There is an unfounded perception that pay television in Australia is nothing more than re-runs of American sit-coms. In the early days, that probably was the case, but I gotta tell you… in 2008… I love my Foxtel. I hardly ever watch free-to-air television these days. In fact, I recently removed the coaxial cable from the back of my television (to use for another purpose) and am now watching everything via the Foxtel box, including listening to all of my favourite radio stations.
I love World Movies, I love The History Channel, I love the concerts on Ovation, I love Dexter and the repeats of Six Feet Under, I love being able to tune into any of my favourite sit-coms at a time that suits, and I love Fox News. Yes, I said it. I love Fox News.
I know it’s not very “pc” to say you watch (and enjoy Fox News), but I do. Despite their oft-repeated slogan, they are “Fair and Balanced”, Fox News continues to have a clearly identifiable right-of-centre political slant. Even if they always have someone from both sides of American politics in their discussions, those on the Republican side are always given an easy ride, while the Democrats are always under fire.
And this was explored in the documentary I remember watching a couple of years ago called “Outfoxed”. At the time of seeing the documentary I wrote…
It’s interesting enough, although the polemical nature of the program means I probably won’t watch it all that closely. Why watch a program that’s sole role is to reinforce a viewpoint, rather than open up a debate, unless of course it’s entertaining? I’m not sure if watching it will tell me anything I didn’t already know or suspect.
What I think the documentary failed to identify were the reasons why Fox News is so incredibly watch-able. Yeah, it’s biased, obviously, but there needs to be an explanation of why people from a range of political viewpoints still watch it.
For those with an interest in how the media works, Fox News is an a “text book example” of how to increase your time spent viewing or listening. Nothing ever goes on too long. In fact, most of the time the interviewer will ask a question and then cut the guest off before they have the opportunity to answer. Mostly, this leaves you either shouting at the television or screaming out for more. They also usually concentrate on just half-a-dozen stories, which means they’re always showing you stories which are at the forefront of the national consciousness.
The hosts are also usually very personable and watchable characters. There’s Bill O’Reilly, an Alan Jones-like character, Hannity and Colmes (a Republican and a Democrat co-hosting), the Fox & Friends Breakfast Team (I have a bit of a crush on the weekend presenter on the right), Geraldo, and they have a late night comedy show. Oh and they have this kinda-gay looking Catholic priest who comes on regularly to talk about issues of faith and ethics.
Significantly, almost all of the women are blonde and attractive (including all the guests) and in their 20s and 30s, and the men are usually 30-40 years old and good-looking too, mostly talk dark and handsome. There are some African Americans and one or two Hispanics, and I don’t recall having seen an Asian presenter or reporter, so it’s hardly an example of social inclusion. But interestingly it’s in contrast to most other news services which tend to rely on a lot of grey-haired men.
I guess most of my fascination with Fox at the moment relates to their coverage of the US presidential election. I’m not one for politics anymore, but I love elections, because of the theatrical nature of them all. And on that level, Fox delivers. Even if it’s incredibly dodgy on many levels, it’s great fun to watch.
That said, I had to turn off last night when the business show posed the question “Will the cyclone in Myanmar mean higher rice prices for American consumers”. I was appalled. Fox News – you went too far on that one!