Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox announced today that it had withdrawn its bid to acquire the Time Warner entertainment conglomerate.
In a statement, Murdoch said, “Time Warner management and its Board refused to engage with us to explore an offer which was highly compelling. Additionally, the reaction in our share price since our proposal was made undervalues our stock and makes the transaction unattractive to Fox shareholders.”
Time Warner had initially rejected the $80 billion offer from Murdoch, but he initially announced intentions to continue pursuing the acquisition.
21st Century Fox is the parent company of Fox Television, Fox News Channel, 20th Century Fox film studios, and several cable and satellite television networks.
Media Matters urged Time Warner shareholders and its Board of Directors to oppose the sale, arguing that the combined company, which would have created the world’s second-largest media conglomerate, would reduce the viable options and opinions available for consumers.
News Corp., Murdoch’s print-focused company (parent of the Wall Street Journal and Murdoch’s U.K.-based newspapers), has recently had executives convicted for their role in the widespread phone hacking scandal, and has had to issue millions in payouts for privacy violations. As Murdoch’s bid to buy Time Warner was revealed, two more News Corp. editors were charged with phone hacking.
UPDATE: In a statement, Media Matters Vice President Angelo Carusone said, “The prospect of Rupert Murdoch buying Time Warner presented real harms to the U.S. and global media landscape. It would given him control of 40% of the cable market and 30% of the movie market. No one should hold that much influence but Murdoch, in particular, has demonstrated that he is far too irresponsible for that amount of power. Today’s decision was a victory for the thousands of people who signed our petition urging shareholders to oppose the sale as well as media consumers across the country.”
This is a victory for the American People!!!
h/t: Oliver Willis at MMFA
Jane Fonda shouldn’t expect any Christmas cards from Rupert Murdoch this year after she trashed his attempts to buy media giant Time Warner.
“I think it would be a catastrophe,” Fonda told The Wrap on Wednesday. "If that happens I’m going to be so angry at the FCC. They cannot let that happen…his news outlets do things that are unconscionable. And it just cannot happen that he becomes that much of a dominant force in American media.”
Tell us what you really think, Jane! (Can we call you Jane? It feels weird. Ms. Fonda, maybe?)
Ironically, the acting legend plays a rather Murdoch-esque media tycoon on “The Newsroom,” though she’d probably put her character closer to her former husband Ted Turner. Leona Lansing would probably cherish the thought of scooping up a huge slice of the corporate pie like Time Warner. Whether she’d pay upwards of $80 billion, as Murdoch is prepared to do, is another matter.
Jane Fonda is right.
H/T: Jack Mirkinson at HuffPost Media
Australia last week became “the world’s first developed nation to repeal carbon laws that put a price on greenhouse-gas emissions.” The country’s carbon tax, which has been a passionate political topic there for more almost a decade, was finally instituted in 2012. But after a new conservative prime minister, Tony Abbott, was elected in September 2013, the carbon tax was aggressively targeted and then successfully repealed by Australia’s Senate on July 17.
The retreat represents a win for climate deniers in Australia who dismiss the looming dangers of climate change and the science behind it. (It’s “absolute crap,” claimed Abbott, echoing Tea Party-type rhetoric in the United States.) It’s a win for energy and mining interests who claimed the Australian tax was too burdensome
The retreat also signals a victory for Rupert Murdoch, the Australian native whose media empire, News Corp., did everything in its power to elect Abbott last fall and to attack the tax. Days before the repeal vote, Murdoch spoke out again against climate change science, telling an Australian interviewer it should be treated with great skepticism. Murdoch’s dismissal stands in stark contrast to his 2007 proclamation that “climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats.”
Murdoch’s anti-climate change crusade in Australia certainly mirrors his company’s commitment to misinformation in America, and highlights the dangers of having news media moguls who are dedicated to propaganda efforts regarding pressing public policy issues. (Murdoch is currently eyeing a bid to buy media giant Time Warner.) Indeed, Murdoch’s media properties in Australia have been shown repeatedly to be wildly unfair and unbalanced when it comes to the topic of climate change.
Australia’s carbon emissions repeal represents a dramatic U-turn for a country that just a few years ago was seen as a leader on the global issue under the guidance of previous Labor Party prime minsters, Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd. “The Brookings Institution has previously described Australia as an “important laboratory and learning opportunity” for U.S. thinking about climate change and energy policy, as it was one of the first major countries outside Europe to adopt a carbon price,” The Wall Street Journal recently noted.
Australia is also one of the largest per capita greenhouse gas emitters in the world, largely because of its reliance on coal-burning power stations that generate most of the country’s electricity. The nation currently ranks 19th among the top 20 countries responsible for global temperature change that has already occurred, according to a study in Environmental Research Letters published earlier this year. (The United States ranks first.)
