Fox News Channel is …
Fox News Channel is beating all rivals’ combined stats:

For the first time in its history, Fox News Channel beat the combined competition in primetime during the third quarter of 2004, with major headlines of the summer including the national political conventions and a brutal string of hurricanes.

According to Nielsen Media Research, Fox News averaged 1.8 million viewers, while CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and Headline News averaged a combined total of 1.7 million. The quarter ended Sunday.

CNN came in a distant second, averaging 882,000 viewers, while MSNBC drew 421,000. Headline News averaged 226,000 in primetime, and CNBC attracted a paltry 133,000.

Yesterday McQ over at Q&O deconstructed a major media column by blogger Kos (Markos Moulitsas). Kos was trying to make the point that the mainstream media is dominated by conservative voices (please, hold your guffaws until after the posting is complete), but McQ points out how that’s only true if you utterly ignore CBSNBCABCNPRMSNBCCNN, the NY Times the Washington Post and a host of other news sources. Coming up from behind, Fox news beats all challengers (and there are a lot of challengers), and all of a sudden it “proves” the media are conservative.

You have to go back to the Rush Limbaugh phenomenon of the late 80’s to understand the real reason for the rise of more conservative voices in the media. Rush likes to say that he doesn’t need to be balanced by equal time on the left because he is equal time; a balancing voice on the right for all the opinion (pure opinion and opinion posing as news) from the left. Fox News has more of a balance of opinions on it’s shows (including panelists who are there to express opinions on news shows like “Special Report”), but it’s news is also more balanced. The only reason they get charged with just reading Republican talking points is that you don’t hear the Republican side of things on the other networks. If you did, and if you did get a balanced perspective from other outlets, Rush’s show and FNC might not even exist.

They do exist because, in my opinion, they provide products that were lacking in the marketplace. Rush provides an outlet of opinion that people were not getting. Callers in the earlier years would talk about how they finally heard something on the air that they could agree with. Folks flocked to Limbaugh, not because he changed their minds, but because they already believed it and hadn’t heard anyone else in the media saying it. FNC provides an outlet for getting both sides of the issue. Kitty Kelley got 3 days on the “Today” show when her book dishing dirt on the Bushs came out. How much time did John O’Neill of “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” get? FNC gives both sides of an issue more often than the others, and for that they’re derided as “conservative”. Well if by “conservative” they mean fair and balanced, I’ll go with that.

(The Kelley/O’Neill thing is just one example. Get the Media Research Center’s daily E-mail “CyberAlert” to find more. I think they get a little oversensitive sometimes, but there’s still plenty of food for thought. My favorites are when they compare the same situation under a Republican vs. Democratic administration and see the differences in how it was covered.)

What I’d like to hear is Kos et. al. at least being intellectually honest about the slant in other media outlets instead of talking in vague generalities. Look at the trends that the MRC documents and either explain it or admit it. But that isn’t going to happen. As McQ notes,

If the “Right Wing Noise Machine” exists it exists in reaction to a perceived left leaning media monopoly . It arose as an alternative to that monopoly on the news. What Kos wants badly is to return to the heady days of monopoly leftist spin.

And that’s what Kos would consider “fair and balanced”. Sorry, can’t go with that.

(Cross-posted at Comments welcome.)

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