Buried deep in a 216 page report News Corp. submitted to the U.K. government earlier this month is an unusual acknowledgment from the company: News Corp.-owned Fox News is "opinionated news."
The description flies in the face of what Fox News executives have been telling U.S. audiences and advertisers about the channel for years: that while certain Fox News shows like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity have an editorial slant, a significant chunk of programming -- 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. -- is objective news.
For example, in 2009 The New York Times reported, "Fox argues that its news hours -- 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on weekdays -- are objective," and quoted Michael Clemente, the channel's senior vice president for news, as saying: "The average consumer certainly knows the difference between the A section of the newspaper and the editorial page."
As I've written before, this is apparently an argument that works only on the very gullible, and on advertisers who want to pretend that by confining their ad buys to the channel's "news hours" they are not financially supporting very damaging conservative lies and smears.
Fox News' claims of a clear division between its opinion and objective programming became even more absurd after Media Matters published an internal email from Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon to his news staff directing them to call into question indisputable scientific fact in Fox's climate change reporting.
Now we know that over in the U.K. -- where News Corp. is frantically jumping through regulatory hoops in an effort to buy out BSkyB, the largest pay-TV broadcaster -- News Corp. isn't even pretending Fox News provides objective reporting.
Last year, News Corp. commissioned Perspective Consulting to prepare a report that, among other things, described the relative unpopularity of Fox News Channel in the U.K. in comparison to Sky News, which apparently provides more impartial coverage. Earlier this month, News Corp. submitted that report to the U.K. government as part of a lengthy filing defending its proposed BSkyB takeover. From the report [emphasis added]:
Audience expectations of balance and impartiality
As well as determining the look and feel of television news, the context also shapes the audiences' expectation about the balance of views they expect to see represented. Audiences to television news expect it to deliver impartial news and measure the performance of a news channel against an impartiality yard-stick: Ofcom's research for its review of the future provision of news showed that 87% of audiences thought it important to deliver television news impartially, and an even higher percentage (93%) gave the same importance to the accuracy of television news. UK TV audiences have shown little interest in more opinionated news - Fox News achieves average audiences of 740 people for instance (compared to an average audience of approximately 57,000 for Sky News).
But while TV audiences may insist on impartiality, these same people nevertheless widely expect to consume opinionated news from other providers, such as newspapers - and who indeed choose their newspaper based on its editorial stance.
Yes, there you have it, straight from News Corp. itself: Fox News is "opinionated news."
So, how long will Fox News executives in the U.S. pretend otherwise?