THE NUMBERS ARE IN: The Republican debate on Thursday went off without a hitch despite the loss of its biggest tabloid star, Donald “The Situation” Trump. Despite Trump’s trash talking the match-up between the debate and his phony veterans charade, he not only failed to outperform the debate, he didn’t even draw a quarter of the viewers that watched the debate.
The audience for the debate was about 12.5 million. So it outdrew the last GOP debate which pulled in 11 million on the Fox Business Channel. The audience for the GOP debates has been understandably declining with each event. They began with a bang last August registering 24 million, then dropped to 22, 14, 13, spiked to 18 on CNN, then settled back to 11 million. So it is to be expected that the audience would continue to shrink, especially without The Donald. The novelty wears off as the election season progresses. However, surprisingly, it went up a bit.
That by itself would be enough evidence that Trump’s tantrum was a failure. But it gets worse. The audience for his cynical and insulting exploitation of veterans as political props was markedly lower. CNN drew only 1.7 million viewers, and MSNBC had just over one million. So the debate’s audience was four times greater than the combined audience on the other news networks. What’s more, the other networks only aired a small portion of Trump’s event (about fifteen minutes at the beginning and sporadic cut-ins later), so his propaganda didn’t get nearly the coverage that he hoped.
Undoubtedly, Trump will declare victory because reality isn’t relevant in his world, or that of his glassy-eyed disciples. But the truth is that he failed to make an impact by ditching the GOP affair. He proved that the networks don’t need to pander to him and that they won’t be hurt if he gets huffy and bails. That’s probably something that he wishes he didn’t make known. And the image of him as whining wimp who is afraid to face a few journalists along with his party peers will endure.
Now that is it’s all over, it turns out that the hype that engulfed Donald Trump’s appearance on Saturday Night Live was more entertaining than the actual show. There are barely any reviews that have anything positive to say about either Trump’s performance, or that of the regular cast and writers.
The big problem with Trump hosting the show, and the reason the protests were so pronounced, was never about the debate between opposing political ideologies. It was about the noxious validation of an unrepentant hate monger. Would SNL proffer an invitation to a KKK leader if they thought it would produce big ratings? One can only hope not. Likewise, the role of political satire is not to suck up to the rich and powerful, but to slather them in mockery. On that level SNL failed miserably.
Even with regard to ratings, SNL failed to achieve much of a victory. The program did not break any records. It did exceed their other programs over the past three years (not a long time frame for a show that’s been on the air for more than forty years), but fell below such non-talents as Sarah Palin and Charles Barkley. And the reviews for Trump were decidedly unflattering to say the least. Here’s a short sampling of the damage:
New York Times: “S.N.L.” stuck with obvious, anemic political riffs and apolitical sketches that were cringeworthy all around.
Los Angeles Times: “SNL” seemed so bent on appearing nonpartisan that it over-compensated and forgot its actual mandate: Be funny.
The Wrap: In its 41st season, the show would rather play along with the wealthy and powerful than satirize them.
Yahoo TV: Host Donald Trump kicked off this week’s Saturday Night Live with an opening monologue that demonstrated all the reasons it wasn’t a good idea for him to host SNL. […] The only entity that came off worse than Donald Trump was SNL.
Variety: Most of the sketches involving Trump were weak, timid or predictable.
Time: His episode of SNL was among the most anodyne in the show’s recent history.
Washington Post: Trump’s sorry night on ‘SNL’: An overhyped bummer for us all.
Townhall: Trump on SNL Was Dull, Unfunny.
Greg Gutfeld, Fox News: They deliberately wrote nothing, as a protest. It’s like a restaurant cook spitting on someone’s food.
The last two in this list were specifically included to show that it isn’t just the “liberal” media ganging up The Donald. Gutfeld’s paranoid observation that there was a conspiracy by the writers to tank Trump is especially ludicrous. Why would they do so knowing that it would make them look just as atrocious as their star? They have their own careers to consider.