In the United States, political reporters often portray a carbon tax as lacking the political support to become a reality. But a new poll released this week indicates that a majority of Americans (60 percent) support an emissions tax if the revenue generated is used to fund renewable energy. Nonetheless, the shift in Australia is likely to make climate change action more difficult. “The same ideological and climate-denying foes in Congress who are blocking a path forward for Obama have secured a foothold in Australia,” Salon recently noted. “Abbott’s actions no doubt give credibility to the climate skepticism and stalling tactics of denialist Republicans.”
Indeed, Republicans have already cited the repeal as evidence that the U.S. should abandon the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon pollution standards.
Murdoch set his plan in motion to target the carbon tax four years ago. “After the 2010 election - which resulted in a minority Labor government - Murdoch summoned his Australian editors and senior journalists to his home in Carmel, California,” Australia’s The Conversation reported. “He made clear that he despised the Gillard government and wanted regime change.”
In an article headlined, “Rupert Murdoch’s Newspapers Declare War on Australia’s Prime Minister,” the Hollywood Reporter last year detailed how there was nothing subtle about Murdoch’s propaganda efforts to oust Rudd, who had succeeded Gillard:
Murdoch-owned papers, which control about 70 percent of the local market, have run covers featuring Rudd as a Nazi, as Col. Klink from Hogan’s Heroes and as Mr. Rude from the Mr. Menkids books. News Corp’s Daily Telegraph in Sydney has dropped all pretense of impartiality, publishing a picture of Rudd under the headline, “Let’s Kick This Mob Out!”
That wasn’t the only way Murdoch weaponized his hometown media for an information war. His national daily,The Australian has “promoted ‘misleading’ stories giving credence to climate denialist views, outnumbering those accepting climate science by 10-to-1, according to a report in the Quarterly Essay,” Salon noted.
That study’s author Robert Manne wrote, “In the real world, scientists accepting the climate consensus view outnumber denialists by more than 99 to one. In the Alice in Wonderland world of [editor-in-chief Chris] Mitchell’sAustralian, their contributions were outnumbered 10 to one.” The Australian Press Council agreed, slamming the paper for erroneous claims.
Additionally, media analysis conducted by the University of Technology in Sydney found that “negative articles about the proposed carbon emissions tax in Murdoch’s newspapers outweighed positive ones 82 percent to 18 percent,” NPR reported. Andrew Bolt, Australia’s top-read columnist, employed by Murdoch’s Herald Sun, has branded as “propagandists” newspapers that treat climate change as settled science.
And according to the Associated Press, this campaign may have been partially responsible for opinion polls that “indicated Australians were overestimating the impact of the carbon tax” on energy prices.
All of which led to Murdoch’s dismissive comments last week:
"Climate change has been going on as long as the planet is here. And there will always be a little bit of it. At the moment the north pole is melting but the south pole is getting bigger. Things are happening. How much of it are we doing, with emissions and so on? As far as Australia goes? Nothing in the overall picture."
The same day that Murdoch’s comments aired, Bloomberg News highlighted the fact ”scientists affiliated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published a study that attributes southwestern Australia’s 40-year rainfall decline to human influence. Specifically, greenhouse gas pollution and ozone loss high in the atmosphere.”
It seems clear Australia follows Murdoch’s climate change retreat at its own peril.
Andy Coulson, a former editor of the now-shuttered Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid News of the World, was found guilty of conspiring to intercept communications, concluding a lengthy trial focused on criminal activity at the British paper. According to the Associated Press, fellow News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Stuart Kuttner were acquitted.
Coulson and fellow former News of the World employees Brooks, Kuttner, and royal editor Clive Goodman were on trial for charges stemming their alleged roles in the tabloid’s widespread hacking of the voicemails and phones of crime victims, celebrities, politicians, and British royalty in order to find fodder for stories. The scandal became major international news after it was reported that News of the World had accessed the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a murdered teenager.
Brooks’ personal assistant Cheryl Carter, her husband Charlie, and Mark Hanna, a former security official for News International, were ”acquitted of perverting the course of justice by attempting to hide evidence from police.”
The AP reports that the jury is “still considering two further charges of paying officials for royal phone directories against Coulson and former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman.”
While the hacking allegations gathered steam in 2011, News of the World, which had been operating for 168 years, was shut down.
h/t: Ben Dimiero at MMFA
As the latest wave of Benghazi Fever grips the willing Republican Party, and as the far-right media apparatus stokes the fervor, it’s impossible to ignore the similarities between the all-scandal strategy that’s being adopted by critics of Barack Obama, and the same all-scandal wedge that was used, unsuccessfully, against Bill Clinton, the previous two-term Democratic president.
The Benghazi blueprint matches up right down to the fact that there’s no there there, in terms of a criminal White House cover up. It “doesn’t add up to much of a scandal,” wrote Michael Hirsh at Politico this week, reviewing the facts of Benghazi to date. “But it’s already too late for the truth. Benghazi has taken on a cultural life of its own on the right.” He added, “Benghazi has become to the 2010s what Vince Foster” was in the 1990s.
