HARD TO PUT THE POLIGRIP BACK IN THE TUBE
I'm not sure whether to feel schadenfreude or suspicion in response to Politico's lengthy article "Fox News 'Course Correction' Rankles Some." Is this a legitimate story about how Fox is failing to serve its core audience? Or is Fox using Politico to send a message -- to potential non-right-wing viewers, and to advertisers who might be shunning Fox because of the absence of those viewers -- that hey, kids, Fox isn't so bad these days, really? (The latter would certainly be in keeping with the recent effort at Politico that's been described by FishbowlDC as "Operation 'Butter Up FNC,'" which has included such hard-hitting journalism as "How Fox News Has Stayed on Top" and a gushing profile of Fox's Brett Baier.)
From the story we learn that "Fox’s debates have won widespread plaudits" (journalism!); that a Virginia talk-radio host you've never heard of has "gone from all Fox to no Fox" because "they've lost that independent conservative mantra that had drove people like me to them"; that a Red State diarist "hear[s] the language of the Left entering" Fox's programming; that Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media frets about the loss of Glenn Beck on Fox and about the fact that Fox "recently hired 'two far-left radical feminists,' Jehmu Greene and [Sally] Kohn, who were 'graduates of Jane Fonda's Women’s Media Center'” (question: has anyone actually seen either of these two on Fox, except fleetingly?); and that Bill O'Reilly last week "invited onto his show a gay-rights activist to weigh in on Roland Martin's controversial tweets during the Super Bowl." We're told:
O'Reilly and Martin may be old foes, but the spectacle of watching O'Reilly, who once compared gay marriage to interspecies marriage, attacking a CNN anchor for being insufficiently sensitive to the feelings of gay people was quite a switch from the tone of two years ago.
This is a switch for O'Reilly? That would be news to the homophobes who were attacking O'Reilly as far back as ten years ago for his qualified support of gay adoptions. O'Reilly has always been the guy on Fox who deviates a tiny bit from conservatively correct thinking -- on the death penalty, for instance, although he's rather inconsistent on that.
I think this article is selling us on the notion of a new, kindler, gentler Fox -- and, well, you can see why:
... Fox may have some demographic reasons for wanting to broaden its reach. Although it has been completely dominant in the cable sphere for years, last year, its ratings in primetime slipped 9 percent in total viewers and 15 percent in the target 24-54 demographic, while CNN and MSNBC gained viewers in primetime.
Pitching your channel exclusively to old white people who fear cultural change isn't really a good business plan if you want the channel's business to grow.
But once you've done that, where can you go? If you moderate the programming even a tiny bit, your core viewers will rebel, but the rest of us long ago learned never to trust you. It's lose-lose.
And if anything's going on at Fox, it's an attempt to Romneyize the channel in anticipation of a general election in which appealing to swing voters, rather than turning out base voters, will be the key to Republican victory. But now Fox is apparently being attacked just the way Romney is: wingnuts level accusations of lack of faithfulness to conservative principles, and the rest of us just see wingnuttery. Me, I'd be happy to have both Romney and Fox stuck in this position for the foreseeable future.