The one moment in the show that was universally applauded was Larry David’s heckling of Trump’s opening monologue wherein he called Trump a racist. David was cashing in on the actual offer by Latino activist group Deport Racism to pay $5,000 to anyone in the SNL audience who called Trump a racist on the air. The group says that it will honor the offer and pay the prize to David (not that he needs it). SNL’s attempt at a preemptive strike to dilute the impact of an audience member disrupting the show backfired because David’s disruption got far more people talking about Trump’s bigotry than an unknown person in the audience would have.
Trump, on the other hand, was stiff and painfully humor-challenged. What’s worse, he managed to make himself appear even less presidential than he has on the campaign trail this year (not an unimpressive feat). It probably won’t hurt him among his supporters because, by definition, their judgment is pitifully defective.
But the real losers in all of this are NBC, who reversed their pledge to cut ties with Trump due to his offensive remarks, and SNL, who are demonstrating a crushing weakness in what should be their core comedic competence. It’s a sad decline for the program that seems to be accelerating downward. And following this disgraceful capitulation to a bully bigot, you have to wonder what’s next for SNL.
A new study by the Pew Research Center reveals some striking generational disparities between America’s news consumers. The study’s results cast the light of perspective on the marketing hype of Fox News, who brag incessantly about being the highest rated cable news network.
The ratings boast has always been a specious act of puffery by Fox News considering that their numbers are achieved by herding all of the wingnut demographic into a single corral, while the remaining TV viewing universe is dispersed to the rest of the available channels. What’s more, Fox’s ratings represent a tiny portion (about 1%) of the nation’s population on their best showing.
What we learn from the Pew study is that Fox’s appeal among young viewers sets a low water mark for the network. Millennial respondents in the study say that they trust Fox News less than any other news source. A plurality of 43% distrust Fox News. That’s significantly more than the next lowest source, Rush Limbaugh, who is also distrusted by far more millennials (32%) than trust him (4%). The 43% of Millennials who distrust Fox is nearly three times the number who distrust MSNBC (15%).
Looking at the numbers from the other direction, the percentage who trust Fox (35%) is less than CNN (60%), MSNBC (37%), and 4 to 12 points less than the three broadcast news networks. Even sources like the Daily Show and Al Jazeera, whose sample sizes are smaller, are still rated with more viewers that trust them than distrust them, compared to Fox’s net distrust results.
The numbers aren’t much better in other demographic groupings. Gen-Xers trust Fox News less than every other source except for Limbaugh. And the same thing is true for the Baby Boomers who are Fox’s best demo. With a median age of 68.8 years, Fox’s audience is over six years older than either CNN or MSNBC. It’s even worse for their top rated program (Bill O’Reilly) who’s average viewer is over 72 years old.
In addition to the poor showing by Fox News, the rest of the study’s bottom dwellers are primarily right-wing radio talkers, Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck.
From a business perspective, Fox News has to be deeply concerned about the next generation of viewers. If their opinions remain constant they are not going to be tuning in to Fox. However, putting this in a political context is more complex. While Millennials clearly have an aversion to Fox’s conservative programming, they are also less likely to participate in the electoral process. On the other hand, about half of the older Baby Boomers are fond of Fox, and they are more reliable voters. So Republicans may have some short-term advantage from that, but looking forward to the next generation of seniors is going to be a problem for Fox and the Republican Party.
Of Course , all of that may change if Millennials become more active politically due to factors like the first African-American president, or the first woman, or Latino, or candidates who support marriage equality and marijuana legalization. And Fox has been busy alienating all of the fastest growing voter blocs while simultaneously insulting their base of seniors with derogatory swipes at Hillary Clinton’s age. Even before this Pew study, polls have shown Fox News as both the most and least trusted news network.
The technological platforms for news are also drawing more young people. So participation by those connected to Facebook and Twitter will likely increase. In short, the future is a mystery. What isn’t mysterious is that Fox News is rapidly becoming a universally hated network. Its biases and brazenly dishonest reporting are being rejected in ever greater numbers. It is a fading entity whose prospects are dwindling with time. And that’s good news for democracy and America and the world.
