November 17, 2009

Leftist Blood-Curdling Scream Alert: CMPA Reports That Fox Is Fair and Balanced

fox-news-logoLeftists including those in the White House who presumptively and obsessively attack Fox News will not be pleased with this.

At Forbes (HT Hot Air Headlines), S. Robert Lichter of George Mason University’s Center for Media and Public Affairs, asks the question, “Fox News: Fair And Balanced?” — and answers in the affirmative. In the process, the GMU Professor of Communications also makes a number of interesting points about Fox’s competitors, discusses the convergence of news and analysis, and provides useful historical context.

Using a methodology that would be difficult to refute, Lichter’s work relating to campaign 2008 is in sync with what CMPA found in late 2007 (noted at the time at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) during the opening stages of the presidential campaign.

Here are key paragraphs from Lichter’s commentary (bolds are mine):

Fox News has become embroiled in a nasty controversy over its ill treatment of President Obama. But are the charges true?

What if I told you that Fox gave Obama his worst press and John McCain his best press of any network during last year’s presidential election? If you work for the White House, you’d probably take this as proof that Fox is just a mouthpiece for the opposition. Now what if I told you that Fox had the most balanced coverage of any network during the same campaign? If you work for Fox, you’d probably say we told you so.

But what if I told you that both scenarios are true?

While it seems unlikely, that conclusion is precisely the case, based on an ongoing study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA). That both these seemingly contradictory scenarios are true tells us something important not only about the war between Fox and the White House, but about the changing nature of television news in America.

…. The CMPA study compares ABC, CBS and NBC evening news shows and the first half hour of Fox News Channel’s Special Report, which most closely resembles its broadcast news counterparts.

…. So how could Fox have both the most balanced and the most anti-Obama coverage? Simple. It’s because the other networks were all so pro-Obama. CMPA analyzed every soundbite by reporters and nonpartisan sources (excluding representative of the political parties) that evaluated the candidates and their policies. On the three broadcast networks combined, evaluations of Obama were 68% positive and 32% negative, compared to the only 36% positive and 64% negative evaluations of his GOP opponent John McCain.

In fact, Obama received the most favorable coverage CMPA has ever recorded for any presidential candidate since we began tracking election news coverage in 1988. The totals were very similar–within a few percentage points–at all three networks. (These figures exclude comments on the candidates’ prospects in the campaign horse race, which obviously favored Obama.)

Meanwhile, Fox’s Special Report was dramatically tougher on Obama, with only 36% favorable vs. 64% unfavorable evaluations during the same time period. But McCain didn’t fare much better, garnering only 40% favorable comments vs. 60% negative ones. So the broadcast networks gave good marks to one candidate and bad marks to another, while Fox was tough on both–and most balanced overall.

Other points Lichter makes:

  • The historical pattern during a president’s first year in office is that the establishment press tends to go negative. Lichter interestingly asserts that all networks have done so this year, with the Big 3 nets tallying 35% favorables for Obama vs. 27% for Fox on Special Report. Lichter’s take is that “Fox’s coverage has gone from being the worst of all to merely the worst among equals.”
  • The White House claim that Fox “really isn’t a news organization” is risible, given that in Special Report the channel at least runs “nightly news modeled on the broadcast networks.” MSNBC and CNN don’t even try.
  • Longtime NewsBusters and BizzyBlog readers will probably have a hard time with the final sentence of this assertion — “Obama differs from his predecessors mainly in the false hopes generated by sometimes fawning campaign coverage from jaded journalists who temporarily let themselves get carried away by his eloquence and the historic nature of his candidacy. When politics returned to normal, their coverage returned to form.” I definitely disagree, especially if you include the Big 3′s morning shows, which attempt to position themselves as every bit as objective as their evening news counterparts. But if anything, they’re worse. Perhaps a gravitation back to the norm has begun more recently, as the continued decay in the economy as people are experiencing it and the awful results of the administration’s attempts to do something about it become ever more obvious.

Leftists who will predictably howl that CMPA is conservatively biased (because SourceWatch says so, as if that proves anything beyond paranoia) are going to have to explain what is wrong with CMPA’s scorekeeping methodology, which appears to be relatively immune from partisan slant, even if one had that as an objective. In any event, the footage is out there, and they are free to try to replicate and poke holes in what CMPA did any time. I bet they won’t; whining is so much easier.

Cross-posted at



  1. [...] can get the whole low down on Bizzy Blog. They have the story and the links to the [...]

    Pingback by New CMPA study released, the leftists will stroke out, Fox News most fair & balanced (again) « Lake Minnetonka Liberty 2.0 — November 17, 2009 @ 4:51 pm

  2. I’d thought I’d explain how this shows “Fair and Balanced” because I know the leftists aren’t going to understand:

    FoxNews remained consistent during both the campaign and after (within a margin of error), which was consistent with the historical ratios of ALL networks previously. The legacy networks deviated from historical norms, actually reversing the ratios, during the 2008 campaign then reverted to the mean only after they got the intended result. Therefore, one network was fair and balanced in that their ratio of +/- was consistent with the historical standard as set by the MSM! On the other hand, the MSM deviated from even their own historical standard (i.e. the veritable definition of bias).
    Similarly, if one accepts that rational consumers will “purchase” that which yields the highest utility given the same cost, and FoxNews is “purchased” by 3 times as many consumers, it follows that FoxNews provides the best quality (i.e. fair and balanced). The fact that the networks are “free,” and have plummeting ratings is confirmatory that consumers’ tastes are trending towards a higher quality product even at higher cost (i.e. value)

    This only confirms what all of us objective observers already knew intuitively. As for the opinion shows, they are just that– opinutainment– watched mostly by those already predisposed to the POV. Since the Fox opinion shows’s ratings continue to show solidification of their dominant position, at least among politically savvy consumers, their POV is more mainstream. Likewise, although Fox attracts a smaller percentage of Dems, because of their ratings dominance, there are actually MORE Dems watching Fox than any other individual competitor.

    Game. Set. Match.

    That’s your political economy lesson for the day.

    Comment by Joe C. — November 17, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

  3. Oh, and BTW, I forgot, since Obama hasn’t done anything positive, the fact that they found more than a third of stories positive suggests even more bias by the legacy news, and pity by Fox.

    Comment by Joe C. — November 17, 2009 @ 5:52 pm

  4. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom_Blumer: Bizzy: Leftist Blood-Curdling Scream Alert: CMPA Reports That Fox Is Fair and Balanced: Leftists including those in …

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  5. Knows that FNC “NEWS” is straight news. Their opinion shows are left and right.

    Comment by Bloglifetime — November 19, 2009 @ 5:14 am

  6. [...] The Washington Posts's Anne Kornblut (saved here in case her report is modified or disappears) captured a comment Obama made to U.S troops at Osan Air Base in South Korea while heading back to Washington after his Asian trip. [...]

    Pingback by Oh, So Now U.S. Soldiers Are ‘A Pretty Good Photo-op’; Let’s See How This Obamism Gets Covered | Conservative Blog Watch — November 19, 2009 @ 10:59 am

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