The Future of Fox

Time has an article on the challenges faced by Fox News and the changes which are inevitable should the Democrats win as expected in November. Steve Benen warns against writing off Fox and I agree with him. A Democratic government would be the best thing which could happen for Fox in terms of improving their ratings.One remarkable thing about Fox is the manner in which they changed from an opposition voice to a Pravda-clone overnight when Bush replaced Bill Clinton. They will do the same (in reverse) and probably thrive.

A network like Fox can work as the mouthpiece for the government if the government has solid support, but they are not going to thrive in the current atmosphere. When Bush was popular post 9/11 Fox had a winning formula. It is not surprising that their  ratings would diminish along with Bush’s popularity, even if they are still beating CNN and MSNBC.

A Democratic government is just what Fox needs to improve their ratings. I guess this is an insurmountable problem for liberals who both back the Democrats and hate Fox. As a mouthpiece for the Bush administration, they risk losing viewers except among those who still support Bush despite all the evidence of his failings. While not all conservatives agree in backing Bush anymore, they will be more united in objecting to the Democratic controlled government and will seek out news which promotes this view.

There are also potentially more viewers when they return to being a network opposingt he government as opposed to acting as a government propaganda outfit. Simply being critical of the government (regardless who is in power) is a stronger position for a network to be in than to be stuck supporting a government which has failed.

I recall when I first noticed Fox on the cable schedule at a time when I was no big fan of Bill Clinton. Initially I had some interest in a network which was often bashing him. If nothing else it fed into my general anti-politician and anti-government feelings. My interest diminished very quickly when I noted two problems with their approach. While they knocked the Clinton Administration, which was fine with me, I had no interest in their blind support for the Republican opposition, which I certainly did not think was any better. The second problem was that it didn’t take long to realize that some of the negative “news” on Clinton was made up. The scandals they discussed just never turned into anything of consequence (with at least one notable exception). While I might have enjoyed coverage which honestly discussed their shortcomings, I saw no value in a “news”show which made up their facts.

In the long run Fox must decide whether they care more about being a news outlet with a conservative tilt versus being a dishonest propaganda outlet which is primarily concerned with promoting the fortunes of one political party. So far it has been clear which route Fox has chosen.

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