The past couple of weeks has seen an ever-expanding exposition of brazenly dishonest reporting from Fox News star Bill O’Reilly. There are now at least five documented examples of his embellishing his own exploits in war zones and other “dangerous” assignments. His accounts have been refuted by both hard evidence and the testimony of his colleagues.
So how does O’Reilly respond to these charges that would severely damage his credibility if he had any? Well, after issuing some unsupported but emphatic denials, and threatening journalists covering the story, O’Reilly is now widening the battlefield and lashing out at his favorite target, the “liberal” media (video below).
On last night’s Factor O’Reilly presented a segment on “The Collapse of Liberal Media.” Of course, O’Reilly has done this before and has even declared the liberal media dead. So the fact that it is well enough to be collapsing is kind of an improvement in its condition.
O’Reilly began his rant by exalting himself (surprise) and his success in the ratings as compared to MSNBC. It’s true that Fox News has been the dominant player in cable ratings, but that is not a particularly groundbreaking revelation because it has been true for several years. So why is O’Reilly suddenly making a headline out of this worn out self-promotion? Could it have anything to do with his fury over being exposed as a pathological liar and his compulsion to seek revenge against his accusers?
The guest for the segment was O’Reilly pal and disgraced former CBS reporter, Bernie Goldberg. The first point Goldberg made was that in five of the last six presidential elections the more liberal candidate won the popular vote. Therefore, he surmised, that should have been helpful to liberal media. How he came to that conclusion is a mystery as there is no correlation between ratings and the political party of the White House. In fact, MSNBC’s best ratings were achieved during the Bush administration.
Goldberg went on to offer his list of the three reasons that MSNBC was is such dire straits. And they actually weren’t bad. Particularly the first reason which he said was the most important:
“Liberal news media violate the cardinal rule of all media. They’re not entertaining.”
That’s true. Fox News has redefined television journalism by fundamentally transforming it from an information medium to an entertainment medium. They dress up their pseudo-news segments in the same melodramatic packaging that entertainment outlets use: conflict, scandal, mystery, and hyper-charged emotions including hero worship and fear. Fox employs flashy graphics and attention-grabbing audio whooshes and gongs to decorate their reports that are presented as “ALERTS” regardless of the news value. And always there is sex. Fox’s roster of hosts has more former beauty pageant contestants than journalists. And they aren’t shy about putting their “talent” in revealing clothes and camera angles. In fact, Fox CEO Roger Ailes demands it. As for news, Fox’s concentration on tabloid thrill-fiction like Benghazi and Obama’s birth certificate is the news equivalent of porn.
This presents a dilemma to serious news enterprises that seek to carry out a mission to inform the public, but also need the public to watch. Fox News has gone out farthest on this limb and virtually abandoned the practice of ethical journalism. MSNBC and other networks need to find the proper balance.
Goldberg’s second reason was also surprisingly rational. He said that…
“People tune in to opinion journalism not so much to get information, but to get their own opinions validated by people on the air.”
Indeed. However, that isn’t something that explains MSNBC’s ratings or distinguishes them from Fox. There is no network that is more guilty of pandering to a partisan ideology than Fox News. So Goldgerg’s second reason only manages to accurately describe why Fox is so successful in corralling a loyal, uncritical audience.
On the other hand, his insight into MSNBC is way off base. He asserts that MSNBC fails because their politics are so far-left that they don’t validate the liberals in their target audience. Apparently Goldberg has never watched MSNBC. The notion that it is radically leftist could only be held by someone who is either unfamiliar with the network or utterly confused about liberal politics. Plus, he ignores the three hour morning block anchored by Joe Scarborough, a conservative Republican and former congressman.
