Fox Business Network Cancels Entire Primetime Lineup

Fox Business NetworkThe day after News Corp released their latest quarterly earnings report, they made another announcement that somehow was left out of the earnings conference call.

The struggling Fox Business Network (FBN) has, in one fell swoop, canceled their entire primetime lineup. Wiped from the schedule are “Freedom Watch” with Andrew Napolitano, “Power & Money” with David Asman, and “Follow the Money” with Eric Bolling. All three programs had little business running on a business network in the first place. They were brazenly political vehicles for sharply partisan, right-wing gasbags.

Andrew Napolitano is a notorious 9/11 truther who believes that the attack on the World Trade Center towers was an inside job. He also lamented the killing of Osama Bin Laden whom he characterized as a victim of assassination, “killed on the illegal whim of the President.”

David Asman has said that we should all be celebrating the 1%. He is an advocate of shutting down the government and believes that its size must be cut “before it kills us all.” He called Obama “Hugo Chavez on the Potomac.” And he believes that Social Security is “one of the biggest frauds ever perpetrated.”

Eric Bolling is perhaps the most deserving of the Glenn Beck Memorial Wingnut Award for Delusional Hyperbole. He has accused President Obama of engaging in class warfare that was “forged in Marxist Germany.” He embraces every conspiracy theory that comes along including that Sesame Street was demonizing the Tea Party. He even accused the American hikers who were held in an Iranian prison of being spies and said that Iran should have kept them.

The demise of these programs signals the dismal shape that FBN is in. The decision to swing the axe was not prompted by the development of new programs to take their place. FBN will fill the holes with repeats of programs that air earlier in the day. It is clearly a desperation move by a network that needs to cut the dead weight and run leaner and cheaper.

FBN’s primetime lineup never drew more than about 25,000 viewers in the coveted 25-54 year old demographic. Their ratings have been pathetic from the start, when they proposed to launch a new business channel that would appeal to “Main Street.” That was a direct contradiction of News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch who said that “a Fox channel would be ‘more business-friendly than CNBC.'” Of course, a business network is not supposed to be “friendly” toward the businesses it is covering.

In an ironic twist, FBN’s Vice-President, Kevin Magee, recently distributed a memo to his staff admonishing them for being too much like their sister network, Fox News.

Magee: “I’ve been asked to remind you all again that they are separate channels and the more we make FBN look like FNC the more of a disservice we do to ourselves. I understand the temptation to imitate our sibling network in hopes of imitating its success, but we cannot. If we give the audience a choice between FNC and the almost-FNC, they will choose FNC every time.”

That’s excellent advice. CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC should pay attention. However, it apparently came too late to save the most Foxish programs on the network. Now Magee has lopped off the worst offenders in the hopes of rescuing the floundering enterprise. Though the losers will still be around as Magee notes that “We look forward to Judge Napolitano, David and Eric continuing to make significant contributions to both FOX Business and FOX News.” Yeah right.

The only purpose Fox Business ever had was to extend the rightist propaganda already blaring from Fox News. They loaded up the network with conservative extremist pundits and vacant ratings whores like Don Imus. That approach has proven to be another failure for Murdoch, whose MySpace investment quickly went down the tubes; whose New York Post has lost millions for as long as he has owned it; for his international newspaper syndicate that is still reeling from the discovery of rampant criminal activity, phone hacking, and the the shuttering of his biggest paper in the UK, the News of the World.

Another item of information that was disclosed with the News Corp earnings release is that their cable television assets represent 60% of their revenue. That’s a pretty heavy reliance on one business segment of a conglomerate that includes international publishing and film operations. Now that FBN is slipping away, all that Murdoch needs is to have his Fox News falter. That is the last remaining support for his crumbling empire. And for the benefit of honest journalism, the nation, and the world, it can’t come too soon.

Lou Dobbs Runs For The Border: Yo Quiero Zorro Noticias

CNN’s resident immigrant basher and birther booster, Lou Dobbs, has announced that he is leaving the network effective immediately.

This comes as somewhat of surprise, as Dobbs was considered to be secure in his position despite significant protest from civil rights groups. But it is hardly out of the blue. There has been frequent speculation about Dobbs’ future with CNN. His opponents have mounted well publicized campaigns to persuade CNN to drop the anchor. And many observers have thought that he would be a better fit for a right-wing network like Fox, particularly its struggling business channel. A Fox News spokesman (not a notoriously credible source) said that there have been no discussions with Dobbs. However that would contradict reports a month ago that Dobbs was seen dining with Fox CEO Roger Ailes in September.

