Tune into “The O’Really Factor.”
As in: What a nest of right-wing-loving, left-wing-loathing loons. … Oh, really?
“We’re as fair and balanced as they’re not,” says Fox-5 news director Adam P. Bradshaw, referring to Fox News Channel, which — as any sentient human within earshot of a Glenn Beck crying jag knows — is the Republicans’ de facto PR machine. “We don’t have an agenda.”
Yet viewer perceptions of FNC’s red-meat, red-state dogma can carry over unfairly to Fox broadcast affiliates — the Vegas affiliate included, based on some feedback to this columnist — stung by the ideological guilt-by-association syndrome that turned the phrase “fair and balanced” into a bad media joke.
Last fall, the Fox News brand was further vilified when the White House criticized the cable prattler like an A-student calling out the school bully.
“Some viewers draw that connection,” Bradshaw says. “Most have never been able to tell a network from a local (station). I’ll get on a plane in my Fox-5 jacket and somebody goes, ‘I love (Fox News Channel’s) Shepard Smith!’ Or hate him. But it doesn’t have any impact on our coverage.”
Curiosity aroused, we spot-checked random Fox-5 stories last week:
Read by John Huck, a report on a government cash infusion to help defray energy costs for low-income valley homeowners and renters cheerfully credited Sen. Harry Reid, along with a flattering photo of the grinning majority leader. A voice-over on John Edwards’ admission of fathering a child via an extramarital affair was snicker-free, and a piece on President Obama’s rough first year contained more Democrat quotes (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and, extensively, press secretary Robert Gibbs) than Republican (House minority leader John Boehner).
Regarding the U.S. Supreme Court removing restrictions on political contributions — seemingly Republican-friendly, and slammed by Dems, including Obama — the morning show’s Dave Hall provided this narration: “If you thought big oil, insurance companies and other big corporations ran Washington before, just wait, it’s about to get worse. … They now have a blank check.” Yes, it was a partisan punch — a left (wing) jab, even wrapped in Hall’s light-touch delivery.
And “The Rant” gives viewers venting rights at every stop along the political spectrum. On a recent night, anti-health care reform screeds were countered by one woman’s touching message about a 33-year-old, insurance-strapped young man desperate for a heart transplant.
(Bias? Yes — in their gleeful reporting of Conan O’Brien’s hilarious NBC trash talk, given that Fox could ride to the big redhead’s rescue next fall.)
Some broadcast affiliates are indeed inclined to ape their cable cousin’s tea-partying rhetoric — the “O&Os” owned and operated by Fox, rather than independents such as Fox-5, run by the Meredith Corp. “Their (O&Os) coverage is more in line with the Fox attitude,” Bradshaw says. “We’re not following their political agenda in any way, shape or form.”
Even Keith Olbermann — MSNBC’s left-wing, bargain-bin Howard Beale — would be hard-pressed to prove otherwise.
That makes them — no, we won’t saddle them with that punch line of a tag line. Let’s go with …
Equitable and Proportional.
Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.