Ben Stein: Hot To Fox Trot

If this doesn’t curdle your milk, I don’t know what will.

[Mouse over image above for the not-so-subtle message]

Conservative economedian Ben Stein has trouble controlling his carnal urges when watching Fox Business News. In an article he wrote for Best Life Magazine he reveals the real appeal of FBN’s programming: Hot Babes. And he doesn’t hold back the lust in his own heart as he chats up the network’s anchors. Here are a few sweaty excerpts:

Ben Stein’s Wet Dream: “The point is that they’re all young, all beautiful, and all here to talk about the economy and business and the falling dollar and fears of inflation and the credit crisis.”

What’s His Hurry: “When I finished with my appearances on Fox, I hightailed it back to my hotel room…”

An Active Imagination: “You imagine them talking about money while they spread out their hair on the pillow next to you.”

America’s Next Top Business Models: “These models are basically telling us it will be all right. We’ll make up the losses tomorrow. It’ll be fine. Now kiss me.”

Coming Up Next, The Money Shot: “…why not watch someone who knows how to show off her legs and her cleavage…”

Show Us Your (Stock) Tips: “…it’s us pig men watching the money shows, in general, and we want to see women.”

Stein is affirming the Fox programming strategy that I call Porn and Patriotism, although he’s somewhat light on the patriotism. This is nothing new for Fox whose news and entertainment products are sprinkled generously with salacious content. Perhaps Stein would approve of FBN adopting the topless Page 3 girls featured in Murdoch’s English newspaper, The Sun. I’m sure that Stein, and the folks at Fox, would prefer that to actually reporting the news without trying to lie, dumb it down, or exploit sex.

Fox Business Network Jinxes The Markets

Dow Jones announced today that it will be adjusting the components of its Dow 30 stock index. This is the first change since Dow Jones, parent of the Wall Street Journal, was purchased by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, parent of Fox News and the recently launched Fox Business Network. The index will be replacing the Altria Group and Honeywell with Bank of America and Chevron. The result will be an increase in the weighting of financials and energy in the index.

It will be interesting to see the effect over time of these trades, but given the propensity of Murdoch to attempt to manipulate outcomes to his liking, one must wonder if there is a hidden purpose to these events. He has previously confessed to trying to shape the agenda on the war in Iraq. He also promised to make the FBN a business friendly network.

Murdoch’s machinations of late have not met with the success to which he is normally accustomed. Fox News is presently the slowest growing cable news network. FBN got off to a pathetic crawl. And I wonder if anyone else has noticed this sign of the Apocalypse: When the Fox Business Network launched on October 15, 2007, the Dow Jones had just hit its all-time high. Since then the markets have collapsed, diving 15% in the four months since FBN’s debut.

FBN Decline


Fox Business Network Limps Out Of The Gate

The new Fox Business Network may not be living up to the hype.

Although Nielsen ratings are not being officially released, numbers have leaked that don’t auger well for Murdoch’s new baby:

“After less than three months on the air, Fox Business Network is averaging a mere 6,000 viewers in daytime and 15,000 in primetime”

Putting that in perspective, FBN’s main competition is CNBC which averages 284,000 viewers in total day and 238,000 in primetime. And CNBC passes 90 million homes, about three times as many as FBN. Of course, it is still too early to gloat, but the network’s honchos led us to believe that they had much higher expectations. Roger Ailes told us that he would not settle for “anything short of a revolution.” And Murdoch gave this comment a few days after the launch:

“It’s two and a half to three days old and looks just terrific. Everybody, even in the industry, (recognizes) how different it is to CNBC, which is half-dead,”

It appears that the FBN revolution is having a little trouble taking on their half-dead competition. Time will deliver a fuller picture, but clearly FBN has work to do. However, rather than getting down to business, FBN’s executive vice president, Kevin Magee, is just sniping at CNBC, whom he accuses of having leaked these numbers:

“They spent dearly to get [FBN ratings], which is pretty crazy […] I think it shows how uber-concerned they are about us.”