The third reason Goldberg gave for MSNBC’s poor ratings is that “there are plenty of other places to get left-of-center information.” He’s right. And that is a key factor in Fox’s success. They have cornered the market for right-wing TV news. That means that viewers who want conservative slanted reporting will congregate at Fox, while all other viewers are dispersed across the dial, thus diluting the standings of any single network. So it isn’t that there are more conservatives watching TV, it’s just that they all watch one channel. Additionally, Goldberg conceded that Fox was designed from the start to be the right’s mouthpiece saying that…
“If you want to get conservative information on television, you do what Roger Ailes did. He found the niche, as he put it. Fifty percent of America.”
O’Reilly didn’t bother to object to Goldberg’s characterization of his boss or his network. Fox hardly ever tries to defend their fairness or balance any more. They now proudly regard their biases as a marketing feature to the wingnut demographic. But when the discussion turned to alternative sources for news, both O’Reilly and Goldberg slipped off the rails. They asserted that there were few places to find conservative views online. It makes you wonder which Internet they are using if they aren’t familiar with the Drudge Report, Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze, Breitbart News, the Daily Caller, National Review, WorldNetDaily, Townhall, Newsmax, and of course, their own fib factory Fox Nation.
On the flip side O’Reilly gave his impression of the left’s Internet presence in a rant that was loaded with his unique brand of animus and hostility. He was veritably frothing as he said that…
“There are some conservative websites, but the left-wing dominates the Internet. There are all these sleazy, slimy, far-left throwing it out. And that’s hurt the television industry.”
So O’Reilly and Goldberg don’t see any significant right-wing Internet sites, but the many left-wing sites they see are all slimy. How they are hurting television isn’t explained. In all likelihood, O’Reilly is covertly referencing his own problems with Internet sites like Mother Jones that have exposed his rank dishonesty. By telling the truth about him, O’Reilly believes that his Internet critics are destroying television. And, according to O’Reilly & Company, all of this is happening in an environment wherein it is the so-called liberal media that is collapsing. But how is a collapsing liberal media destroying the all-powerful conservative media?
O’Reilly really needs to make up his mind. Are liberals a dangerous cabal that are having a profound and negative effect on O’Reilly’s TV kingdom, or are they a band of weaklings who are struggling to keep from dissolving into the ether? Or is it a waste of time trying to figure out the hypocrisies that infect O’Reilly’s mind since the only thing that’s ever on it is what benefits him?
On MediaBuzz, the Fox News program dedicated to reviewing the press, anchor Howard Kurtz took another opportunity to belittle President Obama and the YouTube personalities that interviewed him following the State of the Union Address. This is apparently a sore spot for conservative media dinosaurs like Kurtz who think that it is “beneath the dignity of the office to be hanging out with some of these YouTubers.” As noted in a previous article, the jealously and hypocrisy of the entrenched conventional media was exposed by their arrogant dismissal of a forward-thinking politician who recognizes the value in relating to a new generation of Americans on their own turf.
But Kurtz wasn’t finished. He took his criticisms to his own Sunday program to lay into the President and the YouTubers again. This time he focused on a distinction between the YouTube personalities and mainstream entertainment programs on television saying that he is “fine with Obama going on Ellen, The View, Colbert, but isn’t this sort of like the low-rent district?”
First of all, it wasn’t too long ago that going on shows like Ellen was looked down upon in the same way that Kurtz is demeaning YouTube. Bill Clinton’s appearance on Arsenio Hall was widely mocked by the dino-press. The same is true when politicians began to take cautious steps onto late night shows like Leno and Letterman. In most cases they still complain that such appearances trivialize the political guest.
Secondly, for Kurtz to insult the YouTubers as “low-rent” displays a giant, family-sized bag of chutzpah. His program on the journalistic wasteland of Fox News has an audience of about half a million viewers. Fox News Sunday, pulls in about 1.3 million. But the YouTube trio who sat with Obama last week reach a much bigger audience. Hank Green’s Vlogbrothers has a YouTube subscriber base of 2.4 million. The flamboyant Glozell draws 3.4 million. And Bethany Mota pulls in a whopping 8.1 million people. That’s about four times the viewers of Bill O’Reilly.
