FOX is losing their viewers. MSNBC’s ratings are going up, CNN’s are on a slow climb. Comedy Central’s programs have won Peabodies (The Daily Show and South Park), and their anchors are regularly lauded. On any of the non-FOX networks, and especially on Comedy Central, the theme is the same: true universality in their targets (not so much for South Park, but we’ll ignore that for now).
MSNBC has two conservatives and two liberals in their nightly lineup, CNN is generally even. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are arguably liberal, but only so much as they go after the leaders, and The Daily Show has certainly attacked the Democrats and the left every single time they deserved it, from Clinton to Pelosi.
FOX doesn’t do that. They are an unabashedly conservative network, churning out nonstop right-leaning “news” that has blended opinion and reporting to the point of making the viewer unable to distinguish between them. “To Cavuto” has been lampooned on The Daily Show for having tickers such as “Bush: Greatest President on the Middle East ever?” or “Kerry: A disaster for the stock market?”
And that’s why they’ve lost viewers. It’s not the FORMAT of The Daily Show that attracts viewers, it’s the true objectivity. When Bush says he listens to his generals then gets a new general after one disagrees with him, they comment. When the Democrats talk about restoring integrity to the Capitol and then one gets caught with money in his freezer, they go after him. When the media pays more attention to Anna Nicole Smith than the war drums beating toward Iran, they call them on it.
FOX apparently thought that the problem was they weren’t making enough jokes. Somehow they came to the conclusion that their shows were doing too much reporting and not enough mocking commentary.
You see, FOX’s core audience truly believes that any criticisms of Bush or Republicans is evidence of a bias. They believe that their side is truly infallible and when the media points out a lie, corruption, or that Iraq is descending into chaos, it’s not that these things are true, it’s that the media is an evil, liberal machine. I’m not a liberal, but when people say dumb things I don’t pretend they didn’t happen, and I don’t get mad at the media for pointing them out. I get mad at the person who did the dumb thing initially.
What frightens me the most is the possibility that the creators of “The 1/2 Hour News Hour” actually may believe that their show is equal opportunity. They are so blinded by bias that they believe only liberal targets are available for mocking, because the right is inherently perfect. They do believe that FOX is “fair and balanced”. They may very well see their show as a genuine counterbalance to what they perceive as the liberal media. Though you and I have never seen a show on television which would so gleefully attack the right, never has Olbermann or Stewart said “we hate the right, those leaning right, Right Said Fred, and people who are right-handed” or anything similar, that’s what they seem to see.
Chris Matthews has never said that he hates everyone who wears the color red and votes Republican. Dan Rather never said that republican politicians are amoral flip-floppers who take pleasure at lying. Brian Ross never said that President Bush loves watching soldiers die and sends them into Iraq just for his own amusement. Yet if you listened to FOX and their ilk, that’s what you’d think is happening on every station but theirs.
FOX sees themselves as the unbiased statue holding up the beacon of objectivity in the news. So when their viewers start to decline, they don’t notice that they’re sinking right along with the president’s approval ratings, they don’t notice that their popularity is tight up tightly with the politics they shamelessly endorse, they think it’s because they’re just not marketing their “fair and balanced” package effectively enough. And that’s why they inevitably fail at a project like this. And why they won’t understand why they failed.