Term Paper: Media Ethics

Pages: 5 (1754 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Communication - Journalism  ·  Buy This Paper

FOX News

In today's world of media information, there are constant concerns of bias and unfair reporting. While some conservatives believe the media to be liberal, other liberals see the media as conservative. This paper will discuss one news station, that of the Fox News Network, and will discuss whether or not this station uses censorship to present an unfair, biased news broadcast in favor of the conservatives. This paper will each position, and will compare the views in each. In addition, this paper will attempt to show that while Fox News is certainly not a liberally biased station, there is not significant evidence that the station censors the news broadcast to present a conservative view of the world.

When Fox News debuted in 1996 as a 24-hour-a-day news station on cable television, their slogan was "Fair and balanced." According to the board at Fox News, they simply report the news, and leave it to the viewer to decide what information is liberal, and what is conservative. The network hails its self as an unbiased network, intent on simply reporting the information as they receive it, without partisan biases (Fox News, 2004).

However, from the beginning, conservative politicians typically wary of any news media, began to praise the network for its reporting style. Famed Republican Trent Lott was quoted in the Washington Post as saying "If it had not been for Fox, I don't know what I'd have done," in response to the Florida election recounts of 2001 (Ackerman, 2001). The Heritage Foundation, known for its right-wing ideas, warned its staff to stop watching so much Fox News on their computers, since it was causing mainframe system failure (Ackerman, 2001).

However, simultaneously, the Fox News network denies any suggestion of censorship to tilt the news on a conservative angle. According to the network, they happen to be the only network that does not lean to one side or the other, and is the only network that does not censor their stories to fit either the liberal party or the conservative party (Ackerman, 2001). Additionally viewers seem to agree, as the Fox News network is still the most watched cable news network, even topping those of MSNBC and CNN (VOOM, 2004).

There is some evidence to support the idea that Fox News Network does not censor its stories to fit the conservative agenda. In December of 2001, the Fox News Channel ran a series about Israel's activities related to spying on the United States. In the story, Fox indicated that the Israeli intelligence agency had advance warning of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. Fox was the only network to publish such information, and did so even in the face of severe criticism from the conservative party. In addition, the report discussed a group of Israelis in North Carolina, suspected of watching Arabic groups being investigated by the United States for terrorism. Classified documents Fox obtained clearly pointed to knowledge by the United States government that the Israeli groups were involved in spying on the United States. The report included quotes from numerous government entities and politicians from both the liberal and the conservative groups (Cameron, 2001).

While the conservative party attempted to force Fox to downplay the information they had gathered, Fox did not. They were pressured to remove the story from their website, and not to air the information. Fox did remove the story from their website, but did so without any additional comments to avoid any admission that the story should be downplayed at all (Cameron, 2001).

To some, the simple fact that Fox did the story in the first place lends credibility to the notion that their news stories are not censored by the conservative politicians. If so, some argue, Fox would not have run the story to begin with, nor invested the amount of time and energy into the story as they did. If Fox News were censoring for the Republican political party, they would not have even attempted to run the story, or would have downplayed the significance of the information the obtained.

However, there is other evidence that speaks just as loudly for the idea that Fox News does, in fact, censor their news casts to present a biased view of the world. One example of this can be seen with the Fox News Channel's refusal to air photos of the flag draped coffins of American soldiers coming home from Iraq. In April of 2004, the New York Times reported the controversy over photos of coffins being unloaded at Dover Air Force Base. All other major news networks had used or planned to use those photos to show the toll on human life that the war was taking. According to that report, Fox News was quoted as saying "only Fox News Channel had no plans to use any of the photos or to explore the issue of why they had been barred from use in the news media" (Carter, 2004).

Some saw this refusal to even consider questioning the government's decision as an obvious censorship of the news in favor of a Republican viewpoint. Fox's refusal to display the dead soldiers returning indicated to some that Fox was attempting to downplay the true loss of life due to a "Republican war." Critics saw the refusal to question the governments forced brand of censorship as only further proof that Fox News was working more for the Government than it was for the people watching the news channel (Martin, 2004).

Still, those who see Fox News as an uncensored view of the world point to Fox's willingness to employ staff from both sides of the political issue as proof that their coverage is uncensored. Obvious liberals such as Alan Colmes, Geraldo Rivera and Greta Van Susteren are seated along with conservatives such as David Asman and Tony Snow. Additionally, supporters of Fox point to tough interview strategies intent on gathering the truth, such as those displayed with Bill Clinton and with President Bush, as still further proof that the network does not censor their viewpoints (Gordon, 2002). Even the founder of the network, Rupert Murdoch, is quoted as saying "I challenge anyone to show me an example of bias in Fox News Channel (Thill, 2002).

There are just as many, however, who see Fox News as censoring coverage to the point that it is actually misrepresenting facts in newscasts. Critics of Fox point to a study by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy that showed viewers of Fox News were far more likely to have significant incorrect ideas and misconceptions about major news facts than those viewing any other TV news channel. This shows, according to some, that the information presented on Fox is distorted by censorship to the point that the news is no longer even a presentation of factual information (Ackerman, 2001).

Additionally, critics of Fox state that even their slogans show an obvious tendency to censor information. One such critical website, that of the Networks.com, points to Fox's use of the phrase "Fair and Balanced." Since news coverage should simply b a matter of reporting what happens in the world, the critical site states, it is not possible to be fair or balanced, since the information should be presented as simply fact. Additionally, the site points to the slogan of Fox News that "We report, you decide." Again, the critical site points out that if the coverage were truly unbiased and uncensored, there would be no need for anyone to decide anything (the Networks, 2004).

In a "documentary" about Fox News called "Outfoxed," film director Robert Greenwald provides an in depth look at the channels policies, politics, and attempts to censor information to the public. Interviews with previous employees, copies of internal memos, and statements made by management of the network all point the viewer of the film in the direction of belief that Fox does, in fact, censor their information (the Networks, 2004). The video even quotes Chairman of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, Julian Petley, as saying:

I'm not in favor of censorship, but Murdoch would like to do with British television news what he has done with newspapers, which is to force people to compete on his own terms...so if we allow into Britain the kind of journalism represented by Fox, that would bring about a form of censorship." (Julian Petley, quoted in Outfoxed, produced by the Disinformation Company, 2004).

There can be no doubt that the Fox News network is biased, as are every other major news network. There is doubt, however, as to whether or not Fox uses censorship and clever maneuvering of factual information to represent the best interest of their political faction, that of the right wing. While critics may point to the hailing of the network by Republican political parties, studies of viewer knowledge, and the conservative majority of the staff, those facts in and of themselves are not enough to prove censorship. Reports such as the Israeli… [END OF PREVIEW]

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