However plausible a Fox/Dobbs partnership may appear, Dobbs’ on-air farewell struck a tone that suggested another possibility entirely:

“Over the past six months it’s become increasingly clear that strong winds of change have begun buffeting this country and affecting all of us, and some leaders in media, politics, and business have been urging me to go beyond the role at CNN and to engage in constructive problem solving as well as to contribute positively to the great understanding of the issues of our day.”

Dobbs went on to lament what he called “the lack of true representation in Washington, D.C.” There was an unmistakable ring of political aspiration in his remarks. Does this mean he might seek political office? Dobbs lives in New Jersey where they just elected a new governor. The next available senate seat doesn’t come up until 2012. It seems unlikely that Dobbs would give up a multimillion dollar TV gig for anything lower.

If I had to guess, I would venture that he may want to mount an independent campaign for President in 2012. While there would be no realistic scenario in which he could prevail, it would be just the sort of thing to stroke his immense ego. And there is a vocal and motivated minority that is primed to get behind a third party protest candidate. He would sweep up the Beck/Palin malcontents and, in all likelihood, smooth the way for Obama’s reelection.

Closer to home, CNN now has a hole to fill at 4:00pm. Judging by their past timidity, it is unlikely that CNN will replace Dobbs with a partisan from either side of the aisle. The last opening they had was given to Campbell Brown, who is notable for…um…..

If CNN is serious about establishing itself as a straight up news provider in contrast to the modestly left-leaning MSNBC and the raving histrionics of Fox, they will need to find an anchor with journalistic bona fides. They will need to avoid the trap of personality-driven spokesmodels. It would be wise for them to build an investigative news group as the central point of their programming. Adding more news readers like Blitzer or Cooper simply won’t lift them from their cellar dwelling. They need to demonstrate that there is a place for reporting that is probing and informative. And that passion for journalism is not twisted into rancorous blathering.

That’s a tall order, but getting rid of Dobbs is a step in the right direction. Now they have to show that they can embrace this opportunity and aim for something higher. Yeah, I know…I’m not holding my breath.

Update: CNN has announced that their own John King will replace Lou Dobbs. King is an old-school, straight news reporter. This means that CNN is properly moving away from the Fox model of news screeching, but it also means that they are probably not planning on innovating and advancing the state of media. Oh well.

Don Imus Heading To Fox Business Network?

Industry sources are reporting that Don Imus is in talks with the Fox Business Network to simulcast his “Imus in the Morning” radio program:

“Several sources close to the show claim “Imus In The Morning” is close to a deal which would move the show to the Fox Business Network. According to these sources, RFD-TV is looking to drop the show due to financial problems at the network. Fox Business Network has reportedly shown strong interest in the show, and it could make the move as early as September 1.”

This is a de facto admission by FBN that they have failed to attract an audience capable of sustaining the network. They are approaching their second anniversary and still do not permit Nielsen to publish their ratings. That is an unprecedented situation that suggests that their ratings are embarrassingly bad.

Acquiring Imus would be a desperation play for eyeballs. While Imus suffered a devastating blow as a result of his “nappy headed hos” remarks, losing his top-rated radio program and the MSNBC simulcast, he still has a smaller but significant fan base. However, for a business network to hand over the prime morning hours as the stock market opens to a shock jock with no business credibility tells you that they no longer consider business news their mission. They are grasping for any viewers they can round up. Remember, this is the network that interviewd New York’s Naked Cowboy on their first day of broadcasting.

They haven’t come very far since then, have they?

Jon Stewart On CNBC

Further evidence that the only substantive review of the media takes place on Comedy Central. This is a must-see Daily Show clip wherein Jon Stewart mercilessly takes apart CNBC.

As a reminder, even though Stewart couldn’t name another business network (he eventually came up with Bloomberg), there is another one. And it’s much worse than CNBC.

The Fox Business Network was launched about a year and a half ago. At the time the chairman of News Corp said:

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.'”

Obviously Murdoch didn’t know what he was talking about. CNBC has long been a good friend to business. But FBN was created for that purpose. And, by the way, Murdoch also owns the Dow Jones index, which he acquired along with the Wall Street Journal.

Also, don’t miss Stephen Colbert’s amazing take on Glenn Beck’s asinine “War Room” (be sure to watch both videos).

Fox Business Network Is On The Case

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.