In Kurtz’s MediaBuzz segment he ran a brief video that featured only a few moments of fun or silliness, and he implied that they were representative of the whole of each interview. That is a deliberate and bald-faced lie. Many of the questions asked of the President were as substantive and probing as any that the more “professional” reporters would have asked. For instance…
Hank Green asked Obama whether the issues he raised in the State of the Union were politically feasible. He also asked whether Obama’s policy of drone strikes would be viewed in retrospect as a misuse of technology.
Glozell addressed the issue of police relations with African-Americans. She also imposed on Obama to justify his initiative to reinstate diplomatic relations with Cuba and the Castros.
Bethany Mota began with a question that many of her generation are struggling with, making education affordable. She continued with questions about the Nigerian terrorist group, Boko Haram, which has not been getting the media attention that ISIS does, even though they have been at times more lethal.
It would be difficult for Kurtz to honestly find fault with these lines of questioning without condemning his own colleagues who have asked many of the same types of questions. But instead he chose to air some laugh lines and pretend that’s all that occurred. And his panel was no better. Jonah Goldberg of the ultra-rightist National Review whined that Obama “only likes to talk to people who think he’s awesome.” That will come as some surprise to Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and Bret Baier, who have both interviewed Obama. Either Goldberg has early onset Alzheimer’s or he is purposefully misleading. As for examples of profound inquiries by Fox News reporters, this morning Chris Wallace asked Obama’s Chief of Staff if because of the election results in November “Doesn’t the President need to scale back his agenda to work with Republicans?”
Really? So the President should abandon his principles and capitulate to a party that won a majority in the lowest turnout election in 70 years? And when did Wallace ever ask Republicans to scale back their agenda in 2012 or 2008, after big Democratic victories? In fact, one of the first things Wallace said after the first inauguration of Obama was to question whether he was actually president because Chief Justice Roberts flubbed the oath of office. Then GOP senate leader Mitch McConnell declared that his top priority was to make Obama a one-term president. And Rush Limbaugh said “I hope he fails.” Apparently no agenda scaling back was necessary for the Republican losers.
Before Kurtz maligns others as being in a “low-rent district” he should assess the value of his own property. What he will find is a petty, biased, plot of fear mongering and racism. It’s a tract that Fox News has spent years developing.
This may not come as a surprise to most people who are paying attention to the media landscape, but another survey by Nielsen reveals that African-Americans are not very well represented in the Fox News audience. The latest numbers from Nielsen, as reported by Mediaite, show that only 1% of Fox News viewers are Black.
However, this does explain how Fox can be so brazenly racist in so many of their broadcasts without worrying about the consequences. After all, they have little to lose by offending a segment of the television universe that doesn’t watch their programs anyway. Combine that with Fox’s partisan incentive to suppress Democratic votes and their strategy of inflaming racial animus for political gain doesn’t seem so bad in their warped perspective.
Four years ago News Corpse reported that the Black viewership for Fox was a dismal 1.38%. So, if you can believe it, that meager showing has actually declined since then. The breakdown is an indictment of the rightist network’s bigoted marketing objectives that ignore the diversity of the country and badly trail the racial composition of their competitors. Mediaite writes that…
“During the primetime hours of 8-11 p.m., MSNBC’s audience is 24% black, CNN’s audience is 16% black and Fox News’ audience is just 1% black. By comparison MSNBC’s primetime audience is 67% white while CNN’s is 73% white and Fox News’ is 92% white.”
With numbers like that it is no wonder that Fox can describe Hip-Hop mogul Jay-Z as a “former crack dealer,” dismissing his many years as a successful artist, businessman, and philanthropist. It is why Fox anchor Megyn Kelly is comfortable declaring as a fact that Jesus and Santa Claus are white. It is why virtually every time there is a controversial story that tests the racial tolerance of the nation (Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Voter ID, Immigration, etc.) Fox News takes the side of the white majority. It is why whenever there is an allegation of racism against a person or institution, Fox’s kneejerk response is that racism doesn’t even exist anymore.