Foster was the then-deputy White House counsel who committed suicide in Northern Virginia’s Fort Marcy Park on July 20, 1993, not far from Washington, D.C. His suicide, which sparked controversy when the so-called Clinton Crazies accused the president and his wife of being part of a plot to murder their friend (he knew too much!), quickly become shorthand for the type of despicable claims that were so casually lobbed in the 1990s.
Looking ahead to Hillary Clinton’s possible 2016 presidential run, Hirsh wrote that the “Benghazi-Industrial Complex is going to be as toxic as anything Hillary has faced since … Vince Foster.”
The analogy is a strong and a factual one. But in trying to understand what’s happening today with the ceaseless, two-year Benghazi propaganda campaign, a blitz that’s utterly lacking in factual support, it’s important to understand how the media game has changed between the Vince Foster era and today. Specifically, it’s important to understand what’s different and more dangerous about the elaborate and irresponsible gotcha games that Republicans now play in concert with the right-wing media. (Hint: The games today get way more coverage.)
Here’s what’s key: Twenty years ago the far-right Foster tale was told mostly from the fringes. Word was spread via emerging online bulletin boards, snail mail pamphlets, faxed newsletters, self-published exposes, and VCR tapes, like The Clinton Chronicles, which portrayed the president as a one-man crime syndicate involved in drug-running, prostitution, murder, adultery, money laundering, and obstruction of justice, just to name a few.
At the top of the Foster-feeding pyramid stood the New York Post, Rush Limbaugh’s radio show (“Vince Foster was murdered in an apartment owned by Hillary Clinton”), and Robert Bartley’s team of writers at the Wall Street Journal editorial page, who spent eight years lost in a dense, Clinton-thick fog.
Notice the hole in that `90s media menu? Television. Specifically, 24-hour television.
Now, fast-forward to the never-ending Benghazi feast of outrage. Today, that far-right tale is amplified via every single conservative media outlet in existence, and is powered by the most-watched 24-hour cable news channel in America. A news channel that long ago threw away any semblance of accountability.
So yes, Fox News is what’s changed between 1994 and 2014, and Fox News is what has elevated Benghazi from a fringe-type “scandal” into the pressing issue adopted by the Republican Party today. (“Benghazi” has been mentioned approximately 1,000 times on Fox since May 1, according to TVeyes.com)
Remember, Rupert Murdoch’s all-news channel didn’t debut in America until October 1996 when it launched with just 17 million subscribers. (Today it boasts 90 millions subs.) And for the first few years it generally delivered a conservative slant on the news. It didn’t function as a hothouse of fabrications the way it does today.
Now, Fox acts as a crucial bridge between the radical and the everyday. Fox gives a voice and a national platform to the same type of deranged, hard-core haters who hounded the new, young Democratic president in the early 1990s. Fox embraces and helps legitimize the kind of conspiratorial talk that flourished back then but mostly on the sidelines. The Murdoch channel has moved derangement into the mainstream of Republican politics.
By making the Foster comparison, I’m not downplaying how Republicans and the president’s dedicated detractors irresponsibly flogged the Foster story for years. It stood as one of the most rancid examples of the politics of personal destruction that defined the Clinton era. (The Foster family begged, to no avail, for an end to the use of “outrageous innuendo and speculation for political ends.”)
But given how vast the right-wing noise machine apparatus has expanded since the 1990s, I’m suggesting that if that same type of event unfolded under the current Democratic president and if Fox News decided to hype the story, regardless of facts, for ten, twenty, or thirty months, the scandal wouldn’t be treated as a fleeting affair. In other words, if Vince Foster truly were the ’90s equivalent of Benghazi, it would have received mountains of more media attention, from all corners.
Fact: During Clinton’s eight years in office, the New York Times published less than 30 news articles and columns that mentioned Foster at least three times, according to Nexis. By comparison, since the terror attack in Libya 20 months ago, the Times has published more than 250 hundred articles and columns that mentioned “Benghazi” three or more times.
That’s what happens when you add the mighty medium of television into the all-scandal mix. That kind of drumbeat of televised phony outrage forces and/or encourage Republican politicians to respond, as well as the mainstream media.
Meanwhile, how do we know Fox would’ve gone all in on the dark Foster story? Because in the mid-`90s Fox chief Roger Ailes, then programming CNBC, told Don Imus that Foster’s death could have been a murder. At the time, Ailes didn’t have the influence or the independence to unleash NBC-owned financial news channel on a reckless Vince Foster witch-hunt. But he certainly would have if he’d been running today’s hyper-partisan, hyper-irresponsible version of Fox News.
Also, even years after the ugly Foster smear campaign faded, Fox talkers like Sean Hannity push the lies:
In 2007, Fox News host Sean Hannity hosted a special episode on the “mysterious death” of Foster, hinting that the Clintons might have pulled off “a massive cover-up.”