Fox Business Network Sues U. S. Treasury

The U. S. Department of the Treasury is taking on friendly fire. The Fox Business Network has just announced that they are suing them to force the disclosure of information about the Wall Street bailout and how the funds are being used. FBN filed a Freedom of Information Act request last month, but the Treasury’s failure to respond has prompted this more aggressive action. In a press release, FOX News Executive Vice President, Kevin Magee, said…

“The Treasury has repeatedly ignored our requests for information on how the government is allocating money to these troubled institutions. In a critical time like this amidst mounting corruptions and an economic crisis, we as a news organization feel it’s more important than ever to hold the government accountable.”

While I have to applaud the spunk of FBN for turning on its master, there a couple of funny things in Magee’s statement:

  1. …we as a news organization…
  2. …hold the government accountable…

The first item, of course, has never been proven, and is disputed by most reputable journalism analysts. The second item raises the question as to why Fox has never before sought accountability from the Bush administration. Perhaps Magee’s revelation that accountability is now “more important than ever” was triggered by the imminent inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see if they follow through and extract anything useful from government bean counters. Well, “counters” may be too generous a description for the unsupervised and reckless bean scattering that the Feds have engaged in. But it’s nice to know that Fox is on the job with muckraking broadcasts like this.

Happy Birthday Fox Business Network

Today is the first anniversary of the debut of the Fox Business Network, Rupert Murdoch’s newest propaganda platform. Ratings for the network are still so low that, even after a year, Nielsen cannot certify their reliability and they are not published. When numbers were leaked earlier this year they revealed a pitiful performance that drew only 8,000 daytime viewers, and 20,000 in prime time. CNBC, by contrast, drew an average of 284,000 viewers during the day and 191,000 in prime time.

This hasn’t stopped Murdoch from pursuing his ambition for a business channel that would be…

“…more business-friendly than CNBC. That channel leap[s] on every scandal, or what they think is a scandal.”

Ironically, the network that was hatched to put a rosy hue on business news appears to have had the opposite effect on the financial world into which it was born. The week that FBN launched the Dow Jones was at an all-time high. Since then the Dow, which also became the property of Murdoch when he purchased it along with the Wall Street Journal, has plummeted 33%.

Is it mere coincidence that the markets went straight down immediately after having been touched by Murdoch’s bony, demon finger? The first week that FBN was on the air the Dow dropped over 500 points. That should have served as a warning of the devastation yet to come.

On July 13, 2007, FBN’s Managing Editor, Neil Cavuto, disputed reports of the economy’s weakness saying that he “[didn’t] believe a word of it.” Cavuto previously downplayed the significance of the credit crunch, saying that, because “this ‘meltdown’ affects roughly 4 percent of all mortgages out there” there wasn’t really any problem at all. He then blamed market declines on John Edwards, who was running a distant third in the Democratic primaries at the time, but apparently still had superhuman powers over the stock market.

Cavuto’s colleague, Bill O’Reilly, recently asserted that the market was tanking because traders were pricing in a presumed Obama victory in November. [For the record, the market has performed better during Democratic administrations than Republicans for the past 107 years. And investments accrue more under Democrats]. O’Reilly also has a spotty record of financial analysis. He lambasted General Electric’s CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, with whom O’Reilly is obsessed, saying that he didn’t know how Immelt kept his job after GE’s stock dropped 36%. But O’Reilly must not have noticed that News Corp., the parent of Fox News was itself down 38% – even worse than GE. Maybe he should be asking how Murdoch keeps his job.

So in honor of FBN’s first birthday, investors and news consumers should be aware that this is the sort of credibility you can expect from Fox News and FBN which calls itself: The Network You Can’t Afford To Miss. It’s more like: The Network You Can’t Afford To Watch.

The Wall Street Journal: Rupert Murdoch’s Bitch

Today’s Wall Street Journal published an editorial castigating FCC chairman Kevin Martin. Normally, that would be an unexpected and pleasant surprise. Martin’s tenure at the FCC has been a gift to Big Media, allowing them to consolidate at will and presiding over a deregulation fest that has benefited everyone but consumers.

However, the reasons for the Journal’s pique are more typical of their reputation for greed and self-interest. The FCC is reportedly prepared to rule against Comcast for blocking legal access to the Internet. At Save the Internet, Craig Aaron has nicely documented Comcast’s violations and laid out the myths versus the realities of Network Neutrality. But that’s not the end of the story.

