I've been watching episodes of Russel Brand's YouTube channel "The Trews" the last couple of days. In a few of these episodes he comments on Fox News (or Fox "News") broadcasts featuring anchors like Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Judge Jeanine. I've been watching these Fox segements and listening to these people talk and I have to say: that is some of the most vile, hateful and damaging television I have ever seen (example, and another). Particularly because it is being presented as a news program - ideally an agenda free, unbiased source of facts about the goings-on in the world. I've seen negative comments about Fox on the internet, but I don't really have an impression of the reputation Fox among the general populace. It is a major network, so this crap most be free-flowing straight into the living room of many an American household. How is this regarded? I'd call the first example I linked to full-blown hate-mongering. Totally unacceptable.
Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
It is being watched in many a household. Their angle is (or used to be, not sure) "we report, you decide", pretending that they were just reporting the unbiased facts, and so viewers should decide what they believed. "Fair and balanced" is (or used to be, I don't follow US news as closely as I used to) their tagline when they were anything but. I believe MS-NBC is the same on the other side of the political spectrum, although I don't think they have nearly the reach of Fox.
As I see it, the problem is not so much the spectrum of news out there, as the narrowness of the reporting that gets to viewers. If you have a specific political mindset, chances are you only watch news, and read particular news sites online, that reinforce your beliefs, rather than expose yourself to a range of opinions. The idea of a middle ground, of compromise, of there being shades of grey (no pun intended) thus becomes as elusive to the average citizen as it already is to the average politician in Congress. (Insert reasonable disclaimers that "people" does not mean "100% of all people" etc.).
How it is viewed has a strong correlation with your political outlook. Strong right wing people tend to say it is a balanced news source. Strong left wing people tend to say it is biased. (See John Stewart's segments making fun of it.) This is scary. It means as a country, we aren't operating off the same set of facts. Which makes discussion tough.
Note that there is Fox (broadcast) and Fox News. I've never watched the news on Fox (broadcast), but I get the impression that Fox News is more extreme.
Another thing that took me by surprise, Fox News covers the news as an ongoing commentary. I wanted to see how they were reporting on a major news story. (The government shutdown.) I usually read the news and listen to the radio rather than watch on TV. I was expecting to turn on the TV for 5-10 minutes on two channels at the top of the hour to get two perspectives. That worked fine for the left wing perspective. For the right wing, I gave up after 30 minutes. I asked someone who watches more regularly and got the impression watchers of Fox News just have it on. Rather than tune in to see the top stories.
I understand it is the norm to have a political bend to the news. England has The Guardian for the left and The Daily Telegraph on the right. France has Le Monde on the left and Le Figaro on the right. Somehow in the US it is considered strange to have a right-wing news outlet. Is that because we've become accustomed to a supposedly "objective" press that actually has a left-leaning bias (I'm sure Fox would say "yes" and the rest of the media would say "no")?
I've never watched this Judy woman (I don't have cable), but it appears that she's in "editorial mode" rather than "news mode". She is saying some pretty inflammatory stuff ("bomb them!") but Russel Brand is complaining she used the phrase "make a deal with the devil"? Seriously? He doesn't understand metaphor? He hasn't been following how cold relations between the US and Iran have been for 30 years?
Joe Ess wrote:I understand it is the norm to have a political bend to the news. England has The Guardian for the left and The Daily Telegraph on the right. ...
I haven't really seen Fox News etc, except as excerpts that tend to illustrate their (to me) extreme right-wing bias admirably. But I have to say that my overall impression of the US media is that it's very small-c conservative with relatively few obviously left-of-centre outlets e.g. The Nation is about as far left as I've seen. Of course, I'm not in the USA, and I'm coming from a European perspective here, so US politics also looks that way to me i.e. mainly a debate between two conservative right-of-centre parties. Given the fact that your media are entirely controlled by big money interests, whose natural bias seems to be towards conservative neo-liberal economics, it's hardly surprising if your media/politics might tend to reflect and enforce those biases.