The argument that racism ended after the slaves were freed is one that has been expressed by Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and many other Fox contributors. Some of the more open-minded Fox commentators assert that racism ended more recently with the election of President Obama, conveniently forgetting that nearly half the country voted against him. But the consensus among them is that anyone who alleges prejudice is a “race hustler” and that there is no such thing as “white privilege.”
So, is the low number of African-American viewers of Fox due to the content of the programming, or is it the brazenly racist programming that has driven away Black viewers? It hardly matters at this point because it is clear that Fox no longer cares and doesn’t believe that they have any obligation to cater to an audience demographic that has almost completely abandoned them.
The problem is that that means they also don’t feel any obligation to the racial diversity and harmony of America. Sadly, we can count on Fox to continue to continue to incite the bigots that flock to their network, and the end result will be to create more division and to encourage distrust and hate. Here’s an example what that kind of agenda will produce.
The Baltimore Sun’s media critic, David Zurawik, wants very badly for his analysis to be taken seriously. But it doesn’t help to burnish his credibility when he makes frequent appearances on Fox News. His objectivity is thrown into question due to the fact that his livelihood in part relies on the network that he is supposed to be reporting on. And whatever shred of objectivity remains was just wiped away by his article pimping what he called “Fox News dominance.”
The most shallow observations of the place Fox News holds in the mediasphere are those that herald its ratings as some sort of measure of quality or influence. The truth is that Fox is not the powerhouse news operation that they pretend to be. On their best showing they pull in about three million viewers, which is a pitifully small scrap of the 100 million Americans in the television audience. What’s more, those viewers are not consumers of news so much as they are disciples of a conservative theology seeking affirmation.
Nevertheless, Zurawik’s article, which was picked up by Fox, reads like the Sermon on the Fox News Mount. He begins by inventing a premise that has no basis in reality, saying that…
“Much of the media establishment seems bent on ignoring the incredible ratings success of Fox News.”
Zurawik offers nothing to substantiate that assertion. It is obvious that Fox News has been sitting atop the ratings perch for several years, and everybody knows it. For Zurawik to make this notion that Fox’s ratings are being ignored the foundation for his analysis suggests that he has some sort of ax to grind against the “media establishment” that may be ignoring him.
The big news that Zurawik claims is missing is that Fox News had a couple of ratings successes that he regards as significant. One is that Fox drew more viewers than the network newscasts on election night. That is mainly notable because it something that they almost never do. So why isn’t the news here that the networks routinely slaughter Fox News in the ratings? Zurawik doesn’t address that.
In the process of fluffing Fox, Zurawik revealed his biases by describing MSNBC as being “slavishly devoted to Obama.” However one might feel about the political leanings of MSNBC, for a critic who is writing about Fox to highlight that without also mentioning the slavish devotion of Fox to a far-right ideology is simply journalistic malpractice.
Zurawik continues to explore this fallacy by pretending to be interested in figuring out why Fox is so beloved by such an overwhelming majority of the nation. He advises the need for serious folks like us to…
“…start seriously trying to figure out how and why it has come to pass that Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly matter more to Americans on election night than Brian Williams, Scott Pelley, George Stephanopoulos, Anderson Cooper or Wolf Blitzer.
Of course, as noted above, Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly do not matter more to Americans. they only matter more to the thin slice of zealots who watch what’s on Fox no matter what it is. By far, most Americans were watching something else on election night. In fact. most Americans didn’t even bother to vote that day. Turnout was about 36%, the lowest turnout in over 70 years.
Where Zurawik really goes off the rails is when he tries to explain why fox is, in his mind, so respected.
“I think one of the reasons for this latest evolution of ratings dominance might be that Fox was a far better watchdog on the Obama White House than any other TV news organization.
