Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Turn It Off: Media is Entertainment

I am willing to bet that when I told people to turn off MSNBC or Fox News more than a few balked at the idea.   There are, of course, a number of folks who won't read my rant.  MSNBC is just as easy to get caught up in its programming as it is with Fox.  Fox News is "fair and balanced" they say and the rest of media is a part of the "Liberal Media." This is true of MSNBC.  Are you ready for this? The "Liberal Media" be it CBS or NBC or ABC or CNN does not exist. Remember, we are talking mainstream media, not sites dedicated to one side or the other.  There are plenty of those.

Now, go find me a story from one of those mainstream networks that clearly demonstrates a liberal bias without going to one of those conservative sites to light your way.  I'll wait.

Day oh...Day ohohoh...Day light come and me wanna go home...

Mind if I  ask a simple question? Too bad, I am going to ask it anyway.  What group specifically told us there is a Liberal Media? You see if a group can condemn the messenger before the message is even delivered, it can prevent and even pervert the message.

To answer this question we need to go back in history. Following the demise of Richard Nixon, the Republicans were at a loss.  Jerry Ford obviously was not going to win back the American People.  The Democrats were actually able to get Jimmy Carter elected.  Jimmy Carter who was one of the smartest politicians in the democratic fold was also one of the most boring speakers on the planet.  This gave the Republicans what they needed.  They needed a myth and they had one in the form of a dynamic actor turned politician.  Ronald Reagan began to propagate the myth that the American Press was liberally biased and Americans were not getting the truth.  He was very convincing.  He also created the Democrats biggest nightmare: The Welfare Queen or The Cadilac Queen.  She too did not exist.

From that point forward, the steady march to the Right began. The conservatives announced that the media's liberal bias was contributing to a declining in American values.  After all, why refute the facts of the report if you can blame the reporter.  The problem to start was, of course, the most visible media was television and the king of the media was the most trusted man in America, Walter Cronkite.  It was also clear to anyone who had watched or been on the receiving end of a Mike Wallace report on 60 Minutes, that the bias statement was a bit off.  Still, however, as many a  group had done in the past, the conservative right continued to push.

With the arrival of Fox News, a part of the newly acquired media groups by Rupert Murdoch's global conglomerate News Corporation, the conservatives began to find an outlet.  Murdoch, who had given up his Austrailian citizenship and become an American citizen, purchased Twentieth Century Fox in 1985.  Fox News started with the slogan of "fair and balanced." For a while, at any rate it seemed to many they were.  With each passing year, though more and more conservative pundits were added and fewer and fewer voices from the left were heard.  They furthered the idea that all other media was liberal.  It clearly worked. Lies became true-lies and everyone scraping by on the meager national wage was either a dopey part-time teen, or a college student working their way through school. I am not saying blaming the messenger is a new idea. It isn't.

The problem though is that if you listen to only one voice, all other voices are not in the background but are silenced.  The other problem is that Murdoch is first and foremost a business man. Fox, like all other organizations, is supposed to make money.  If they don't, changes will be made.  In case you don't know it, every major and  most minor networks on American TV, about 90 percent,  is owned by one of six mega media conglomerates.  In 1983, there were 50.

If people were to leave Fox News, abandon Bill O'Reily, then you can be sure there would be massive changes.  Whether it is on the right or the left, when one pundit crosses the line that begins to cost sponsors, you can be sure no matter how strong the voice is, he will be gone.  It has nothing to do with how liberal or conservative they are, and everything to do with money. Glenn Beck discovered this on Fox as did Keith Obermann on the left.

The news on TV from Fox to ABC is entertainment.  At some point, news programs became more and more about not reporting news but selling it.  Revealing the full story, in other words taking the fear or controversy from the story will not, as they say in the industry, "give it legs."  Some news programs seem to fear that if they attack a politician or pundit with the lies they've told or a presentation of the facts, they might lose a controversial voice.  Controversy sells. It makes money.

The mainstream walks a fine line.  When the line is crossed, the ax will fall.  When 60 Minutes produced a report on Benghazi that was inaccurate, the reporter, Lara Logan, and her producer were suspended.  Yet even when a Republican led committee in the house found no wrong doing by the administration in the Benghazi attack, "fair and balanced" Fox News continues to try and build a controversy.  They are not just playing to the base. The faux scandal gets ratings and generates money.  Another example of news for ratings can be found in the CNN coverage of the missing Malaysian flight.  For some reason, CNN's coverage of the missing plane gave it a ratings bump.  It was this ratings bump that coaxed the network into "missing plane coverage all the time."  It made money.

The liberal bias is a myth.  Money bias is what drives television news.  Ratings drop...then goodbye Katie Couric.  Nice seeing you David Gregory.  Hasta la vista, Piers Morgan.  No it wasn't Piers' anti gun rants that got him fired.  Those sold.  It was his flagging ratings that sent him packing.

You want fair and balanced?  Then TURN IT OFF.  MSNBC and Fox News are mouthpieces for left and the right not because they fulfill a need.  They are there because money can be made by playing to a very particular audience. TV news will not ask the hard question until we demand it through  not the networks but the advertisers.  You want real news, then demand that like Consumer Reports they should be beholding to no advertiser.  Just as so many in congress are now owned by their contributors not the people, the Fourth Estate is owned by advertisers.

Turn off the bias and it will change.  TURN IT OFF.