I don't think the UK situation is as evenly balanced as you suggest, either. It's true we have a few obviously (but moderately) left-of-centre mainstream media outlets e.g. The Guardian or The Daily Mirror, plus The Independent and The New Statesman (both of which have a relatively small readership). But most of our mass-market press is dominated by right-of-centre publications, many of them owned by Murdoch and his offshoots. The BBC generally attempts to be reasonably unbiased, and probably many of its editorial staff are more naturally liberal than conservative, but it is hyper-sensitive to criticism which comes mostly from the right e.g. the right-wing Daily Mail has a permanent war on public service broadcasting, so when in doubt the BBC tends to suppress any in-house liberal instincts and tack to the right to keep the press quiet.
One thing I've noticed over the last 30 years is a steady rightward drift of what counts as "moderate" in both politics and the media. These days it's increasingly rare to find a politician or media outlet prepared to stand up for "liberal" values that were once part of the mainstream. In the US and the UK, the political left (I use the term loosely in the US context) has repeatedly tacked to the right in order to grab wavering voters from the conservatives. Each time this happens, they tend to abandon their left flanks, so over time the supposed "middle of the road" keeps moving right and the tone of political debate also shifts right. Nowadays, surveys repeatedly find that UK voters are often to the left of all the main parties on many key issues, but increasingly they have nobody in politics to represent those views. Meanwhile, all our political parties and much of our media continue to promote big business interests, and neo-liberal economic ideas that have been proven disastrously wrong over the last 30 years, while pushing privatisation of public assets to benefit their friends in business, including major media corporations.
I don't know if the same thing is happening in the US, but I find it strange that in the land of the free, where migrants were once welcomed by the Statue of Liberty, the very word "liberal" is often treated with such contempt, and moderately progressive ideas - like Obamacare - are bizarrely equated with Stalinism instead of being seen as the basic hallmark of a civilised society. But I guess we're still "two nations divided by a common tongue", eh!
One difference between the UK and the US (I'm not sure about the rest of Europe) is that while you do get newspapers with the difference perspectives, as Chris describes, television news has a legal requirement to attempt to be balanced. Obviously that is not always easy, but the fact that the BBC is criticised for being both too left wing and too right wing (by different people, obviously!) suggests to me they do a reasonable job.
I don't think Fox News would be allowed to function in the UK as it does in the US.
There is an interesting James Flynn TED talk that ties programming (and the required abstract thought process) to the increasing lack of political debate in the USA due to the lack of history and discussion now happening in schools. The whole video is excellent, but if your time pressured the relevant part begins around 14:00 : 100 years ago, very few professions required abstract thought. Now, a large percentage of people work in the abstract. That's resulted in our brain being retrained compared to our grandparents who had limited abstract thought capability. That abstraction has opened our minds to new ideas, however by not understanding history and context, it's leaving the younger generations open to accepting without analysis new ideas.
Fox News is a marketing label. Just like "new improved Tide" detergent. When you read Fox News' management's statement, you see that they make no claims that they present the news, rather they present entertainment. From the ratings, a lot of folks like the entertainment that they present.
Pretty much universally, they have very pretty young women as "anchors" but the guys tend to be older, whiter and less handsome. Guess that plays into their demographic audience. The network provides entertainment to draw eyeballs to the ads of their sponsors. That is their business, how they maximize shareholder value.
If you get your facts from a biased news source, you get what you deserve. On the left, MSNBC also carries their political colors on their sleeves. I use non-US sources for my coverage of US politics and world news.
The reality is that the US has a tradition of a left-ward bias in news. All of the TV news networks (when there were only three) were based in New York, and reflects a slightly left of center view. The two "famous" papers, the NY Times and the Washington Post had biases that were a couple of clicks to the left of "slightly left of center" for decades. The NYT still has that bias, and the Post has turned into a mess.