More than 16 years after its founding and 11 years after it assumed its current perch as the most-watched cable news network, Fox News remains the favorite punching bag of the left. Liberals take it as an article of faith that Fox is not merely biased but a travesty that serious people should ignore. But the notion that there is something unholy about what is broadcast on Fox or that its mix of news and opinion is uniquely biased has never stood up to scrutiny.
That assumption was once again on display this past week in a New York Times review of a new biography of Fox founder Roger Ailes. Veteran Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani had little patience for Zev Chafets’s new book, Roger Ailes: Off Camera, because it presents Ailes in a not unsympathetic light and takes down some of the common liberal charges about Fox and its on-air personalities. According to Kakutani, Chafets should have focused on its “role in accelerating partisanship in our increasingly polarized society” and how it “frames its reports from the conservative point of view.” Implicit in these lines is the belief that there is something exceptional in a broadcast network that has a political point of view or that what Fox does is so egregious when it is compared to its competitors.
Refutation of these prejudices comes from no less an authority than an icon of establishment liberalism: the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. In its State of the News Media: An Annual Report on American Journalism, Pew details, among other interesting tidbits the percentages of news reporting and opinion on the three biggest cable news channels. According to the study, the breakdown of MSNBC shows that a whopping 85 percent of its airtime is taken up with opinion, compared to 55 percent of the time on Fox and 45 percent of CNN’s air.