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Shilling for Rupert

The ConWeb promotes the triumphs of the Fox News Channel, but clam up on the failings of Murdoch's baby.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 8/30/2000

The ConWeb loves the Fox News Channel. Not only is it a media outlet that shares its worldview, it has the riches of Rupert Murdoch behind it, so it is able to create a slight sheen of respectability that sites like WorldNetDaily and NewsMax just can't achieve. (ConWebWatch readers know why.)

So, when FNC looked good during coverage of the Republican National Convention, the ConWeb was more than happy to trumpet it.

NewsMax rolled out a story on Aug. 12 titled "Fox News Racked Up Big Convention Numbers -- Tim Russert, Tom Brokaw Left In Dust." Admist a lot of bashing of every TV news organization that wasn't the Fox News Channel -- "Message to NBC's Bob Wright: Time to reconsider Tom Brokaw's $10 million annual contract" -- that story sort of noted that FNC beat MSNBC, where Brokaw and Russert appeared, and came close to approaching the ratings of CNN.

The Media Research Center played it up as well. An Aug. 3 convention edition of its "CyberAlert" pointed out that FNC's achievement was "quite a feat considering fewer homes have access to FNC, and MSNBC showcased its NBC News stars."

These numbers, however, didn't hold up for coverage of the Democratic National Convention. In the Aug. 16 Washington Post, media critic Howard Kurtz reported that FNC's viewership plunged 40 percent on the first night of the Democratic convention compared to the first night of the Republican convention. And MSNBC's viewership shot up.

What did NewsMax or the MRC have to say about this development? Not a word. The MRC does take time out on Aug. 21 to bash its favorite target, CBS, for the quality of its Democratic coverage, but that's it.

In his article, Kurtz passes along a key analysis: "Fox, which bills itself as more 'balanced' than the liberal networks and features such prominent conservatives as Tony Snow and Newt Gingrich, draws a more conservative audience. Conservatives are more interested in watching Republicans. When Democrats are on the screen, much of the Fox audience either flees or watches the convention elsewhere. That view, if true, is hardly good news for a four-year-old network that wants to establish an independent image."

And, countering the ConWeb's promotion of Fox's scrappiness and integrity fighting against the channel's availability, Kurtz quotes an FNC producer making excuses that "we're the youngest cable network and we have the least distribution" and suggesting "maybe liberals are going to CNN."

That's what is called going off message. FNC hates being called "conservative," even though it tends to be obvious to most viewers, but the producer clearly implies that that is the niche it occupies.

The treatment the ConWeb gives FNC and its fellow conservative travelers is the opposite of that afforded the Clintons: Report only the good news and none of the bad.

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