So yes, I’m pretty sure today’s Fox News would have eagerly endorsed the sordid Foster affair, relentlessly demanding that “unanswered questions” be addressed and that sweeping investigations be launched. That in turn, would have forced Republicans into action, which would have sparked endless mainstream news coverage.
That’s what happens when televised propaganda is added to the media scandal mix; the megaphone’s much bigger, much louder, and in many ways much more dangerous.
The defense continued to present its case in the fifth month of the trial of several News Corp. employees for allegedly compromising the privacy of crime victims, British royalty, entertainers, and politicians.
Former News International editors and executives — including Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson, and Stuart Kuttner — are on trial in England for their accused roles in conspiring to hack phones and voicemails to find fodder for news stories.
On the stand in April, Kuttner denied paying off the investigator who did the phone hacking, while Coulson testified at length about his actions surrounding the disclosure of the hacking.
In March, Brooks admitted that her public statements about the number of phone hacking victims were inaccurate. Brooks testified that she approved possibly illegal payments to military sources, hired a “PR guru” to combat allegations of phone hacking, and that she offered a job to reporter Clive Goodman even after he had been jailed for intercepting phone messages. Goodman testified that he had been made the fall guy for phone hacking and that “lots of people” at News of the World were involved in the behavior.
Charlie Brooks, Rebekah Brooks’ husband, denied hiding evidence from the police. The jury also heard that News International wanted a former member of Tony Blair’s cabinet to coach Brooks before she appeared at a parliamentary inquiry.
Here are the notable developments from April, the fifth month of the News Corp. phone hacking trial:
Former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner denied that he tried to conceal payments to private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who intercepted voicemail messages and was paid over £100,000 a year by the News of the World.
Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson testified that he personally called Rupert Murdoch in 2006 when News of the World editor Clive Goodman was arrested for intercepting phone messages from members of the Royal Household. Coulson said that Murdoch “was concerned” and “said the most valuable thing that a newspaper has is the trust of its readers.”
When he resigned as editor of News of the World in 2007 after Goodman was convicted of phone hacking, Coulson reportedly received a £600,000 pay day from News Corp.
Coulson said that they did not know that the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler had been hacked by investigators working for News of the World. The phone hacking scandal exploded in the international media after the Guardian reported in 2011 that News of the World had hacked Dowler’s voicemail in search of possible exclusives after her disappearance.
Coulson testified that he did not know intercepting voicemails was illegal, but ordered reporters to stop doing it because it was an invasion of privacy. He also said he should have done more to stop the practice, but “it doesn’t mean I was party to it.”
Coulson responded to earlier testimony that he told someone to “do his phone,” claiming that it was not an order to hack someone’s telephone, but a request to inspect the phone bill of a News of the World staffer suspected of leaking news stories.
He also said that he left his job as communications director to Prime Minister David Cameron as a result of the phone hacking scandal becoming public.
Coulson said he “rubber-stamped” a payment to Goodman which was earmarked for a royal policeman in exchange for a telephone directory with the home phone numbers for members of the royal family, even though he knew such payments were possibly illegal.
Coulson denied earlier testimony from Goodman that he had instructed Goodman to say he was operating solely as a “lone wolf” involved in phone hacking.
Sara Payne, mother of murder victim Sarah Payne, testified as a character witness in favor of Rebekah Brooks and the News of the World, and praised them for pushing a campaign in favor of harsher laws against sex offenders.
A friend called as a character witness for Brooks’ husband, Charlie Brooks, testified that he was “capable of being completely daft” and once drank a pint of dishwashing liquid to cure a hangover. Brooks is accused of assisting his wife in covering up evidence of phone hacking.
Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich is busy running for reelection, but that hasn’t stopped his former Fox News colleagues from promoting him as a possible 2016 presidential candidate. Fox News has praised Kasich’s tenure as governor, and touted him as “a serious potential candidate for president” with a record that gives progressives “reason to fear.”
Kasich is the quintessential Fox News candidate, having used a perch at the network to profitably stay in the public eye between runs for public office. He joined Fox in 2001 after serving nine terms in Congress and left in 2009 to run for Ohio governor. He was a frequent presence on the network as a guest host for The O’Reilly Factor, and the host of the programs From The Heartland and Heroes.
Fox News treated Kasich to numerous softball interviews during his successful 2010 run. Sean Hannity told Kasich during one such interview: “You do me a favor. Go get elected governor” and “You can help us. Win the state of Ohio.” During an appearance on The O’Reilly Factor, Kasich asked for donations while Fox News put his website address on-screen (which drew a complaint from the Democratic Governors Association).
Kasich’s gubernatorial campaign also received fundraising support from Fox News. Sean Hannity headlined a "high-dollar fund-raiser" for Kasich in October 2009. Mike Huckabee appeared at a 2009 Kasich campaign event. Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch and his then-wife contributed $20,000 to the campaign, and then-Fox News parent company News Corporation gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which helped elect Kasich.
