\”Roger understands audiences,\” says Rollins, the former Reagan consultant. \”He knew how to target, which is what Fox News is all about.\” The typical viewer of Sean Hannity\’s show, to take the most stark example, is a pro-business (86%), Christian conservative (78%), Tea Party-backer (75%) with no college degree (66%), who is over 50 (65%), supports the NRA (73%), doesn\’t back gay rights (78%) and thinks government \”does too much\” (84%). \”He\’s got a niche audience and he\’s programmed to it beautifully,\” says a former News Corp colleague. \”He feeds them exactly what they want to hear.\”

Exactly. The media chases the prejudices of the audience, not forms them.

9 thoughts on “Quite”

  1. Erm, no. Correlation isn’t causation – all this proves is that people who watch Fox tend to believe the same things that Fox shows.

    That’s consistent with “far-right views watch Fox, and it has no impact on their levels of right-wing extremism”, but also with “centre-right viewers start to watch Fox, and the version of reality it presents gradually makes their views more extreme”.

    As usual for this sort of question, the only plausible answer is “yes, a bit of both”.

  2. “The media chases the prejudices of the audience, not forms them.”

    So how does that explain the hard-left BBC? Or does the theory fall down when the media empire is funded by taxation?

  3. No-one is interested, I’m sure, but 5 years ago one of the journalism schools did a measure of partisanship (in terms of the words used by the network for framing candidates positions) of a range of US TV outlets. It emerged, as one might expect, that Fox swung far to the right of the rest, but less far from a neutral position (with respect to Democrat and Republican candidates) than any other. The implication was that the entire field of TV reporting in the US, apart from Fox, was more biased to the left than Fox was to the right.

    Now, does that make Fox “hard right”. Or does it just mean that a fairly conventional conservative political position has become unacceptable to most of the media in the US – in other words, most outlets are horrendously biased to the left? And isn’t that a problem?

    Finally, is it surprising that a Centre-Right nation prefers to watch news providers that don’t despise them?

  4. Dick: the “hard-left BBC” is explained by the fact that you are an extremely long way to the libertarian right of the British population. Polls highlight that the British people in aggregate are soft-left-cum-unthinking-conservative; they believe in higher taxes for the rich, in saving the NHS, in British Jobs For British Workers, and in anything that’s easy and unthinking.

    The BBC broadly reflects that consensus, with a chaser of of metropolitan-elitist social liberalism based on the fact that it employs the kind of people who work in hard-to-get media jobs (again, not really a left-right thing as such – the educated right-wingers I know IRL disapprove of things like hanging for nonces, torture for Muslims and firing squads for looters that are popular with the unthinking masses).

  5. @john b


    I used to regularly use the BBC news website as my first stop for my daily news fix. Then came the coutryside alliance march in London, the first time that 400,000 people had marched in London. The BBC did not even mention it, instead reporting on some obscure German by-elections? (compare this to their more recent coverage of the TUC protest)

    Since that happened (and that was the first and last time I ever bothered making a complaint to the BBC, which claimed it had less than 100 complaints over its coverage) I have used the BBC newsite only as a secondary source.

    From blatant bias such as that above, to more subtle bias (such as always outnumbering right wing politicians on the Today show), unsurprisingly my respect for the BBC has gradually eroded to the state where I want the licence fee abolished.

  6. Tim are you really arguing that what you watch on the telly, what arguments you hear, what “Fox Facts” you hear, have no causal impact of what people think.

    That’s odd, because I’m sure what I read and watch has an influence on me. Maybe even this blog.

    Tim adds: This blog is different of course, given that its author is as pure as the driven snow.

    On the major point though: the academic research is that media (especially newspapers) has very little influence upon people’s prejudices. They chase pre-existent ones in sections of the population, not create them.

  7. John B,

    No idea of the facts in this case, but there’s a difference between writing a report on a subject and where it features on the main page. Few people use the ‘Search’ box to find that day’s news.

  8. @john b

    a link to the BBC reporting the march? All well and good, but as Mr Potarto says, this was NOT on the front page at the time, nor did the BBC News TV broadcast even refer to it on the day!!

    That is a fact, I remember it very clearly as that is why I made a complaint.

    So, the ‘fact’ is that the BBC buried the story, which was in some ways hilarious when one flicked channels between BBC1, ITV and Sky news at the same time. obscure by election – huge march – huge march….

    As for your reference to ideology, I believe that applies far more to you than it ever would to me.

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