In a 2009 New York Times article, Fox explained that its hard news programming runs from “9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on weekdays” and “[is] objective”. Its other broadcasts, however, consist mainly of opinion and commentary.
Fox News Channel has long been accused of promoting conservative political positions, and biased reporting, author James Robert Compton noted in 2004. Fox News host Chris Wallace has said, “I think we are the counter-weight [to NBC News]...they have a liberal agenda, and we tell the other side of the story.” Fox News Channel founders Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes have denied such a bias. Murdoch has stated that Fox has “given room to both sides, whereas only one side had it before”.
A leaked memo from Fox News vice president Bill Sammon to news staff at the height of the health care reform in the United States debate has been cited as an example of the pro-Republican party bias of Fox News. His memo asked the staff to “use the term ‘government-run health insurance,’ or, when brevity is a concern, ‘government option,’ whenever possible”. The memo was sent shortly after Republican pollster Frank Luntz advised Sean Hannity on his Fox show that “If you call it a public option, the American people are split. If you call it the government option, the public is overwhelmingly against it”.
In January, Senior Researcher Jesse Holcomb at the Pew Research Center's Journalism Project published “five facts about the organization that changed the face of cable news:
“1.Fox News was very tough on the last Democratic candidate for president. (But MSNBC was even tougher on the Republican). During the late stages of the 2012 presidential campaign, a Pew Research analysis found that Barack Obama received far more negative coverage than positive on the Fox News Channel. Yet Fox found its ideological mirror image in MSNBC. In the final stretch of the campaign, nearly half (46%) of Obama’s coverage on Fox was negative, while just 6% was positive in tone. But MSNBC produced an even harsher narrative about the Republican in the race: 71% of Romney’s coverage was negative, versus 3% positive.
“2.The Fox News audience skews more ideological than that of its two main competitors. Fully 60% of Fox News viewers describe themselves as conservative, compared with 23% who say they are moderate and 10% who are liberal, according to a 2012 survey by the Pew Research Center. By contrast, the ideological makeup of CNN viewers (32% conservative, 30% moderate, 30% liberal) and MSNBC viewers (32% conservative, 23% moderate, 36% liberal) is far more mixed.
“3.Fox News is expensive. If you’re a cable subscriber, you pay roughly 89 cents per month for the Fox News Channel, based on 2012 estimates provided by the industry research firm SNL Kagan. Cable channels generate much of their revenue from “license fees” they receive from cable companies in exchange for carriage in households. Those fees are passed along in subscribers’ monthly cable bills. Fox has aggressively negotiated its license fees, and now claims one of the highest average rates per subscriber. Only six non-premium cable channels command higher fees than Fox. CNN, by contrast, is estimated to average 57 cents per subscriber per month and MSNBC, 18 cents.
“4. Fox still leads in audience, but that audience is smaller than it used to be.
In 2013, Fox’s prime-time viewership declined 6% from the previous year, according to median monthly viewership data provided by Nielsen Media Research. But with 1.7 million viewers each evening, the channel still drew a bigger audience than CNN, MSNBC and HLN combined. Fox surpassed then-leader CNN in prime-time viewership in 2002, and has never looked back. However, there is some evidence of a ceiling for audience growth. Fox has not increased its median evening viewership since 2009.
“5.Fox outspends its rivals. In 2009, Fox surpassed CNN as the cable news outlet that spends the most money each year. In 2012, the channel was estimated by SNL Kagan to spend $820 million — on everything from salaries for on-air talent to maintaining bureaus and keeping the lights on. That spending was up 11% from 2011 levels, according to Kagan data. CNN was estimated to spend $682 million on news gathering in 2012, and MSNBC, which draws partially upon the resources of parent NBC News, $240 million.”
Media Matters for America, which calls itself a “progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media,” cataloged what it called the 10 most “egregious examples” of “distortion” by both Fox News and its TV personalities. The examples included:
• Cropping quotes from President Obama, Vice President Biden and Vice President Gore so they appeared out of context.
• Using image-manipulation software to edit the appearance of reporters from The New York Times and using footage from other events during a report on the November 5 Tea Party rally in Washington, D.C. Media Matters said the intention of Fox News was to make it appear as if a larger number of protesters attended the event.
• The group also called attention to the December 4 edition of Fox and Friends, accusing the program of misleading its viewers with a “questionable graphic” showing the result of a Rasmussen Reports climate-change poll totaling 120 percent.
• In November 2009, Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett told viewers that a Sarah Palin book signing in Grand Rapids, Michigan had a massive turnout, showing footage of Palin with a large crowd. Jarrett stated that the former Republican vice-presidential candidate is “continuing to draw huge crowds while she’s promoting her brand-new book”, adding that the images being shown were “some of the pictures just coming in to us....The lines earlier had formed this morning”. The video was actually taken from a 2008 McCain-Palin campaign rally. Fox senior vice president for news Michael Clemente issued a statement saying, “This was a production error in which the copy editor changed a script and didn’t alert the control room to update the video”. Fox offered an on-air apology the following day during the same Happening Now segment, expressing regrets for what it described as a “video error” with no intent to mislead.
• Fox also apologized for fabricated quotes attributed to John Kerry in an article on its website during the 2004 presidential campaign, stating that the piece was a joke which accidentally appeared on the website.
On the other hand, Fox News decries any suggestion of a conservative bias. Indeed, promoting such slogans as “Fair and Balanced” and “We report, you decide,” Fox News argues just the opposite. Not only is Fox News far from being a biased network, Fox News argues, it’s the only unbiased network.