Monday, June 1, 2015

How Fox News bought its spot in US cable and other insidious subterfuge

Finally read Loudest Voice in the Room and want to publish these notes  

A lot of us wonder how Fox News got to be such a force in the U.S. when they do such inaccurate journalism, and the government that they are so anti- is our own United States.  I learned a bit of how this happened by reading The Loudest Voice in the Room by Gabriel Sherman a few weeks back, and I took notes.  Now  I want to share them here on my blog, because it's a big long book, so most people won’t read it.  Here are the parts that I found most astounding:

Rupert Murdoch and a Saudi Prince took advantage of a hole in US oversight in 1990 when they purchased their position on cable lineups across the country, "completely changing the way business is done in media," writes Sherman, with No One Paying Attention. 

Scary to me is, in this book about Ailes, it outlines the purchase of Fox's position on American cable platforms by Murdoch, yet the book does not mention the Saudi prince who was Murdoch’s partner in creating Fox News.  The source of Fox’s bulging budgets and inordinately high salaries is always referred to as “Rupert Murdoch’s checkbook” in this book.  Even in this exhaustive investigative journalist piece about Ailes and the founding of Fox News, there is no mention of the Saudi prince. Yet he is second largest stockholder in Fox and was in this deal with Murdoch from the beginning.

Why isn't Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal even mentioned in this book?

Here is how the deal was struck that created Fox News, according Sherman in his exhaustively researched book:

Ailes changed the way cable business was done with a few meetings, lunches, and phone calls.  He “lunched with Time Warner CEO Jerry Levin and President Richard Parson’s in Rupert Murdoch’s private dining room” and “offered TW $125 million – more than $10 per subscriber – to carry Fox News.”

Before that the cable companies paid the networks for their product.  Ailes used Murdoch’s checkbook to then even lied to get the other execs to go along with it, writing them a follow-up letter after the meeting promising “more news than talk programming” which was exactly the opposite of what Ailes and Murdoch had been planning.

The book calls this the “distribution coup”

Ailes quote as they were staffing up in 1996, “most journalists are liberal, we've got to fight that.”

Makeup Department is a million dollar line item even when skimping on news coverage costs. 

More Notes from Loudest Voice

As the network got off the ground in 1996, Jay Ringelstein quote:  “Roger went in with an idea, so no one’s ideas were welcome or needed, unless they were solicited.”

In same paragraph: “It became very clear, it was Roger’s guys, and everyone else,” one producer recalled,

Murdoch “encouraged his executives to push boundaries and carve out their terrain and defend it ignoring reputational concerns that normally bred caution.” 

Usually the higher up you go, the less people want to take chances, it was the opposite at Murdoch’s  News Corp.  The people taking the chances were at the top.

September 4 news conference five weeks before launch of network Ailes “introduced Fox’s famous slogan ‘fair and balanced.’ All stories, Ailes insisted, would be ‘told in context’ and everyone appearing on his network would be given a ‘fair shot.’ ‘It's important to be first, but even more important to be fair’ a slogan he had once developed for a hypothetical local news channel.  He vowed Fox would ‘un-blur the lines between opinion and news.’ Graphics on screen would clearly label what was ‘commentary’ and ‘opinion.’

“Proclaiming himself as the referee” for journalists’ inherent bias

One thing Ailes and Murdoch have in common is admiration for Jerry Falwell

At that time in the nineties, 82 percent of American people think news is biased, negative, and boring.

He played on that, built on that, exploited it. 

Ailes used to call CBS the Communist Broadcast System.  From the start he ran Fox like a political campaign, where winning at any length was the game, long before Murdoch was caught with his employees hacking cell phones

“What Ailes was selling was not news, but empowerment.” (Re; We inform, you decide, early line used at Fox)  “Fox was putting forth the notion that their audience could come to their own conclusions, while “feeling informed” as Chet Collier said. “Of all the lines our agency was responsible for, this was probably the longest lived.”

“As the network hurtled toward its October debut, some staffers were detecting the menacing side to the culture Ailes was creating.  Certain colleagues, despite their scant journalism experience, lorded over others and could not be crossed.  These Friends of Roger or F-O-R’s, were longtime loyalists, including Collier, his assistant Suzanne Scott, Judy Laterza, and the cadre of political operatives from Ailes Communications.

“The influx of Ailes’s former political operatives rattled staffers. ‘I was creeped out. I thought it was a strange group,’ said one senior producer who left soon after the launch.

“Many believed that Ailes was building a political operation within a television network. 

‘Even more unnerving was a command center of networked computer terminals behind a locked door in the basement. Entry required a special security badge, which Ailes permitted only a handful of executives to have.  “The ‘Brain Room’  ‘These guys were researching people Roger wanted to know about. It was very Nixonian.’ A senior producer explained.  Scott Ehrlich oversaw the operation.  Staff and suspected that Ailes was using the Brain Room to plan dirty tricks.  Used it to get political affiliation and real estate records of Ailes’s “enemies and rivals”

Also used to generate the factoids and statistics that show along the bottom of the screen.

“The flashing and whooshing icons would, in fact, keep the viewers hooked.”

Ehrlich: “They suspected he was going through James Carville’s garbage when in fact he was usually ordering pizza.”

The Brain Room was a theater set, it turned out it was just a very well financed research room, still referred to by guests today as, “The geniuses in the brain room.”

Ailes never served in the military but “put himself on the front lines of a culture war.”

Ailes never served in the military but “put himself on the front lines of a culture war.”

Ailes: “I consider myself a freedom fighter.”
Led to him installing a bombproof glass window for his executive suite
Because of the “homosexual activists”

Mass layoffs after Clinton election

Then the blue dress hands Fox its tour de force

On Nine-Eleven Coverage

On Fox an anchor asked James Inhofe “So what happens, a two-year trial or do we launch our military might.”
Inhofe: We launch immediately. We have a president on his way back to Washington as we speak who is gonna be very decisive.”

(Earlier note that stuck with me.  Jerry Falwell is the spiritual advisor to Fox.  Rupert loved him, he was one thing Ailes and Murdoch had in common.)  

Ran coverage of Nine-Eleven like a military recruiting network and

January 2002 is when “Fox passed CNN in the cable news race, and never turned back.”

The Swift Boat

An ad showed up, one of Hannitty’s “connections sent it.
It was a 500,000 dollar ad buy, in three states, but by Sean H putting it on screen and making it a news story, it became a news story.  Even Dick Morris thought the swift boat story release on Hannity and Colmes was “’stupid and dangerous.’ ”

Fox that night brought on a panel of fellow soldiers who served with Kerry and had them bad rap him on TV.
(In almost exactly the same way last year they brought in a panel of soldiers who served with Bergdahl to say he was a deserter.)

Similar to when the Willie Horton ad showed up against Dukakis in 88

But “with Fox News, conservatives had a twenty-four-hour network that allowed them to inject attack lines directly into the political bloodstream.”

Greta Van Susteren is a Democrat or at least she was at the time she went to work at Fox

The Swift boat thing was so out of left field and unexpected it took Kerry’s campaign three weeks to respond, because they didn't want to give it “leg” but no one anticipated the new power of Fox News.

- Notes from Kay Ebeling.

This section of the book that describes the orientation employees went through as Fox prepared to launch itself as a new News Source.

-posted by Kay Ebeling

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