If you look at the logo of KMPH-TV in Fresno, Calif., a Fox affiliate, the largest elements are the station's call letters and its channel: 26.
In smaller letters, and barely visible, is the name Fox. This may or may not be an accident.
According to KMPH News Director Jim Turpin, and his colleagues at some other Fox affiliates, disassociating their local news casts from Fox News Channel's conservative slant is often a challenge.
Several news directors say Fox's reputation for right-leaning broadcasts often misleads viewers into thinking their local news reports follow the same approach.
“There is a huge misunderstanding among a lot of people about Fox affiliates,” declares Turpin. “What Fox News does doesn't affect how we do it. It is sometimes a challenge to get people who have that assumption to sample your product.”
Turpin adds that his station's weekly political show has had trouble luring Democrats as guests because they assume a Fox right-wing approach.
“I have personally spoken with some Democratic candidates about appearing and the first thing they say is, 'you're a Fox affiliate,'” Turpin said, adding that getting some guests to appear “is like pulling teeth.”
News directors at other Fox affiliates offered similar views about living under the Fox name. None of the affiliates we spoke with are owned by Fox.
“We have to remind a viewer that calls that we are not owned by Fox, they do not control our news and judgment,” said Ed Chapuis, news director of KTVU-TV in Oakland, Ca., which serves the San Francisco area. “People know there is a fair amount of opinion-based programming on [Fox News] Channel, but we don't control that.”
KTVU is another affiliate that plays down the Fox name, with a logo that states only the call letters. “We play up the fact that we are an independent news operation,” Chapuis says. “We have found that the KTVU Channel 2 news brand is very strong and has a stronger impression with our viewers.”
Other affiliates said they welcome being a Fox affiliate in terms of entertainment programming and sports, both of which bring in high ratings. But they admit the confusion with Fox News Channel requires clarification. Most also carry Fox News Sunday.
“Fox has a different way of doing things,” says News Director Steve France of WUPW-TV in Toledo, Ohio. “We have our own brand we live by. We don't go by the Fox brand. You don't want to confuse people that you are the network or Fox News.”
Jim Dull, creative services manager at KMSS-TV in Shreveport, La., says calls often come in for Fox News Channel. “We have to explain that we have nothing to do with Fox News,” he says. “We try to do equal journalism, both sides of the story if possible.”
Will Elrick, news director at WZDX-TV in Hunstville, Ala., says so many calls come in for Bill O'Reilly that staffers have put a name plate for O'Reilly on an empty office door as an inside joke.
“Viewers call us daily to complain about Bill O'Reilly or Fox News that has nothing to do with us,” Elrick said. “Fair, balanced and local is our tag.”