Breaking news (not).
Indeed, more like the bleeding obvious, to borrow a phrase from the immortal John Cleese character Basil Fawlty.
Yesterday, Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch publicly admitted that the Fox News Channel's mission is to oppose the Biden administration.
In speaking to investors during a Morgan Stanley conference, Murdoch also confirmed that Fox views this unambiguous opposition stance as the key to the channel's ratings.
"The main beneficiary of the Trump administration from a ratings point of view was MSNBC,” because that Fox News cable rival was "the loyal opposition," he asserted. "That’s what our job is now with the Biden administration, and you’ll see our ratings really improve from here."
"Seventy-five million people voted for a Republican president, sometimes in spite of his personality at times," Murdoch added. "That's what we represent. We're going to stick to the center-right. That's where our audience is." (Trump's actual vote tally was 74.2 million.)
“Murdoch's remark is an on-the-record acknowledgement of something that has long been obvious to fans and critics but never stated so publicly by the executive leadership itself — that Fox News is firmly aligned with Republicans and the right and intends to use its platform to fight Democrats,” summed up NBC News’ Dylan Byers, in reporting on Murdoch’s remarks.
Byers noted that until 2017, Fox News described itself as “fair and balanced.”
He also quoted a response to Murdoch's remarks from a spokesperson for Comcast’s NBCUniversal News Group, which includes NBC News and MSNBC, responding to Murdoch’s remarks: “Our role, and the role of any legitimate news organization — whether it includes an 'opinion section' or not — is to hold power to account, regardless of party."
During the conference, Murdoch acknowledged that Fox News’ ratings slid after the election, and that its audience was “disappointed” by Joe Biden’s being elected president, but added that the outlet’s ratings are beginning to pick up again.
Fox News has pointed out that it has maintained the top prime-time position among cable networks since Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. However, in February, the channel’s prime-time ratings fell 30% to 2.5 million, as MSNBC’s ratings rose 23% to 2.2 million and CNN’s increased 61% to 1.7 million.
As Mediapost reported, February also saw MSNBC for the first time top all cable networks in total-day Monday through Sunday viewing. Its 1.36 million viewership represented a 37% increase over the same month in 2020. Meanwhile, Fox News Channel’s total-day and prime-time viewing declined 32%, to 1.32 million. CNN’s grew 76%, to 1.19 million.
Call Byers's points biased if you like — and Fox News/Trump devotees no doubt will. Byers is, after all, with a rival network.
But the fact remains that we now have top Fox Corp. top management, on the record, at last, essentially acknowledging that its "news" channel is not a news channel at all — at least by any definition of news or sound journalism practices adhered to up until Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes unleashed Fox News on the American public in 1996.
At this late date, it's actually refreshing to hear a Murdoch straightforwardly state that the channel's real mission has nothing to do with trying to convey straight facts or both sides of any issue.
Not that his statements are likely to make the channel's adherents stop and think about the "alternate facts" they may be absorbing, any more than viewers of "unscripted reality shows" worry about how much the sad participants' behavior is influenced behind the scenes.
Actually, it would be a lot better for our democracy if people stuck to watching "90 Day Fiancé."