In his February 11 column, The New York Times' Nick Kristof explored how to hold the Fox Corporation accountable for profiting from selling the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump -- the lie that led to the January 6 violent storming ot the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Kristof reached out to Media Matters President and CEO Angelo Carusone about how Fox News takes money from the unsuspecting cable subscribers to fund its hate and extremism; the core problem is that the fees paid by cable subscribers to providers for Fox News are artificially inflated -- and all subscribers are forced to pay up.
The issue here is that if you’re like many Americans, you: A) don’t watch Fox News, and B) still subsidize Fox News.
If you buy a basic cable package, you’re forced to pay about $20 a year for Fox News. You may deplore bigots and promoters of insurrection, but you help pay their salaries.
Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, says that Fox News relies on unusually generous cable fees — more than twice what CNN receives and five times what MSNBC commands. So Media Matters started a campaign, at unfoxmycablebox.com, for people to ask cable carriers to drop Fox News from their packages.
Carusone pointed out cable subscribers being fleeced by Fox News should have the option to opt out, similar to the way cable packages often premium channels like Cinemax.
“Given all the damage that Fox News has caused and the threat that it remains, they absolutely should unbundle Fox News,” Carusone told me. “It’s not a news channel. It’s a propaganda operation mixed with political smut. If people want that, they should be forced to pay for it the way that they pay for Cinemax.”
Fox News’ lies have material consequences for the public: COVID-19 misinformation cost hundreds of thousands of lives, and the network’s extremist commentators poured fuel on the fire of racist violence.
But there’s no symmetry. Fox News and Fox Business didn’t make an honest mistake about election outcomes but deliberately spun nonsense into ratings gold.
“During 2020, Fox News’s caldron of lies and extremism boiled over,” Carusone said. “They made us sicker and put up obstacles to the pandemic response by flooding the airwaves with over 13,150 instances of Covid misinformation. They fomented racial animus and promoted white supremacy as a response to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. And, in the first two weeks after the election was called for Joe Biden, Fox News laid the groundwork for the attack on the Capitol by challenging the results on 774 individual instances with wild conspiracies and flat-out fabrications.”
Kristof also noted that unbundling Fox News from basic cable makes sense when you compare its content to other basic cable channels.
Suppose Discovery Channel went haywire and encouraged viewers to drink arsenic to lose weight? Or Cartoon Network was bought by a tobacco company and encouraged children to try smoking? Or MSNBC pundits called on viewers to burn down police stations?
We would agree that advertisers should not support their programs and that cable channels should not force Americans to subsidize them. In other words, we accept that there must be red lines even if we don’t always agree where to draw them — and I believe that Fox crossed those lines in 2020.