Commentary

Is Fox News 'State-Run TV? If So, Which State Is Running It?

“Good evening, everybody. It may be time to declare war outright against the deep state and clear out the rot in the upper levels of the FBI and the Justice Department.”

That’s how Fox Business Channel host Lou Dobbs opened his segment Tuesday, calling on his viewers to prepare for war against our nation’s top law-enforcement agency and our justice system.

It isn’t unusual for Fox News channels to use flaky conspiracy theories to rabble rouse -- it has been a key part of their ratings success, providing a steady diet of raw, unexpurgated meat to their base. But what makes Dobbs' declaration of war so unsettling is that it coincides with a renewed bout of Russian active measures to help spread the same dissent.

Also on Tuesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), called on Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to investigate Russian active measures in the form of bots and trolls promoting the #ReleaseTheMemo campaign across digital media.

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“These recent Russian efforts are intended to influence congressional action and undermine Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, which has already resulted in the indictments of two Trump campaign officials and guilty pleas from two others, who are both now cooperating with prosecutors,” the Congressmen wrote in a letter sent to the CEOs.

He added: “It is critically important that the Special Counsel’s investigation be allowed to proceed without interference from inside or outside the United States. That is why we seek your assistance in our efforts to counter Russia’s continuing efforts to manipulate public opinion and undermine American democracy and the rule of law.”

While it’s unclear who first initiated the #ReleaseTheMemo campaign -- a hashtag spreading support to release a memo written by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes that purportedly outlines surveillance activities by the Obama Administration during the Trump Administration’s transition period -- what is clear is that Russian operatives have been extremely active promoting it.

According to Hamilton 68, a real-time dashboard tracking Russia-linked influence networks on Twitter, #ReleaseTheMemo is the top-trending hashtag among those Twitter accounts.

I understand why Fox promotes inciteful, conspiracy themes. It’s good for ratings. But it’s one thing for a national news media outlet to promote the President’s agenda. It’s quite another thing for it to promote Russia’s.

Dobbs was not alone. Similar themes about a “deep state” conspiracy in the FBI and Justice Department have been routinely promoted by Fox News franchise players Sean Hannity, Jeanine “Judge” Pirro, Jesse Watters and Tucker Carlson.

So if Fox News is, as some critics suggest, “state-run TV,” I have to ask, which state are they being run by?

“Declaring war” on the FBI and Justice department doesn’t seem responsible to me for any news organization, even one on the radical conservative fringe. It is dangerous. It undermines our criminal justice system. It undermines our society and sows division. And who is that in the best interest of?

I’m thinking a lot about Fox News this week, because WPP’s Y&R just released a new installment of its famed BAV (Brand Asset Valuator) research showing that the USA has fallen as a national brand, and that Trump and Putin rank lowest among world leaders.

What’s the connection to Fox? For me, it is a personal one. Back in the late 1990s when I was editing The Myers Report, Y&R provided me with exclusive access to the first ever BAV analysis of “media brands.” Among “news brands,” it found that Fox was the strongest. The irony was that Fox didn’t have a national news brand -- yet.

What I didn’t know was that Roger Ailes was just about to launch the Fox News Channel, and he used The Myers Report and BAV to promote it and to craft its seminal positioning statement: “The Most Powerful Name In News.”

Ailes is gone and a new team is running Fox News. But they don’t seem to understand that with great power comes great responsibility. What they’re doing isn’t just irresponsible, it is reckless and a danger to American democracy.

Lastly, on a related theme, I’d like to point out that this evening, MediaPost will be bestowing our annual Agency of the Year Awards in New York City. This year, we added a special category recognizing the “Media Disrupter of the Year,” bestowing it on Russia’s Internet Research Agency, not necessarily because they did something good, but they did meet our criteria about having a strategic vision and innovating the marketplace.

You can read that profile below in this newsletter or by clicking here.

13 comments about "Is Fox News 'State-Run TV? If So, Which State Is Running It?".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, January 24, 2018 at 10:32 a.m.

    No, thanks, I'd like an explanation for all the deleted texts from Peter Strzok. Is the FBI "too big to fail"?  http://dailycaller.com/2018/01/23/in-jaw-dropping-text-peter-strzok-expressed-concern-about-joining-mueller-team/

  2. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, January 24, 2018 at 10:51 a.m.

    Doug: I assume you know that Tucker Carlson founded the Daily Caller, right?

  3. Rick Furr from Bullseye Interactive Group, January 24, 2018 at 12:09 p.m.

    Your article is a joke and smear campaign against Fox News. Have you noticed in the past month, how many Liberals had to retract from their stories about President Trump, it sure was not Fox News. Maybe you need to take the Liberal propaganda out of your ass. 

    Have you ever worked in media or a professional newsroom? Have you ever sold media to advertisers? Please try to explain how Fox News has almost three times more viewers than CNN, MSNBC combined. I guess we have many Russians in the states who voted for President Trump over Crooked Hilary.

    Your article just demonstrates your hate for Fox News, President Trump, and everything you Liberals stand for. 

  4. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, January 24, 2018 at 1:08 p.m.

    @Rick Furr: I think you are consuming Fake News. Of the 44 billion persons hours spent watching news in the U.S. last year, Fox and NBCU properties were essentially tied with 30% of total 
    viewing. Time Warner properties (CNN, etc.) had 20%. (My source for this data is Pivotal Research Group's Brian Wieser's year-end analysis.)

    But those numbers make sense, because Fox News' 30% share correlates almost exactly with the share of Americans who say they support Trump, believe Russian collusion is a hoax, etc. In other words, it's good ole confirmation bias.

