invested over $100 billion in faster and better services on their on-ramps to the Internet. In 2011 alone, U.S. investment in wired and wireless network infrastructure rose 24 percent. These investments are being made because companies in the broadband industry -- both wired and wireless providers -- are competing like mad for customers.
Look at what four of the largest competitors are doing. AT&T announced that it will invest $14 billion in both its wired and wireless networks on top of its planned investment for a total of $22 billion a year for the next three years. Verizon is spending billions to keep up with relentless demand for wireless broadband services, seen most recently in its purchase of an additional $3.9 billion of wireless spectrum. Last fall, Time Warner upgraded the speed of its standard broadband Internet tier by 50 percent in many of its service areas. Comcast, which already widely offers speeds of up to 105 mbps and is rolling out 305 mbps speeds, has also focused on the populations least likely to sign up for broadband, offering discounted Internet service packages that start at around $10 per month for low-income families. Scores of other companies, from Sprint to CenturyLink to T-Mobile to Frontier, are also investing, innovating and competing.
Head to the Arts+Labs homepage and you'll see a list of their partners -- "entertainment companies, software providers, telecommunications providers, artists and creators." Featured quite prominently on that list are NBC Universal, AT&T, and Verizon. The bio appended to the Politico piece identifies McCurry as Arts+Labs' chair, but doesn't note these telecom companies' involvement with the group.
From the January 8 edition of Current's The Young Turks:
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The Washington Times editorial board is taking a stand for freedom, opposing newly enacted legislation that prevents broadcasters from airing TV ads that are excessively loud. "Nobody likes overly loud television commercials," the Times observed in a December 14 editorial, but the "government is taking a step too far into the nation's living rooms." According to the conservative newspaper, government action to ameliorate this minor irritant could set us down the slippery slope towards total government control of the internet.
What's most troubling is that Congress and the FCC are inviting future intrusion. A growing number of Americans have embraced online streaming video services such as Netflix, YouTube and Hulu, which are beyond Uncle Sam's regulatory grasp -- for now. A public accustomed to having the government tone down ads might not think twice about having the feds step in and start regulating the Internet.
The public "might not" care. Then again, they might. There's no explanation for how we get from "keep the TV volume reasonable" to "regulating the internet." But then, the whole point of a leap of logic is to avoid showing your work.
What's genuinely puzzling about this scenario is that, according to the Washington Times, the government already is regulating the internet. In a December 27, 2010, editorial headlined "Obama's regulatory power grab; FCC Internet ruling offers a taste of things to come," the Times issued dire warnings about the FCC's Open Internet Order, which establishes net neutrality principles for the United States. According to the Times: "Innovation has thrived online precisely because Uncle Sam has not yet stepped in with his usual mix of crushing taxation and arbitrary rules. That all changes with the FCC's latest action. [FCC chairmain Julius] Genachowski is asserting control over the Internet without any legal authority for his actions."
The truth is that the FCC rules are mainly prophylactic and are intended to keep companies from Verizon from doing crazy things like, for example, asserting editorial control over online content. They went into effect over a year ago and since then the internet has quite noticeably not been crushed under taxation or arbitrary rules, and innovation continues apace. In fact, the U.S. just recently led a successful international push to block a proposed treaty seeking to legitimize state controls over telephone and internet communications.
So the destruction of the internet through oppressive regulation didn't happen, even though the Washington Times said it would, but now it might happen again (or for the first time), all because the government is making broadcasters moderate the volume of TV ads. So goes the chaotic and confusing fight for freedom.
Media critic David Zurawik criticized Fox News for its dishonest attempt to portray itself as a nonpartisan media outlet. Zurawik pointed to Fox's defense of Mitt Romney's false claim that Jeep was moving production to China, and Fox CEO Roger Ailes' attempt to convince Gen. David Petraeus to run for president as evidence of the network's political activism.
In a column on the media-based website Daily Download, Zurawik pointed out that the network's attempt to defend Romney from criticism of his claim that Jeep was shipping jobs to China during the presidential campaign "cuts to the heart of the lie Fox News tries to sell about its news operation being as journalistically sound and non-idealogically driven as anything on the networks or CNN":
No, the news about Fox News that mattered Wednesday was connected to PolitiFact naming the Mitt Romney campaign ad that said Jeep was going to move production and ship jobs to China "Lie of the Year." Lie of the year.
And why that matters in any discussion of Fox is that the Murdoch channel "fact checked" the ad during the campaign and vouched for its essential accuracy -- not once but twice. And furthermore, Fox did it in one instance with Jim Angle, who is part of the news operation -- not the host of an evening show -- doing the vouching. The channel's website describes Angle as "chief national correspondent."
That cuts to the heart of the lie Fox News tries to sell about its news operation being as journalistically sound and non-ideologically driven as anything on the networks or CNN. Sure, Fox executives have said to me, the prime-time shows have opinion in them - just like opinion pages in a newspaper. But not our news programs and the reports by our correspondents.
Except, I guess, when it's an election year, and things are going badly for the Republican candidate. Then, you use your chief national correspondent to vouch for the accuracy of the ad that is the "Lie of the Year."