Actually, it’s pretty much routine to get competitive ratings from Nielsen. And when you consider that Murdoch is well known for deficit financing his ventures indefinitely, it is a fairly hollow complaint that CNBC is investing in itself. This sort of griping just makes one wonder who is uber-concerned about whom?

Fox Business Not Hurting Business At CNBC

It’s been a month since the launch of the Fox Business Network. Actual ratings data won’t be available for a few more months but data on CNBC is available. To the extent that you can speculate as to FBN’s performance based on the performance of it’s main competitor, there is no particularly good news for the fledgling net.

For the month that FBN has been on the air, CNBC has grown 32% in total daytime viewers and 21% in total viewers for the full day. Of course, there could be other reasons for the ratings growth, but there is obviously no noticeable dip for CNBC as a result of the competition from Fox.

To underscore why viewers may want to stay away from FBN, on Friday they interrupted their news chatter with an alert that Apple was buying an 8% stake in chip maker, AMD. After about a minute they corrected the report saying that it was not Apple, but the government of Abu Dhabi (which both anchors mispronounced) that was buying in to AMD. That minute was plenty of time for investors to have made trades and, subsequently, lost money.

More reasons: On Tuesday FBN reported that Hewlett-Packard missed their earnings estimate by a penny. Eleven minutes later they admitted that they had erroneously reported the net income instead of the operating income, which actually beat estimates by four cents. I really hope that no one is trading based on what they see on FBN.

Fox Business Network: Porn And Patriotism

The new Fox Business Network has launched and is rapidly proving itself to be faithful to the Murdochian Doctrine of Porn & Patriotism. It’s a business model that aims directly at America’s horny nationalists.Now they are narrowing their target to horny nationalistic investors. Is there really an audience for “America’s Next Top Business Models?” While I admit to taking some liberties with the ad at the left (here is the original ad), the slogan at the top (Your second opinion arrives today) is unadulterated and is an admission that Fox traffics in opinion, not news. And I wonder why they chose to include the World Trade Center Towers in the background.

Well, the early reviews are in and they are affirming the net’s vapid approach to journalism as pioneered by the Fox News Channel. First at the gate to critique the new net is its godfather, Rupert Murdoch:

“It’s two and a half to three days old and looks just terrific. Everybody, even in the industry, (recognizes) how different it is to CNBC, which is half-dead,”

You might wonder why Murdoch is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to enter a business whose top performer is “half dead.” And if CNBC, with a potential audience of 90 million households is half dead, than what’s so terrific about FBN which passes only 30 million homes?

[Speaking of terrific: FBN launched on Monday. The Dow was down every day this week. Total loss for the week was 517.06. Coincidence?]

Brian Lowry at Variety has the most humorous take on FBN. And it’s funny because it’s true. Lowry highlights one of FBN’s strengths pointing out that they “trump CNBC’s ‘money honey’ with a veritable money hive.” He mocks the network’s reliance on Stepford anchors in short skirts interviewing patrons of But he hits his stride describing the network’s patented political prejudice:

“…the channel has enjoyed solid initial access to CEOs and Republican officials, and Neil Cavuto – the signature primetime voice – practically crawled into GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s lap to be read a no-new-taxes bedtime story.”

Ronald Grover at Business Week delivers a column that is mostly complimentary, although the features that Grover praises might be considered flaws by most discerning viewers. For example, he is enthralled by a segment wherein anchor David Asman attacks Democrats. Even though he concedes that Asman’s analysis is faulty, Grover says, “Who cares?” because he was entertained by it. I’m not certain that other viewers will be so forgiving. Grover himself engages in some faulty analysis describing why he thinks that FBN will succeed:

“Murdoch clearly wants to bring business to Main Street, NASCAR, and younger folks who like to mix stock chatter with their after-hour cocktails.”

Does Grover really believe there is a huge under-served audience of young NASCAR fans hankering to yak about the stock market? Does Murdoch? If that’s their target demo they might be better off actually launching a patriotic pornography channel. Oh, wait a minute…That would be the Fox News Network.

Other news outlets offered up dueling headlines. Reuters declares that “Fox Business launches to lukewarm review.” Analyst Andrew Tyndall found the network “hard to watch” and observed that…

“They appear to have a rooting interest in prices going up. It’s normally not a good sign of journalism when you’re rooting for an outcome.”