Kasich has claimed he’s not interested in running for president in 2016, telling an Ohio reporter that he “tried to run for president back at the end of the ’90s and 2000 and no one was interested … Now, I’m not interested.” In his gubernatorial campaign, Kasich will likely face Democrat Ed FitzGerald, who has unsuccessfully askedKasich to sign a pledge promising to serve a full term if reelected.
A 2016 Kasich campaign has been a popular topic of conversation for Fox News. While the network frequently applauds Ohio’s economic performance during Kasich’s tenure, the state’s "rate of job growth was below the national average."
Fox News Sunday Anchor Chris Wallace: Kasich A “Serious Potential Candidate For President.”During his March 23 show, Wallace previewed Kasich’s segment by stating, “as the 2016 race for the White House heats up, one potential GOP candidate is counting his states’ economic turnaround.” Wallace later introduced Kasich by focusing on his presidential prospects:
WALLACE: With two years until the 2016 presidential election, there’s a lot of talk the strongest GOP nominee would be a governor from the Midwest. One possibility from the key electoral state of Ohio is making his state’s economic turnaround the basis for his re- election bid in November. Joining us now from Columbus, Ohio, Governor John Kasich and, governor, welcome back to Fox News Sunday.
Wallace’s first question to Kasich was about his tenure as Ohio governor, asking: “What is the secret to your success?” Wallace later asked Kasich about criticism from FitzGerald, including about whether he would pledge to serve his entire term (Kasich dodged the question).
While previewing his show on the March 20 broadcast of Fox News Radio’s Kilmeade & Friends, Wallace said Kasich has led a “big turnaround in the economy of Ohio” and he “really is a serious potential candidate for president in 2016 even though at this point he’s saying, ‘not interested.’”
FoxNews.com’s promotion of Kasich’s interview focused on Kasich and 2016:
Fox VP Cavuto: George Soros “Has Reason To Fear You” In 2016. Fox News host and vice president Neil Cavuto told Kasich on the March 18 edition of Your World that he’s heard “reports” that financier (and Media Matters donor) George Soros “fears you the most of any prospective candidate.” Cavuto then listed Kasich’s “success” as governor, and said Soros “has reason to fear you.” At the end of the interview, Kasich told Cavuto, “you’re the best.”
FoxNews.com Op-Ed: “Why Progressive, George Soros Crowd Fears Run By Ohio Governor.” Republican strategist and lobbyist Van Hipp wrote a March 7 piece touting Kasich’s tenure as governor as a “shining example” of “why the free enterprise system works.” Hipp added: “The more I thought about it, the more I realized why the George Soros crowd fears Kasich the most. They can’t demonize him and use the same old worn out liberal playbook they’ve used against national GOP contenders in recent years.”
Fox News Contributors Tout Kasich As Contender. Kasich has been mentioned by Fox News personalities during discussions about 2016 presidential candidates. Sean Hannity said on January 21 that he wants a president big field with Kasich, among others. Contributor George Will said on February 16’s Fox News Sunday that the race will be decided in the Midwest and said “you have to get three more presidential candidates out of those states — Governors Kasich in Ohio, Snyder in Michigan and Walker in Wisconsin.” And contributor Karl Rove also mentioned Kasich as a potential candidate on the January 13 edition of The O’Reilly Factor.
The trial of several News Corp. employees accused of being involved in the widespread phone hacking scandal has now entered its third month. British royalty, actors, politicians and crime victims all had their privacy compromised. In February, the prosecution — which rested its case during the month — alleged that former Prime Minister Tony Blair offered to “secretly advise” News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch as the scandal unfolded. Testimony from former News Corp. executive Rebekah Brooks supplied the bulk of information for the month, as the defense began its presentation. Among other revelations, Brooks admitted to authorizing “half a dozen” payments to public officials during her time working as an editor at The Sun.
Here are several notable things we learned from the phone hacking trial in January:
- Actress Sienna Miller testified that a private phone message between her and actor Daniel Craig was made public and had been turned into “a titillating piece of information” for the media, who claimed that the two were having an affair. After her testimony via video link, Judge John Saunders told Miller that “I am very sorry what has gone on in this court and reported in the press has caused you distress.” Her ex-boyfriend, actor Jude Law, also testified at the trial.
- The jury was given a police statement from former News of the World journalist Dan Evans, who said that he was “encouraged” to talk about phone hacking when interviewing with former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, and that he told Coulson that intercepting voicemails had saved money for his previous employer, the Sunday Mirror. Evans has already pleaded guilty to four charges, including two that are related to phone hacking.
- News of the World archivist Nicholas Mays testified that Rebekah Brooks’ personal assistant asked for Brooks’ notebooks from the same time period that the phone hacking took place on the day that staff was told the newspaper would be shut down.
