fox

OUTFOXED

out“John Kerry has Kim Jong Il on his side”

“North Korea loves John Kerry”

“Only 217 days till George Bush is re-elected”

“A warning to Barbara Streisand and others who see the world as [she does], anyone who hurts this country at a time like this will be spotlighted”

What is all this? Quotes from a meeting of the US intelligence community? No. Is it a closed-doors meeting of the of the Bush cabinet? No.

These are quotes from the most watched news channel in the US – FOX ‘News’. These comments and many more like them are passed off as legitimate broadcasting under the strap lines ‘Fair and Balanced’ and ‘We Report, You Decide’.

I have watched this film several times now and still find it difficult to work out just what is so upsetting about it. Did I know what political content on or in media Rupert Murdoch owns was like? Absolutely. Did I know what Fox ‘News’ itself was like? Yes, I had seen some of it. Did I know how television is used as a propaganda tool? Definitely.

Perhaps the most worthwhile thing about this film is that it deals a blow to the theory that people choose their media (and news) on account of existing opinions rather than the media shaping those opinions. This is where the ‘Fox effect’ becomes significant. This refers to the influence Fox has had on the kinds of pro-Bush, pro-war views and voices being heard across American broadcasting. Fox’s media competitors, who previously aimed at least some form of balance (in the sense of Democrat V Republican), are now stipulating that if there is one anti-war guest featured on a show then there must be two pro-war; one liberal or left-wing view must be matched by two right-wing pundits and so on. This is not new, it is however becoming more pronounced.

As is pointed out in the film “since the corporate structures [do] not allow anyone to counter-program against Fox then in television the inclination is imitation’ (Jeff Cohen). If all stations are imitating each other there is little diversity of opinion or choice left for the viewer.

Director Robert Greenwald says the film was made with the intention of “effecting activism”. It highlights research from several groups including FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting), Media Matters for America and others. The research shows that viewers of Fox ‘News’ were more likely to support the policies of the Bush Whitehouse, and that 67% of Fox viewers believed that a direct link had been found between Saddam and Al-Qaeda (only 16% of PBS-NBC viewers belived this).

Bob McChesney, founder of Free Press/ and author of “The Problem Of the Media” comments “if [journalists] are told – ‘the more people consume your media the less they will know about the subject, and the more they’ll support government policy’ – that’s exactly the worst thing any self-respecting journalist would [or should] want to hear”. There is obviously a real lack of self-respect at Fox ‘News’.

Some of the footage is almost laughable – like the editorial decision of Fox to present the Iraq war not only as a success but as an ongoing success. You have to see this section to believe it – focusing on the ‘Baghdad Equestrian Club’ for example.

Some of it is extremely sinister, such as edicts from top executives to reporters insisting “the so-called 9/11 commission has already been meeting…this is not “what did he know and when did he know it stuff”. Don’t turn this into Watergate”. 23/3/2004.

Unsurprisingly, the Fox CEO is well connected politically. Roger Ailes was formerly a media strategist for Nixon, Reagan and Bush Snr.

Other ‘stories’ shed more light on the political and cultural reach of Fox News: items like “Why is Jesus so popular right now?”, or ‘Jesus F.A.Q.’ and a revealing section on the Republican party and its adjuncts co-ordinating a ‘Message of the Day’, which is then relayed through right-wing radio stations and networks all combine to make this an interesting and provocative documentary.

‘Outfoxed’ features media analysts, former Fox ‘News’ contributors and activists and is available to buy for about £8 including postage at www.outfoxed.org Buy it and show it to as many people as possible.

Also see newshounds a website set up by researchers who worked on the film and felt the need to keep the project going.