Unfortunately for Fox Business Network, people can't watch two Fox News Channels at the same time.
On Monday, Reuters reported on a memo with the subject line “Fox News and Fox Business” sent to Fox Business staff by the network's executive vice president, Kevin Magee. Following a meeting with Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, Magee told his staff that he had “been asked to remind you all again that they are separate channels and the more we make FBN look like FNC the more of a disservice we do to ourselves.”
According to Reuters -- which noted that despite a large initial investment and high hopes of eventually overtaking CNBC, FBN's ratings are still lagging -- Magee also told staff, “if we give the audience a choice between FNC and the almost-FNC, they will choose FNC every time. Earnings, taxes, jobs etc give us PLENTY to chew on.”
This is a particularly important time for Fox Business to appear at least vaguely credible as a business news venture. As Media Matters documented earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal's current arrangement with CNBC -- wherein CNBC reportedly receives advanced access to certain original financial reporting from WSJ and all Dow Jones business outlets as well as other perks -- expires in 2012.
While many observers assumed that Fox Business would inevitably form a partnership with WSJ once the CNBC deal expired -- News Corp. owns both Fox and the WSJ -- Journal managing editor Robert Thomson told Media Matters that partnering with FBN would “not necessarily” happen.
The president of the Independent Association of Publishers' Employees, which represents 1,500 Dow Jones employees, including many at the Journal, expressed to Media Matters that, “by and large, reporters at the Journal do not like being associated in the minds of news sources or news subjects with Fox News.”
The concerns of Journal reporters and FBN's VP are well-founded. Aside from just sharing the Fox name, FBN and FNC often mirror each other, covering the same stories in the same ways, with a lot the same on-air talent.
Three FBN hosts (Eric Bolling, David Asman and Neil Cavuto) also host shows on Fox News, and a fourth (Andrew Napolitano) regularly guests on Fox News and fills in there as a host. Various other FBN personalities, including the “very clearly partisan” host Stuart Varney -- who spent much of 2010 openly rooting for Republican electoral victories on Fox's airwaves -- are fixtures on Fox News as well.
Discussing FBN, a source told Reuters that “it's obvious they don't cover enough financial news.” While FBN does devote a lot of their airtime to covering economic stories and issues, their programming, specifically during primetime, frequently veers into subject matter that is hardly related to business or the economy. (For example, it's hard to connect the dots as to how Obama's birth certificate or the "Ground Zero Mosque" have an influence on “earnings, taxes, jobs,” but the network has devoted time to both.)
Often, Fox Business Network seems like their top concern is promoting conservative politics, rather than covering the economy.
“What's with all the hoods in the hizzy?” - Eric Bolling, host of Fox Business' Follow the Money
Former commodities trader Eric Bolling -- whom FBN colleague Don Imus has called an “empty suit” -- has undoubtedly been the breakout star at Fox Business. Since joining the network as an analyst in 2007, Bolling's rise in the Fox universe has been steady. In addition to now hosting his own nightly show on FBN, Bolling co-hosts Glenn Beck replacement show The Five on Fox News, and regularly appears on FNC as both a guest and a fill-in host.
Bolling brings a keen eye to his coverage of economic issues and can be seen providing viewers with trenchant analysis of things like Solyndra executives invoking the Fifth at congressional hearings with observations like: “I want to punch these guys in the face.”
On paper, a successful former trader makes sense as an analyst or host on a business news channel, but in practice, Bolling's tendency to use his show as a venue for his preposterous conspiracy theories and offensive political commentary makes him an awkward fit at a network trying to establish itself as a legitimate business news venue.
For example, viewers that tuned in to Bolling's Follow the Money program on April 27 of this year expecting to watch coverage of business news were instead greeted with one of the more embarrassing spectacles in cable news history.
Earlier that day, following years of conservative conspiracy-mongering (including from numerous Fox Business personalities), President Obama released the long-form version of his birth certificate. That night, Bolling devoted several segments of his show to this very important business development.
Along with anti-Muslim conservative blogger Pam Geller (whose repeated presence on a business network is in itself bewildering), Bolling assessed a poster-sized version of Obama's long-form certificate and pondered whether it had been “Photoshopped.”