- The jury was shown police evidence that as many as 10 mobile phones issued to Brooks during the time she edited News Corp.’s The Sun newspaper and worked as chief executive for News International have disappeared and have not been accounted for.
- News International had its offices and the homes of executives like Brooks swept for eavesdropping bugs as Rupert Murdoch was bidding to purchase broadcaster BSkyB.
- Jurors were shown CCTV footage of Brooks’ husband leaving a laptop and garbage bag in a parking garage under their apartment building on the same day she was arrested. Brooks has been accused of withholding evidence from police as they investigated the phone hacking.
Sherman: "Mitt Romney's 'War Room Was Being Run Out Of The [Fox] Headquarters'" | Video | Media Matters for America
Sherman is right on with the statement that Romney’s 2012 General Election War Room basically being run by Fox and RWNJ Talk Radio.
From the 01.14.2014 edition of CNN’s Piers Morgan Live:
Murdoch’s News Corp. holds up to 70% of newspaper sales in Australia’s big cities, according to Reuters.
Fixed News' Audience Is Literally Dying: Is Roger Ailes' Grand Experiment in Propaganda Doomed? | Alternet
In the annals of Fox News, October 2012 will likely stand out as a shining moment. Buoyed by a wave of Republican optimism about Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, the network seemed tantalizingly close to realizing one of its key ideological goals: ousting President Obama from the White House. Renewed enthusiasm among conservatives was, in turn, triggering record-high ratings for much of the network’s programming and helping it to beat not just rival news competitors MSNBC and CNN during prime time, but every other TV channel on the cable dial. What’s more, the prospect of an ascendant GOP come January meant Fox News might soon return to the era of access and prestige it enjoyed in Washington during the presidency of George W. Bush. The future looked so bright that News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch signed Fox News president Roger Ailes to a lucrative four-year contract extension, even though the 72-year-old Ailes’s existing contract wasn’t due to expire until 2013.
Then November arrived, and with it reality.
Fox News’s shellshocked election night coverage, punctuated by Karl Rove’s surreal meltdown upon hearing of Obama’s victory in Ohio and, thus, the election, capped off a historic day of reckoning for the network and conservatives alike. Chastened by defeat, Republican politicians and right-wing pundits have subsequently been grappling with the repercussions of the caustic tone and incendiary rhetoric their movement has adopted. This ongoing debate about whether broadening conservatism’s appeal requires new messages or just new messaging has ignored the 800-pound gorilla in the room, however. Noticeably absent from all the right wing’s public self-criticism is any interest in confronting the potent role played by the Republican Party’s single most important messenger, Fox News.
Standing at the epicenter of the network—and any new Republican Party groundswell—is Ailes. A former political operative of President Richard Nixon, Ailes has inextricably intertwined his professional and political pursuits since founding Fox News in 1996. Indeed, the network chief functions as a kind of proxy kingmaker within the party, frequently meeting with Republican politicians to offer strategic advice. He is a regular confidant of Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, and at various times, he (or a network emissary of his) has counseled 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Gen. David Petraeus on their potential future. “Ailes,” says former Reagan White House economic adviser Bruce Bartlett, “is quite open about offering his free advice to Republicans…. If you visit New York City, you go see Roger Ailes and kiss his ring. It’s like visiting the Vatican. My guess is that there’s a lot of back-and-forth between Ailes and whoever is at the pinnacle of power in the Republican Party.”
To keep relying on a shrinking number of elderly, white and male subsets of the public, whether to win elections or win ratings, has become a strategy of diminishing returns, however. “I think that you can’t separate the problem at Fox [News] from the problem that the Republicans are going through,” Bartlett says. He can speak firsthand to this incestuous relationship, as his 2006 book, Impostor—which broke with party orthodoxy over the Bush administration’s deficit spending—quickly made him persona non grata at Fox News, he says. (Fox News did not respond to questions about his comment.) “The Republicans are trying to retool to win. That’s all they care about, and they’re trying to decide, ‘How can we be more pragmatic? How can we shave off the rough edges? How can we get rid of the whack jobs who are embarrassing us, costing us Senate seats? But at the same time, we can’t do this in such a way that it alienates our base.’” Fox News faces a similar dilemma, Bartlett contends: “It’s ‘How do we modernize? How do we attract new audiences without losing the old audience? How do we remain relevant without abandoning our traditions?’”
These are fundamental questions, and lately Fox News’s fundamentals—audience, ratings and public trust—have faltered. A 2010 study by Steve Sternberg found the network’s viewership to be the oldest (with an average age of 65) among an already elderly cable news audience. (CNN’s was 63 and MSNBC’s was 59.) By comparison, lifestyle cable channels Oxygen, Bravo and TLC were among the youngest, with an average viewer age of 42. And with MSNBC’s recent decision to plug 34-year-old rising star Chris Hayes into the coveted 8 pm slot, the average age of that network’s prime-time hosts will now be 45, while Fox News’s rotation, anchored by 63-year-old Bill O’Reilly, has an average age of 57.