    But if I might try to answer the question I think you were getting at, which is why does Fox News do so well, it's because it has what any great brand should have: differentiation and relevance. In a sea of mainstream, largely centrist news media coverage, Roger Ailes had the foresight to see there was an untapped market catering to the far to extreme right. He was right. But the unintended consequence has been the polarization of values and perceptions of what's true. To the point where we have flagship Fox News personalities calling for war with our top law enforcement and justice agencies. And with Russian aiding and abetting the spread of that angle.

  5. James Boldebook from CBC, January 24, 2018 at 1:40 p.m.

    Lets see Joe.  There is 4 pages of text that have been released to the congress, and may be released to the public in the next two implicating top FBI officials of conspiracy to smear Trump, and one of the top FBI investigators who handled the so called 'Russian Docier' exchanged texts with his goomara that they had a plan if Trump was elected...and NBC, CBS, 
    ABC and other mainstream media didn't cover..hasnt covered one word of this. 

    And you think Fox is the State run media?  

  6. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 24, 2018 at 2:21 p.m.

    Joe, a little clarification on the numbers you cited. If Fox---the Fox News Channel---and NBCU both garner 30% of news viewing while Time Warner gets 20% that leaves only 20% for CBS, Disney ( ABC ) and all of local local news. I assume that Brian is dealing only with national news, but even here is he counting the early AM and post midnight reports or limiting himself to early evening and primetime? Net, net, if you take all kinds of "linear TV" news, Fox does not get 30% of it or anything close to that. Moreover, Nielsen reach tallies indicate that only about 20-25%---I don't have the exact number--- of the population watches Fox per month---a percentage that is lower than CNN's monthly reach, despite its anemic average minute Nielsens. Just curious.

  7. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, January 24, 2018 at 3:26 p.m.

    Joe, you are missing badly the big picture. Russia or groups in Russia are attacking tens of thousands of websites and not just Facebook and Twitter. They use malwares and URL links to attack both website members and websites.  Then they put up false links in Google Search and Bing.

    While it appears their motives are financial and personal information, they are also using these programs to create Zombies as well.

    Anything to do with politics is just test marketing ideas for the future and at best to create fear and confusion.

    My point is to take a while to really understand what is happening before commenting.  Any news channel can spin this so called Russian story in any way possible.

  8. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, January 24, 2018 at 3:43 p.m.

    @Ed Papazian: I'll check with Brian Wieser but I believe it is national only. The analysis is not news programming hours, but persons viewing hours of news programming.

    @Craig McDaniel: I fear you are correct, but we can only report on what is explicitly known. I'm starting to work with a source who can identify Russian operative media buys made through open RTB too. Hope to report on those findings.


  9. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 24, 2018 at 4:16 p.m.

    Thanks, Joe. Please ask him for a definition of what he classifies as news---for example, it should include shows like "Good Morning America"as well as "60 Minutes"---in my opinion, plus the 24/7 cable news-business news channels, the networks' nightly news and, probably, PBS. I'm referring to viewi ng time as you were.

  10. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, January 24, 2018 at 4:29 p.m.

    @Ed Papazian: Here's how Brian Wieser explains what was included in his analysis: "This data included in my reports on news usually includes anything on the national broadcast networks encoded as “News” or “News Documentary” during any day part plus all programming on CNBC, CNN, Fox Business Network, Fox News, HLN, MSNBC.   That is to say it does include the morning shows on broadcast networks but also includes some semi-newsy programming such as Parts Unknown on CNN.   From the vantage point of how the businesses are managed, this seems to me to be the most appropriate way to compare them.

     


     


    "It does not include local broadcasters nor local cable news channels (and of course, also does not include digital sources of news nor print)."

  11. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, January 24, 2018 at 4:32 p.m.

    Joe, I have seen on average 2 new Russian accounts a week for maybe 6 years on Sweepstakestoday.com. This accounts go through a server in Modovia and are by professionals.  Their program sets up the account, creates their own password and user name with an original email address.  These accounts are not activated for 6 months to a year. When the account is activated, they load up with fake movie links.

    What we have figured out is there are different levels of experience of hackers/scammers. In our case, we have begginers mainly because we don't have credit cards for membership because we have free membership. The level of expertise by the hackers/scammers raise per the value of the target website company.

    I subpect that the money to buy the ads on Facebook and Twitter is highly likely stolen from other websites and accounts on the net.  The reason is the currency exchange.

    So it is very likely that we will see automated political programs in the future and might even be built by A.I. experts.

  12. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 24, 2018 at 4:51 p.m.

    Thanks, Joe, for that clarification. It's important to keep in mind that local news, by virtue of its massive scale---about 4-5 hours per day per station ---generates a substantial amount of what the average person would consider "news" content. As an educated estimate, I would say that what Brian is calling "national news" represents about 60% of all news consumption, so if his figures are correct, the two Fox channels---assuming that you consider the evening commentaries and arguments to be "news"----get about 17-18% of all news viewing and this translates into 30% of national news viewing. As I noted in my earlier comment, the key is not so much how often people watch a given news source but how many are reached. Despite its now shrinking lead in average minute viewership, relative to MSNBC and CNN---the latter still trailing well behind the others----Nielsen also reports ---in data I've seen---that CNN reaches more people than Fox. Which means that your average Fox News fan devotes much more time to this channel than CNN viewers allocate to CNN. Whether any of this explains how the national favorability polls position Trump is problematic, though I suspect that there must be a pretty strong correlation when it comes to Fox and liking Trump as well as MSNBC and hating Trump.

  13. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited replied, January 25, 2018 at 2:41 p.m.

    Russia is nice and cozy and has a lovely place for you. Nostrovya !

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