Last year the Fox Business Network filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Treasury Department documents related to the Toxic Assets Relief Program. After filing the request, FBN launched an advertising campaign promoting their tireless efforts on behalf of the American people.
I have no problem with the FOIA requests, in fact I support them. They are an important part of a transparent democracy, and news enterprises have always used them to provide a complete picture of what our government is doing on our behalf. They do it in the interests of journalism, not some disingenuous grandstanding as protectors of the people. It is unseemly for a network to puff itself up simply for doing its job. Bloomberg also has FOIA requests pending, but they aren’t banging the drum about it.
Now the puffery is ascending to new highs of absurdity. Fox News executive vice president Kevin Magee is patting himself and his network on the back for being champions of the people. He is engaging in a sustained campaign of self-flattery that he paradoxically says “is not a wild publicity stunt.”
Magee: “One of the ways that we want to differentiate ourselves is to tell our audience that we are trying to protect their interests. We think that’s a wide-open field. CNBC seems to always be the friend of the CEO and that’s fine, nothing wrong with that. It has served them well.”
This statement is a direct contradiction of what his boss said when FBN debuted:
Rupert Murdoch: “…a Fox channel would be ‘more business-friendly than CNBC.’ That channel ‘leap[s] on every scandal, or what they think is a scandal.'”
So it is FBN that has always sought to be “the friend of the CEO.” Now, in the midst of a Wall Street driven economic collapse, they want to pretend that they are the network of the people. What a crock! The truth is, they are engaging in pure self-promotion. FBN has tried to cultivate the image of being a business channel for Main Street, not Wall Street. But from the beginning, that pretense has been as phony as their “Fair and Balanced” sloganeering for Fox News.
On top of all of this, FBN wants to claim as their victory something that is not really a victory and with which they had little to do anyway. Documents referenced in the FOIA request have already begun flowing. Over 1,200 have been released, 300 of which were previously undisclosed. FBN’s attempt to take credit for this is plausible only if you completely forget that President Obama, on his first full day in office, issued an executive order requiring agencies in his administration to cooperate with FOIA requests. This explicitly reversed a Bush executive order that mandated withholding information if at all possible.
Emerging from the secrecy-obsessed world of George W. Bush may feel strange, but FBN should recognize that they haven’t moved any mountains. They are just in a new era of openness that makes news gathering a little easier. It is more than a little pathetic that somebody else loosened the top of the jelly jar and FBN thinks they’ve grown new muscles.