Bolling also had unanswered “questions” about the issue, including how the doctor that had delivered Obama -- who died in 2003 when Obama was still mostly-unknown state senator -- had never told his family that he delivered the president.
Pushing birtherism is far from the only time Bolling has used his Fox Business platform to peddle nonsense conspiracies. Among others, he has also fearmongered about the Agenda 21 “One World Order” U.N. conspiracy, and once speculated that Obama may have let the BP oil rig leak on purpose so he “could renege on his promise” to “allow offshore drilling.”
Promoting conspiracy theories isn't the only way Bolling discredits Fox Business as a legitimate outlet, either. He also frequently makes offensive comments, most famously during the segment he ran in June after the White House hosted the president of Gabon and Bolling told viewers that it was “not the first time [Obama has] had a hoodlum in the hizzouse.”
“It's really not that much of a jump from 'show me the money' to 'show me the birth certificate.'” - David Asman, host of Fox Business' America's Nightly Scoreboard
David Asman hosts a nightly program on Fox Business and a weekend program on Fox News. Like Bolling, he makes sense as a reporter on an economic channel, as he was the Wall Street Journal's editorial features editor (and an editorial writer) for several years before joining Fox News. However, like Bolling, Asman has often used his show as a conduit for his politics at the expense of reporting economic news.
Back in April, a week before Bolling was speculating about why the doctor that delivered Barack Obama wasn't a clairvoyant, Asman hosted Alan Keyes to spend fifteen minutes of his Fox Business show promoting birtherism.
On the upside, Asman did find a way to mention money during the segment. After explaining that America is a “show me country,” Asman played the clip from Jerry Maguire of Cuba Gooding Jr. yelling “show me the money!” Somewhat inexplicably, he followed this up by declaring, “it's really not that much of a jump from 'show me the money' to 'show me the birth certificate.'” (Editor's note: Yes, it is.)
The segment featured flashing “Business Alerts” across the bottom of the screen with business-y questions like “Why Does The 'Birther' Story Keep Getting Bigger?”
More recently, Asman praised former NFL player David Tyree over his declaration that gay marriage in New York would lead to “anarchy,” and devoted time on his program to pressing economic issues like whether Chaz Bono's participation on Dancing With the Stars will “hurt kids”:
“It couldn't possibly have been done the way the government told us.” - Andrew Napolitano, host of Fox Business' Freedom Watch, talking to radio host Alex Jones about 9-11.
Former New Jersey judge turned Fox News legal analyst turned Fox Business host Andrew Napolitano makes perhaps the least sense in the Fox Business primetime lineup. A conservative/libertarian often focused on constitutional issues, it's unclear why Napolitano would have a program on a network that is trying to position itself as a purveyor of serious economic news.
It's especially bewildering considering Napolitano's history of promoting 9-11 Trutherism and other anti-government conspiracies. Last November, Napolitano appeared on the radio program of 9-11 Truth leader and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and said that it's “hard for me to believe that” World Trade Center Building 7 “came down by itself.”
In the past, Napolitano repeatedly appeared on Jones' show, where the two discussed things like whether a powerful banking cartel would collapse the economy in order to institute “martial law.”
Napolitano told Jones last November that he would host him on Fox Business, though that hasn't happened yet. But that doesn't mean that Jones-esque conspiracies haven't made their way onto Napolitano's show.
In May, after the death of Osama bin Laden, Napolitano floated the possibility that perhaps bin Laden wasn't dead, and speculated about “whether the government is telling us the truth or pulling a fast one to save Obama's lousy presidency.”
9-11 conspiracies have also made an appearance on Napolitano's Fox Business show. Last October, Napolitano hosted Jesse Ventura, a 9-11 Truther, on Freedom Watch. After Ventura announced that his program would be investigating the “alleged Pentagon plane,” Napolitano said that “we'll be watching.” In a separate appearance on Napolitano's show, Ventura made a reference to the “truth of 9-11.”
All of that without mentioning prop comic John Stossel, who uses his weekly Fox Business program to do things like host debates between Republican presidential candidates and Obama impersonators, or Don Imus, who hosts a program for three hours weekday mornings on the channel which, though broken up by straight news reports by FBN reporters, is essentially a political talk show.