Having cable news’s oldest average age for both prime-time hosts and audiences represents something of a double-edged sword for Fox in the cutthroat world of cable TV. One advantage is that older audiences are traditionally more loyal, which is why several industry experts say that Fox News is unlikely to be dislodged from its perch atop overall cable TV news ratings anytime soon. This age-loyalty effect redounds to the benefit of Fox News’s best-known prime-time hosts, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, as roughly two-thirds of their viewers are age 50 or older, according to a recent Pew State of the News Media survey.
But at the same time, there is an undeniable actuarial reality at work—or as Bartlett bluntly puts it, “Their viewership is quite literally dying.” The most lucrative advertising dollars flow to TV shows that attract viewers “in the demo,” short for “demographic”—industry parlance for people ages 25 to 54. By contrast, Fox News’s prime-time commercial breaks are blanketed with pitches for cheap medical devices and insurance companies aimed at retirees and the elderly. Perhaps not surprisingly, the network’s advertising rates have grown at a much more modest pace in recent years, according to the Pew survey. Similarly, the growth of its ad revenues has diminished every year since 2008.
Because of the relatively older age and smaller size of the cable news audience, viewership tends to be relatively stable, says Columbia University Journalism School professor and former NBC News president Richard Wald. “Its [ratings] move in very small increments.” To understand why viewers come and go, he compares a TV network’s audience to a target with concentric rings. The core audience—those who are loyal to your channel and watch frequently (and, for partisan media outlets, those who are most ideologically compatible)—is the bull’s-eye. Each concentric ring outward represents a segment of the audience that is less likely to watch because of diminished interest or less enthusiastic partisan sympathies. Dramatic ratings shifts can occur, but they tend to be driven by external events, like elections, rather than programming and thus affect all of the networks simultaneously. Most ratings fluctuations are statistical noise, Wald says, resulting from people in the outermost rings tuning in or out based on varying interest. “I would guess that [Fox News’s] numbers could change by 5, 6, 7, 8 percent and not reflect a change in the loyalty of the audience.”
But here, too, the news does not bode well. Though the network did retain its status as the top-rated cable news network in 2012—its eleventh consecutive year at number one—the steep drop in ratings that its shows have experienced since Election Day has raised eyebrows, precisely because corresponding shows on MSNBC and CNN have not experienced the same precipitous decline.
Just how much of a drop are we talking about? According to Nielsen data, Fox News’s prime-time monthly audience fell to its lowest level in twelve years in January among the 25-to-54 demographic. Daytime Fox News programming likewise saw its lowest monthly ratings in this age cohort since June 2008. Even the network’s two biggest stars, O’Reilly and Hannity, have not been immune from viewer desertion: Hannity lost close to 50 percent of his pre-election audience in the final weeks of 2012, and O’Reilly more than a quarter. The slide hasn’t stopped in 2013, either. Compared with a year ago, O’Reilly’s February prime-time ratings dropped 26 percent in the coveted 25-to-54 demographic, his worst performance since July 2008. Hannity’s sank even further, to the lowest point in his show’s history.
As Wald points out, short-term ratings snapshots can be deceptive. But in the weeks following Obama’s 2009 inauguration, Fox News’s viewership actually surged, averaging 539,000 prime-time demo viewers versus 388,000 and 357,000 for CNN and MSNBC, respectively. This past January, however, Fox could only muster 267,000 average nightly viewers—a 50 percent drop from that 2009 level, and not much more than MSNBC’s 235,000 or CNN’s 200,000.
So why are all these Fox News viewers tuning out? Some of the decline may be due to a broader cultural trend of people deciding to avoid cable TV news altogether. However, a recent Public Policy Polling survey of news media trustworthiness suggests there’s more going on than public apathy. In February, PPP found a marked drop in Fox News’s credibility. A record-high 46 percent of Americans say they put no trust in the network, a nine-point increase over 2010. What’s more, 39 percent name Fox News as their least-trusted news source, dwarfing all other news channels. (MSNBC came in second, at 14 percent.)
As might be expected, Fox News’s credibility barely budged among liberals and moderates (roughly three-quarters of whom still distrust the network) and very conservative viewers (three-quarters of whom still trust it). However, among those who identified themselves as “somewhat conservative,” the level of trust fell by an eye-opening 27 percentage points during the previous twelve months (from a net plus–47 percent ”trust” rating in 2012 to plus–20 percent now). Only a bare majority of center-right conservatives surveyed by PPP say that Fox News is trustworthy.