However, the devoutly conservative WebProNews blares, “Fox Business Channel Getting Positve Reviews.” Despite using the plural “Reviews,” the WebPro article only cited one from AP, and that review was hardly a vote of confidence:

“They went on the air, played it straight and people were giving information whenever I tuned in – that’s about as successful as you can be on your first day,”

Further diluting the WebPro case is the fact that the Syracuse University professor quoted above, Robert Thompson, was also quoted in the Reuters article saying:

“I don’t think this will change the entire landscape of American TV as we know it. So far, this morning, it’s not been terribly exciting.”

Not an auspicious week for the fledgling network. But one thing we know about Murdoch is that he is more than willing to wait out tough spots and to deficit finance operations pretty much indefinitely. FNC was in the red for the majority of its short lifespan, and the New York Post has lost money for as long as Murdoch has owned it. If it costs him money to spread his propaganda, he’s got it, and he’ll spend it.

That’s why the monopolistic media environment in this country is so dangerous. We have billionaire moguls who concentrate power and exploit it to advance their agenda. In Murdoch’s case, he will even use soft-core titillation and America’s pride to manipulate public opinion. And that’s why it is so important to Stop Big Media from gaining even more power courtesy of the FCC’s proposed new ownership rules.

Dow Jones Is Already Murdoch’s Bitch

The Fox Business Network launched yesterday in a manner that affirmed its mission to dumb down business news and to manipulate information for the benefit of itself or its agenda.

Emblematic of their reputation for low-brow, prurient exploitation, they managed to squeeze in an interview of the financial wizard on your left: The Naked Cowboy. This is typical of the Fox Filosophy that glorifies ignorance. It may be why Fox viewers think Bush is smart. On previous occasions Neil Cavuto, FBN’s managing editor, has called on such business luminaries as Tommy Chong to comment on immigration, or MTV dinosaur Kurt Loder to explain health care legislation. And we must not forget notable appearances by Ted Nugent, Kinky Friedman, and a plethora of porn stars and Hooters waitresses.

Also on FBN’s birthday, it appears that News Corp improperly used its influence to interfere with the business of its top rival. CNBC had purchased ads on and the Wall Street Journal’s website. Unfortunately for CNBC, both of those sites are owned by Dow Jones which has recently agreed to be acquired by News Corp. Consequently, not only did the ads not run, but ads for FBN ran in their place. It must be noted here that the Dow Jones acquisition has not actually been finalized and News Corp has no managerial authority of them. Nonetheless, someone made the decision to break CNBC’s contract and reward Fox with the spoils. Spokespersons for Fox were unable to adequately explain how or why this happened, but it doesn’t take a Blue Ribbon Commission to figure it out.

This sort of editorial intervention wouldn’t pass muster in a high school newspaper. Fox is generously providing all the evidence that anyone would need to conclude that this new network will be as manipulative, dishonest, and unethical as the Fox News Channel has always been. And it was particularly decent of them to do it all on the first day of broadcasting.

Fox Business: The Business Friendly Business Network

Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films has a new video announcing the launch of the Fox Business Network (FBN):

Remember, we’re talking about the network whose chairman promised to make it a more “business friendly” business network. Its managing editor, Neil Cavuto, has already compiled an impressive collection of rosy-hued Foxaganda.

Fox Attacks is soliciting headlines from the public that reflect Fox’s unique slant on the news. Here are some of my predictions for the sort of stories we are likely to see on FBN:

  • Relentless Bombings In Iraq: An Opportunity For Kuwaiti Building Contractors?
  • Bush Vetoes SCHIP Bill: A Boost For Insurance Companies’ Profits?
  • Commerce Secretary: Dem Flag Lapel Pin Boycott Hurts Trade With Chinese Pin Manufacturers.
  • Health Care Crisis: Time To Buy Stock In Forest Lawn?
  • Democrat Bill Restricts Lobbyists: Former Congressmen Headed For Welfare?
  • Global Warming: Do Environmentalists Aid Terrorists By Keeping Climate Comfortable In Desert Hideouts?