So the theory here is that by challenging those in power, by taking the heat as a watchdog on behalf of the little people, Fox earned their trust. What makes this absolute nonsense is that Fox was a lapdog during the Bush administration. They were apologists for everything from his mismanagement of the economy by giving the wealthy a big tax cut, to his negligence prior to the terrorist attack on 9/11 (when he ignored an intelligence report that said “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”), to his launching a war in Iraq that was based on lies.
The people who watch Fox were never interested in a watchdog. They were only interested in having their biases confirmed, and worse, inflamed. Zurawik apparently missed all of that. And he further demonstrated his own bias by declaring that the administration has contempt for Americans and for the truth. But if Americans were to punish anyone for having contempt for the truth, it would be Fox News.
Then Zurawik facetiously offers an alternative theory for Fox News’ success:
“Or maybe, it’s what some critics of Fox say: That those who watch the channel only want to hear one side of the story, and that’s all that Fox gives them. The implication here is that Fox viewers are stupid”
Finally, Zurawik hits on something closer to the real explanation for the one-sided popularity of Fox. It has been revealed in numerous studies that Fox News has an audience that is gravely misinformed. And that result comes from their audience having a cult-like devotion to their brand of disinformation.
In closing, Zurawik makes a disingenuous plea that we “shouldn’t let our biases blind us to the serious media criticism that demands to be done.” The buckets full of irony and gall it took for him to say that would fill a warehouse. His bias is soaking the very article that asks for this consideration. And the fact that he thinks there hasn’t already been scads of serious media criticism on this subject is further evidence of just how distant he is from reality.
Today much of the electronic journalism world will be talking about the television ratings for the just-concluded third quarter of 2014. As expected, Fox News topped the cable news category, as it has for several years. Also, as expected, Fox will hype the crap out of this non-newsworthy information that is only an affirmation of Fox’s ability to herd all of the conservative viewers/cattle into their cable corral.
To put this news in perspective, earlier this year Fox News posted their worst ratings in thirteen years. So their achievement spotlighted in this report is that they are now slightly higher than their worst showing in thirteen years. They must be so proud.
However, there was another less noticed announcement today that has far more significance. The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences released the recipients of the Emmys for news and documentaries. And the winners were: PBS with eleven Emmys; CBS News won ten; ABC News won three; NBC News and the BBC each got two; and CNN and Al Jazeera America both received one Emmy.
Conspicuously missing from that list was Fox “News.” Or perhaps the real surprise would be if they had actually won an Emmy. Fox has been stiffed by the Academy since their launch in 1996. That is largely due to the fact that Fox doesn’t broadcast any news. They are strictly an entertainment network that is filled with fiction, drama, scandal, soap opera, soft-porn, and a prodigious amount of unintentional comedy. What’s more, their entertainment projects are slanted heavily in favor of the Republican right for whom Fox serves as a PR agency. For instance, see if you can find a pattern in these special “Fox News Reporting” investigations:
Benghazi: The Truth Behind the Smokescreen.
Benghazi: White House Cover-Up Revealed?
13 Hours In Benghazi.
Charles Krauthammer: A Life That Matters.
The Great Food Stamp Binge.
Behind the Obama Breakdown.
Behind Obama’s Green Agenda.
Live Free Or Die: Obamacare In New Hampshire.
Those are just a few of the blatant attack pieces produced by Fox to smear the Obama administration. They were laden with rumor, innuendo, unsubstantiated allegations, and outright lies, that never resulted in any noteworthy revelation. Like all of Fox’s scandal mongering, they went nowhere because there were no facts to support their made-up premises. Is it any wonder why Fox can’t snag an Emmy?
A few years ago, in an impudent rant, Fox publicly stated that they were refusing to compete in the Emmy contest, accusing the Academy of being biased against them. However, in order to take that complaint seriously, you would have to believe that all of their peers in the business were biased, because it is they who vote. The Academy merely tabulates the votes. So Fox is admitting that their own colleagues have no respect for them as journalists. Hence, they took their deflated ball and went running home whining “We don’t want your crummy Emmy anyway.” So there.