Zurawik also pointed to recent reports that Ailes attempted to convince Petraeus to run for president as further evidence of Fox's political activism. Although Ailes reportedly dismissed the comments as a joke, Zurawik noted "there is nothing funny about a report by one of the nation's finest journalists that shows Fox trying to influence and corrupt the American political system."
Fox News is deep in an ethics quagmire following a Washington Post report that the network's CEO Roger Ailes used Fox News analyst K.T. McFarland to try to recruit Gen. David Petraeus to run for the president as a Republican. While Ailes and McFarland made their secret overtures, McFarland appeared on Fox's airwaves to praise Petraeus as "one of the greatest generals in American history."
According to The Washington Post's Bob Woodward, Ailes had McFarland advise Petraeus that he "should turn down an expected offer from President Obama to become CIA director" and instead hold out for the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and to resign and run for president if he was not offered that post. In audio of the meeting obtained by Woodward, Petraeus also said to McFarland that he had been advised that Ailes might resign as Fox News chief and act as a Petraeus aide should the general run for president. He also said that Ailes might bankroll the campaign, although he added that maybe it was News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch who had made that offer.
Woodward also reported that Ailes has acknowledged that he did ask McFarland to make the pitch: "It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have." Ailes also called McFarland "way out of line" in some of her comments.
This would be an ethical problem by itself: Ailes -- the chief of a supposedly objective news network -- was advising an active general who was commanding U.S. troops in the middle of a war to make demands of the president, and if those demands were not met, to run for president with Ailes acting as his aide.
But the ethics problem is much worse than that. McFarland appeared on Fox's airwaves soon after meeting with Petraeus to praise him as "one of the greatest generals in American history" who will save us from defeat in Afghanistan. While McFarland was putting Petraeus on at least the same level as Ulysses S. Grant, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Dwight Eisenhower, she provided no disclosure of her and Ailes' advice that Petraeus should consider running for president.
From the April 21, 2011, edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
McFARLAND: When I was there two years ago, Jenna, I looked around and I concluded this is hopeless. Now with General Petraeus, who is one of the greatest generals in American history, he has gone in and he has devised a plan that will work. And the question is not, will it work, but the question is, should we be doing this? Is this an objective, is this a mission that we want? And as you have pointed out, it's expensive. And are we at this point -- you know, where is America's priorities?
JENNA LEE (co-host): Are we in this kind of stalemate [in Afghanistan] like it seems some are describing in Libya -- of course we're not there with combat troops -- but where no side is really gaining any ground and nothing really changes?
McFARLAND: Well the plan that -- the Petraeus plan is to really spend this summer -- they've diminished and decimated the middle ranks of Al Qaeda at the same time they've built up the middle ranks, the mid-level management of the Afghans. So the plan is to continue to make inroads into the Al Qaeda -- not the Al Qaeda so much as the Taliban, and then have slowly but surely the Afghans take over. And it will take a number of years to do that.
McFARLAND: We're doing the military part right, but it's a three-legged stool. And the other parts of the stool, the other legs, are the Afghan government and the Pakistani government, which has safe havens for the Taliban.
During the Happening Now segment, Fox even aired a photo of McFarland's meeting with Petraeus without disclosing what they discussed about Petraeus' future:
Last year, the regulatory agencies charged with overseeing the wireless communications market did something unusual: they actually regulated. After spending the Bush years eagerly facilitating the consolidation of the wireless market, in 2011 the FCC and the Justice Department blocked AT&T from merging with T-Mobile over fears that the deal would be anti-competitive and result in job losses. At the time, conservatives in the media decried this move as gross overregulation of a burgeoning market that would dampen investment and stifle technological development. But here we are almost one year out, and those dire prognostications haven't played out. In fact, quite the opposite has happened.
First, the doomsaying. As the merger neared the bottom of its death spiral in early December 2011, the Wall Street Journal's L. Gordon Crovitz complained of the "risks of overregulation" and declared that this new era of technological wonders "requires more regulatory humility." According to Crovitz: "So long as regulators apply rules for mature industries to new technologies, we will have problems such as spectrum scarcity and industries kept artificially inefficient. Until regulators change their ways, blame a meddling FCC when calls get dropped on your mobile phone."
After the merger officially went kaput a couple of weeks later, the Journal editorial board weighed in, calling the regulatory roadblock "top-down economic tinkering" and coughing up the same dropped-call imagery as Crovitz: "The next time your cellphone is slow or your call is dropped, don't blame AT&T. Point the phone at Washington."
So what's happened since then? Well, when the AT&T/T-Mobile merger was first announced, T-Mobile's parent company, Deutsche Telekom, was looking to wash its hands of the U.S. market. But after the merger fell through and AT&T was obligated to fork over $3 billion to T-Mobile along with a sizeable chunk of wireless spectrum, T-Mobile took the money and invested it almost immediately in network modernization. Now Deutsche Telekom -- once eager to be done with the U.S. -- is moving to acquire low-cost carrier Metro PCS to build out T-Mobile's high-speed 4G LTE network.