For the Journal to take up this issue now, they are treading deeply into some serious conflict of interest. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. purchased the Journal last year. The center of News Corp’s universe is Fox News – a cable network. Cable networks depend on carriage from cable operators like Comcast. Murdoch also owns a new cable operation, the Fox Business Network, which is gasping for viewers largely because they lack carriage on enough cable systems to stay afloat.

Now the Journal is coming to the rescue of Comcast. Is Murdoch attempting to curry favor with Comcast, and the cable industry in general, in order to secure more channel space? Does a pimp want to get paid? The ferocity of the Journal’s attack on an otherwise uber-loyal Republican appointee tells the story. The column starts out swinging:

“Bad personnel decisions have haunted the Bush Administration, and one of the bigger disappointments is Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin. In his last months as Master of the Media Universe, he seems poised to expand government regulation of the Internet.”

That’s the sort of rancid rhetoric that the Journal usually saves for Democrats. On that measure, the Journal doesn’t disappoint. Delivering what must be the ultimate insult to a right-wing toady, the Journal suggests that Martin is “greasing the skids for a potential Barack Obama Administration.” Remember, we’re talking about a man so devoted to the rightist agenda that he was over-ruled twice by Congress. He never saw a merger he didn’t like. He got his job as a reward for helping Bush steal the Florida election in 2000.

Martin is not the typical target of the Journal’s scorn. But if it means consolidating more power, and making more money, Murdoch will use his house organ to achieve whatever ends he desires. Even if it means beating up one of his prized whores. It’s hard out here for a pimp.

Fox Business Is Still Bad Business

Fox BusinessThe first official ratings for the Fox Business Network reveal that the new enterprise is somewhat less than promising:

“For the first three weeks of July, according to Nielsen figures obtained yesterday that have not been publicly released, Fox Business Network is averaging just 8,000 viewers during daytime hours, and 20,000 in prime time.

CNBC, by contrast, is drawing an average of 284,000 viewers during the day and 191,000 in prime time.

Fox News Executive VP Kevin Magee immediately unleashed a torrent of excuses:

“It’s a slow-growing business, but it is a growing business. I don’t think anybody here expected us to be on top by the first summer, and we’re not.” Anyone who believes otherwise is “probably delusional.”

However, ten months ago CEO Roger Ailes boasted that:

“I’m not interested in anything short of a revolution.”

I guess he must have meant one of those slow-growing revolutions.

Fox Business Network Ad Deliberately Dishonest

A couple of weeks ago, CNBC’s Jim Cramer was asked by an emailer if he should liquidate his account at Bear Stearns. Cramer said:

“No! No! No! Bear Stearns is not in trouble. If anything, they’re more likely to be taken over. Don’t move your money from Bear.”

Shortly thereafter, Bear Stearns stock collapsed and the company was taken over by JP Morgan Chase. Cramer himself has been castigated and ridiculed for his response from many quarters, and now the Fox Business Network is piling on with a new ad:

The only problem with the ad and other criticism is that Cramer was right. The critics are either being deliberately dishonest or they have a severe case of attention deficit disorder. The emailer was asking specifically about Bear Stearns’ liquidity and whether he should close his deposit account. He was not asking about the company’s stock value and Cramer’s response had nothing to do with that. Cramer correctly pointed out that the company’s depositors would be fine because the Federal Reserve guaranteed those funds and that the worst that would happen is that another firm would acquire them. That’s exactly what did happen.

But that hasn’t stopped Fox from publishing a deceitful ad that misrepresents Cramer’s advice. It’s actually kind of funny that the ad’s tagline is “Turbulent Times Call For A Credible Network.” Credible? You mean like a network that doesn’t lie in their advertisements? I think this would be a more appropriate ad:

I’m no apologist for Jim Cramer. He has a pretty lousy track record on stock recommendations. And for a TV personality who behaves like a clown, he violates the most important rule for a clown – be funny! However, when he’s right he shouldn’t have to take heat from the likes of Fox – the network that, on their first day of broadcast, featured the Naked Cowboy offering financial guidance.

For the Record: On July 13, 2007, FBN’s current Managing Editor, Neil Cavuto disputed reports of the economy’s weakness saying that he “[didn’t] believe a word of it.” Since then the Dow has dropped 1,469 points (10.6%), the mortgage market has thrown thousands into foreclosure, and now a financial powerhouse has been reduced to rubble. That’s the sort of credibility you can expect from FBN which calls itself: The Network You Can’t Afford To Miss. More like: The Network You Can’t Afford To Watch.