Fox News has fallen and it can’t get up. Ratings for the month of May 2014, have just been published, and the numbers are devastating for Fox News. While still occupying the top slot among the cable news networks, Fox saw about a quarter of its audience dissolve across every demographic group and time period.
Every Fox program in primetime dropped by double-digits, with Bill O’Reilly taking the deepest dive. Sean Hannity posted some of his lowest numbers ever in his new 10:00 pm time slot. And Megyn Kelly’s new, and highly anticipated, primetime show failed to improve on the ratings performance of her predecessor.
To be sure, Fox was not the only network to see declines. In fact, CNN had an even larger dip. The news was much better for MSNBC who was down the least of all the cable news networks. They lost a relatively insignificant five percent of total viewers, but actually saw increases for Morning Joe, and for Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow in primetime.
For Fox to post numbers that they haven’t seen since August of 2001 (before 9/11) is a painful blow to both their reputation and their bank account. But they have even bigger problems. The viewers that do tune in to Fox are significantly older than viewers of their competitors. Fox News has always had the oldest skewing audience in cable news. With a median age of 68.8 years, Fox’s audience is over six years older than either CNN or MSNBC. It’s even worse for their top rated program (O’Reilly) who’s average viewer is over 72 years old. And their Great Blonde Hope (Kelly), who was specifically brought in to draw younger viewers, also exceeded Fox’s average with her typical viewer voyeur being over 70.
An analysis of the audience composition for the three cable news networks shows that, of Fox’s total audience, a pitiful 20% are in the 25-54 age group favored by advertisers. It’s even worse for their primetime schedule where only 15% fall into that group. That compares to CNN with 30%/35% respectively, and MSNBC with 31%/28%. In other words, CNN and MSNBC draw 50% more total viewers in the younger demos, and they double Fox’s ratio in primetime.
This makes it all the more curious that Fox News is barreling forward with a strategy to viciously insult their biggest viewer bloc. Recently, Fox regular Karl Rove launched an attack on Hillary Clinton with vile inferences that she is “old and stale” or perhaps brain damaged. Expressing such open contempt and belittling of the capacity for older persons to be effective leaders is not a particularly sound way to ingratiate oneself with the senior citizens that make up the bulk of ones audience.
Apparently Fox is not satisfied with alienating African-Americans and Latinos and women and youth and the middle-class and workers and, of course, most of America’s liberals and moderates. Now they are aiming to narrow their appeal even more by driving away the last remnants of their audience – senior citizens. Keep up the good work, Fox.
MSNBC has been enjoying a bit of boost with daily breaking coverage of Chris Christie’s BridgeGate scandal. And thanks to Christie’s determination to impede the investigation the story just keeps getting prolonged which, of course, provides more opportunities for MSNBC to rake in the ratings.
Rachel Maddow is one of the prime beneficiaries of this situation. She was the first cable newsie to report on Christie’s bullying tactics and she has consistently broken new developments. As result she is seeing her ratings spike significantly.
Making this even more significant is the fact that Maddow is beating Megyn Kelly, who was promoted to her prime time slot specifically to try to capture more of the younger audience that Maddow is drawing. For her to have another weekly win so soon may be a warning flag that Kelly isn’t appealing to the audience that Fox intended. In fact, Kelly may just be exacerbating Fox’s older skewing, predominantly male audience who tune in for the titillation that Fox deliberately exploits.
In addition to Maddow’s numbers, Chris Matthews has also been bumped up. He beat his Fox competition, Greta Van Susteren, for the week as well. It is clear that having substantive reporting that viewers find valuable is the most effective way of building an audience. And MSNBC should strive to more of that. Or they could try the Fox model of just making shit up that feeds the prejudices of low-information viewers. That seems to work too.