Go to Fox Attacks and contribute your own headlines.

Fox Gives You The Business

Not two weeks after Rupert Murdoch confesses to propagandizing in support of the war in Iraq, he visits the confessional again, this time with regard to his new Fox Business Channel. At a media summit sponsored by McGraw-Hill, Murdoch promised the gathered conferees that:

How can any viewer take seriously what they will see on a Fox Business report?

“…a Fox channel would be ‘more business-friendly than CNBC.’ That channel ‘leap[s] on every scandal, or what they think is a scandal,’ he said.”

This admission squares nicely with his previous one. It’s obvious he thinks nothing of manipulating news coverage to achieve his ends. Now he feels that the captains of industry, beleaguered by their own corruption, require his defense. The notion that a news network, business or otherwise, should be “friendly” with the subjects they are covering violates every precept of journalism. After making this announcement, how can any viewer take seriously what they will see on a Fox Business report? How will we know if their chumminess leads to deceptively positive stories? How will we know whether they are neglecting signs of budding scandals to protect their buddies? Had they been around when Enron was imploding, FBC would have reported on the tantalizing fare in the company commissary. I, for one, wouldn’t want to invest based on information that came from such a network.

Murdoch’s accusation that CNBC is somehow hostile to business can only be regarded as a paranoid hallucination. Even Business Week derides that viewpoint as:

“a conclusion almost any observer of the channel will find difficult to support.”

Financial news broadcasting is not an easy business to throw together. In 1991, FNN, the Financial News Network, went out of business, selling its assets to CNBC. More recently, Time, Inc.’s CNNfn couldn’t even get off the ground. New York mayor/billionaire, Michael Bloomberg’s network has about half the subscriber base of CNBC. Murdoch will launch with even less than that.

Despite the obstacles, it’s clear why News Corp. would want to enter this market. Although CNBC’s ratings are low, they can charge more for their ads because they deliver an affluent and influential audience that is highly desirable and difficult to obtain. Fox covets both that audience and those advertisers. Their vertical business structure makes it easy for them to package ad campaigns so that they would benefit other Fox properties like their news network, broadcast network, station group, magazines, and newspapers. And since Fox doesn’t care if their reporting is accurate, so long as it’s “friendly,” corporate advertisers might be inclined to favor Fox with their ad dollars. Remember that the cable companies that would carry FBC, and the media companies that might report on them, are also corporations that may want to take advantage of the pro-business slant that Murdoch is offering.

All of this produces some troubling scenarios. A business news network that promises to be friendly with its subjects is essentially serving as the PR arm of the corporations it covers. Consequently, those corporations that want to enjoy this coverage can show their appreciation by buying more ads. Conversely, the ad sales division of the network could pressure advertisers to pony up if they wanted good news to be included in the next broadcast. This sort of relationship is poisonous from the start, yet it is exactly what Murdoch is proposing.

Another problem is that the existing business channels are going to be nervous about the impending competition with Fox. If they keep their heads about them, focus on the quality of their own product, and exhibit some measure of respect for journalistic ethics, then things should work out. But that isn’t how it’s gone down in the past. As Fox News began to challenge its predecessors, they folded like origami sheep. They concluded that the way to compete with Fox was to be more like Fox. That was a disastrous strategy that landed them squarely in Fox’ shadow.

If Murdoch is allowed to pollute this new market with the aberrent philosophy he stated above, it will be a serious blow to the goals of honest, independent journalism. It will mean that they would control the perceptions of our politics, our culture, and our economy. If we want to preserve a free society that values a thoughtful and informed citizenry, we must be relentlessly vigilant. We must keep close company with our representatives and with the agencies that govern the media. We must take steps to be certain that we are knowledgeable and prepared, because…

…this is serious business!

Update from Forbes: [2/18/07] CNBC hasn’t sat back. Spokesman Kevin Goldman answered the criticism coming from Fox Business Channel: “It doesn’t surprise me that our alleged competition is already starting with its usual lies and propaganda.”

Under the threat of competition, they are starting to, finally, tell it like it is.