Bill O’Reilly’s Ratings Derangement Syndrome

Bill O’Reilly’s deteriorating mental state has been on display for many months, even years. From the recently uncovered We’ll do it live meltdown, to the unhinged Don’t block the shot hysterics, O’Reilly has demonstrated the makings of an unprecedentedly public psychological collapse.

One of the core symptoms of the sort of delusional paranoia that O’Reilly exhibits is a personality so disordered that it sees enemies around every corner (see The O’Reilly Fear Factor: Collected Verses). The latest target of O’Reilly’s dementia is the A.C. Nielsen Company who is responsible for the television ratings used by networks, producers and advertisers. People often forget that the Nielsen ratings are a marketing tool because many try to use them as an indicator of popularity. In the business, however, it is well known that the numbers are routinely massaged to produce positive results for whomever is reporting them. But O’Reilly is stretching interpretation to the breaking point.

In his latest screed he is outraged by reports in the New York Times that address his program and its ratings. He begins by boasting that his ratings put him in front of every competitor. He notes that his program is number one in total audience and grew in the 25-54 year old demographic by 90%. However, after basking in the glow of Nielsen’s data, O’Reilly turns around and castigates them as having “major problems…that have benefited MSNBC” and asserts that…

“The bottom line on this is there may be some big-time cheating going on in the ratings system, and we hope the feds will investigate. Any fraud in the television rating system affects all Americans.”

What O’Reilly fails to grasp is that Nielsen is a private market research company that nobody is compelled to patronize. If O’Reilly and/or Fox News don’t trust the results, they can decline to renew their contract. But to suggest that the Feds investigate them is just plain crazy. O’Reilly is attempting to elevate Nielsen to some kind of public institution that is subject to scrutiny from government overseers. It’s not. If O’Reilly had any evidence of wrongdoing, he could easily release it and Nielsen would be forced to respond. That’s how the free market, so revered by rightist ideologues like O’Reilly, actually operates.

Obviously O’Reilly has no such evidence. And he is exploring the boundaries of absurdity by proudly citing the Nielsen ratings as his source for how successful he is, then slandering them for cheating to make him look bad. If he wants us to be suspicious of Nielsen data, than shouldn’t we also question the data that shows him ahead?

As for his interpretation, O’Reilly is eager to complain that reporters from the New York Times leave out pertinent facts when profiling his performance. But so does he. His claim that he increased his 25-54 demo 90% needs to be put in context by noting that Keith Olbermann’s Countdown increased the same demo by over 300%. O’Reilly also likes to use the total audience numbers because they favor him. What he doesn’t say is that nobody in the business cares about them. Advertisers are focused on younger demos. In that area, O’Reilly lags severely. Only 22% of primetime Fox News viewers were in the 25-54 demo, compared to 31% for CNN and 38% for MSNBC. And Fox News is consistently the slowest growing of all the cable news networks.

O’Reilly’s attack on the Times has escalated into what he calls a war, and O’Reilly is fighting dirty. In a Herculean feat of irrelevance, he suggests that the Times’ performance on Wall Street is an affirmation of his position:

“The Times is suffering for its deceptive reporting. Its stock price is down 54 percent.”

Once again it is what O’Reilly leaves out that is most significant. First of all, he fails to note that the entire stock market has been brutalized by a sell-off of historic proportions. More to the point, the stock price of Fox News’ parent company, News Corp., is presently down 63% from it’s 52 week high. So by O’Reilly’s logic, Fox is 9% more deceptive than the Times.

I recognize that I’m being generous using the word “logic” in connection to anything O’Reilly does or says. But what’s notable about his latest “Reality Check” is how much farther it extends into the surreal than even he has ventured before. He has truly lost touch and now wanders a barren mental landscape in a vain search for sanity and safety from the demons he imagines are pursuing him.


9 thoughts on “Bill O’Reilly’s Ratings Derangement Syndrome

  1. Interesting points.

    O’Reilly’s a gifted data-miner whose fans are the typical right-wing talk radio addicts. An incurious lot seeking a talent like O’Reilly or Rush to hold up a flattering ideological mirror.

    We see it for the fun house mirror it is.

    It doesn’t surprise me MSNBCm – which is trying to be a pale liberal version of Fox News – is growing faster. Of course, they’ve got a smaller viewer base to work with plus we see a lot of young people this election cycle flocking to liberal Obama. The left is energized

    OTOH, conservatism is seeing the pendulum swing against them. While party labels don’t always neatly translate into Democrat = liberal; Republican = conservative, I do find it interesting the number of registered Republicans has dropped 9 points since the last election while Democrats have held firm. Right now 37% of Americans are registered Democrats; 28% registered Republicans.

    The strength of Fox News’ brand, however, is there’s no competition. Right-wingers flock to it with an unprecedented loyalty in broadcast news. It’ll always gather a huge audience relative to MSNBC, CNN, PBS, NBC, CBS, and ABC which split everyone else – liberals, independents, and moderates.

    • Your point on competition is a good one that most people miss. There are far more non-Fox viewers, but they are dispersed amongst several other networks, so no single outlet benefits from their superior numbers. But even the lowest rated broadcast network (CBS) gets twice the audience that Fox does.

  2. It was bad enough that Palin and Hasselbeck teamed up together-I woke up and AAAAAAH! What the hell? I am of Obama but, I felt sorry for Senator McCain. What is this? Talk about conservative divas!! Hasselbeck makes everyone on the view get a new hair style just to keep from saying shutup you dumb “b”.

    Man! the moment would be if Hasselbeck took Palin’s job. At least she knows the duties of the office and can make a complete sentence without “gosh, darn I will certainly e-mail ya on it”

    I really dislike Palin after she incited people by saying Obama was somehow a terrorist. And her antics still go on-help this country dear Lord. It is comedy hour and we are “up the creek with no paddle”.

    And Cindy the looks she has at Palin. Let’s talk about that too. Mrs. McCain made a bundle with the sale of Budwieser. And that is an outsourcing moment of an icon.

    And do you know how much Chaney makes with Halliburton cleaning up Iraq. Oh yeah check that out. Bush and Chaney will retire well as CEOs’ Their idea to blast Iraq was suppose to create more jobs. And wasn’t Bin Laden once a playmate of theirs and they could find Sadam in a hole but they somehow just can’t find Bin Laden….really? The guy make talk maybe? Just asking.

    Go OBAMA! You will have a mess to clean up but, like DL said, it is 43 to 1 you cannot do any worse than those years.

  3. NC for Barack Obama-Amen and Amen! Ask Palin what she will do on the drug war in Mexico and the Cartel..cannot wait for that answer. “Yahoo I am for that” “Free drugs.”

    Betcha it will be alarming…Ask her. Ask her about the corruption in Mexico… please ask. I want to hear this one

  4. Now the Nielsen ratings are the latest “FAR LEFT!!!” target in O’Reilly’s neverending wrath! The very same ratings which O’Reilly brags he’s #1 in! Obviously, he doesn’t want to be seen with disdain, but places disdain upon those who he claims are in a conspiracy to sabotage him.

  5. MSNBC lost me with the “I get a feeling up my leg” comment by Chris Matthews. It seems to me the liberal station has gone from honest journalism to major left wing biased insults and interpretations which loses credibility. Olbermann, Maddow and yes Matthews have foul mouths which many find very offensive when delivering their biased points.

    • “Olbermann, Maddow and yes Matthews have foul mouths which many find very offensive when delivering their biased points.”

      and oreilly, hannity and beck do not have foul mouths when presenting their bias point of view, right? nice hypocrisy.

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