"The people who are among the moderate-rights are actually the ones tuning out most," says Dan Cassino, a political science professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University who specializes in studying partisan psychology. Last May, Cassino conducted a survey that found Fox News’s viewers were less informed about current political issues than those who watched no news at all. In response, the network’s public relations team mocked FDU’s college ranking in Forbes and belittled its student body as "ill-informed." This kind of ad hominem attack symbolizes the over-the-top, pugilistic messaging style of Ailes, whose no-holds-barred political instincts have dictated the network’s direction since day one.
Ailes’s foundational idea for Fox News, explains Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple, was to package this bias under the guise of “fair and balanced” news. “It is indeed the artifice of neutrality that makes so much of what they do objectionable, or not just objectionable but noteworthy,” Wemple says. And it is effective, he adds: at a recent Value Voters conference, rock-ribbed conservatives almost involuntarily spouted the network’s motto back at him when he asked them about Fox’s coverage. It’s a maddeningly clever bit of misdirection—the network whose branding is most identified with objectivity and accuracy is, in fact, anything but.
Thanks to its loyal conservative audience and its cozy relationship with the GOP leadership, Fox News has long been insulated from the consequences of its serial misinforming. “If your job is to say the most outrageous thing you possibly can and be rewarded for it, why shouldn’t you?” Cassino points out. “As long as you get ratings, you’re going to keep on doing it.” But the recent erosion in ratings and cracks in the network’s reputation, Cassino says, have created external pressure to make changes inside the network. (Neither Ailes nor anyone else at Fox News would comment when contacted for this story.)
Most notable among these post-election changes involved Fox News ridding itself of contributors Sarah Palin and Dick Morris and replacing them with former Congressman and left-wing gadfly Dennis Kucinich, former GOP Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and RedState.com editor in chief Erick Erickson. To some, this personnel turnover confirmed that Fox News was embracing a more intellectually honest, ideologically diverse worldview.
But there’s less here than meets the eye. First of all, the impact an individual contributor can have on the network’s overall nature is minimal; permanent hosts like O’Reilly and Hannity drive its day-to-day brand. And in the midst of the 2012 campaign, Ailes locked up O’Reilly and Hannity as well as news host Bret Baier—the Fox News lineup from 7 through 10 pm—all the way to 2016. What’s more, one shouldn’t read too much into the cashiering of Palin and Morris, since, by all accounts, they were terrible at their jobs: the former was criticized internally for being uncooperative with programming suggestions and personally disloyal to Ailes, while the latter was guilty of humiliating the network with his ridiculous election predictions (as well as auctioning off an unauthorized personal tour of Fox News’ studios at a GOP fund- raiser). “They were only interested in promoting themselves or perhaps promoting an ideology that may not win,” says Bartlett, who singles out Palin’s lack of substance for his harshest criticism. “Totally and professionally, she’s the Lindsay Lohan of cable news.”
Indeed, Ailes’s new hires are little more than new faces plugged into a well-worn programming strategy. Kucinich fills the slot of house liberal formerly occupied by Alan Colmes, serving as a handy foil for conservatives to shout at or over. The telegenic Brown, a blue-state Republican, endorses textbook anti-woman Republican policies, but does so without giving off an overtly extremist vibe. And die-hard conservative Erickson is there to reassure the Tea Partiers and the netroots—some of whom inexplicably believe that Fox News is drifting left—that they still have a voice on the network.
Whether these recent, road-to-Damascus conversions are genuine or artificial may not matter much at this point, though. Hannity and many of his Fox News colleagues have invested so much time inciting animosity toward “illegals” and excoriating legislative attempts at “amnesty” that the network has acquired a reputation of harboring anti-Hispanic tendencies. In the aforementioned PPP poll on media trustworthiness, Hispanics ranked Fox News as their least credible news source, with a net four-point negative rating. (Broadcast news networks all enjoyed double-digit positive ratings.) Likewise, a National Hispanic Media Coalition survey from last fall found that Fox News hosts were more likely than those from any other network to negatively stereotype Latinos. It also noted that the network’s audience had the highest percentage of viewers with negative feelings about Hispanics and undocumented immigrants.
News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch criticized the “Jewish owned press” for its coverage of the conflict in Gaza in a November 17 tweet:
The Anti-Defamation League writes of the “anti-Semitic lie” that “Jews control the banks, the media, and the government”:
This myth originates with The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, a proven forgery. The forgery continues to promote the stereotype that Jews own the banks and control the media. The reality is, in societies, like the United States, individuals who identify as Jews have succeeded. But in almost every other country where Jews have lived, they have been a small minority and experienced centuries of persecution.
The Daily Beast’s Peter Beinert writes that Murdoch’s comment is offensive to journalists as well as to Jewish people and suggests that Murdoch believes reporters for his publications should conform their reporting to his political views:
It’s offensive to journalists because it implies that institutions of the “press” should reflect the ideological biases of their owners. Reading Murdoch’s tweet, it would be logical to conclude that he believes that any newspaper he owns should reflect his right-wing views, even in its news coverage. The FCC might want to consider that when evaluating Murdoch’s reported bid to buy the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times.