"Fair and balanced"??? How about anything BUT?!?! For the first time ever, this documentary reveals the secrets of Former Fox news producers, reporters, bookers and writers who expose what it's like to work for Fox News. T... more »hese former Fox employees talk about how they were forced to push a "right-wing" point of view or risk their jobs. Some have even chosen to remain anonymous in order to protect their current livelihoods. As one employee said "There's no sense of integrity as far as having a line that can't be crossed." "Outfoxed" examines how media empires, led by Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, have been running a "race to the bottom" in television news. This film provides an in-depth look at Fox News and the dangers of ever-enlarging corporations taking control of the public's right to know. "Outfoxed" first examines media mogul Rupert Murdoch and the Australian company, News Corp., tracing how the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) helped Murdoch break the rules to establish a fourth network in the United States. The film explores Murdoch's burgeoning kingdom and the impact on society when a broad swath of media is controlled by one person. Media experts, including Jeff Cohen (FAIR), Bob McChesney and Chellie Pingree, provide context and guidance for the story of Fox News and its effect on society. The team behind "Outfoxed" created a system to monitor Fox News 24 hours a day for months to discover exactly how its shows worked. A team of volunteers around the country scrutinized every hour of Fox News programming, noting examples of bias in its coverage. The result is an intense examination of Fox News and the lie inherent in its favorite motto: "Fair and Balanced."« less
"David Cole Iinnocuously enough. On Monday, June 21, a producer from Fox News's The O'Reilly Factor called to ask me to appear as a guest that evening to comment on a front-page story in the New York Times claiming that the Bush Administration had overstated the value of intelligence gained at Guant?namo and the dangers posed by the men detained there. I'm generally not a fan of shout-television, and I had declined several prior invitations to appear on O'Reilly's show, but this time I said yes. Little did I know it would not only be my first time, but also my last.
I sat in the Washington studio as the taping of the show began in New York with a rant from Bill O'Reilly. He claimed that "the Factor" had established the link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and then played a clip from Thomas Kean, head of the Senate's 9/11 Commission, in which Kean said, "There is no evidence that we can find whatsoever that Iraq or Saddam Hussein participated in any way in attacks on the United States, in other words, on 9/11. What we do say, however, is there were contacts between Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Iraq, Saddam--excuse me. Al Qaeda."
I was impressed. O'Reilly, who had announced his show as the "No Spin Zone," was actually playing a balanced soundbite, one that accurately reported the commission's findings both that there was no evidence linking Saddam and 9/11, and that there was some evidence of contacts (if no "collaborative relationship") between Saddam and Al Qaeda. Maybe all those nasty things Al Franken had said about O'Reilly weren't true after all.
But suddenly O'Reilly interrupted, plainly angry, and said, "We can't use that.... We need to redo the whole thing." Three minutes of silence later, the show began again, with O'Reilly re-recording the introduction verbatim. Except this time, when he got to the part about Kean, he played no tape, and simply paraphrased Kean as confirming that "definitely there was a connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda." The part about no link to 9/11 was left on the cutting-room floor.
Now it was my turn. O'Reilly introduced the segment by complaining that we are at war and need to be united, but that newspapers like the New York Times are running biased stories, dividing the country and aiding the enemy. "The spin must stop--our lives depend on it," O'Reilly gravely intoned. He then characterized the Times story that day as claiming that the Guant?namo detainees were "innocent people" and "harmless." He said the paper's article "questions holding the detainees at Guant?namo."
I noted that the Times had said nothing of the sort. And I pointed out that the article relied on a CIA study finding that the detainees seemed to be low-level and had provided little valuable intelligence.
That didn't convince O'Reilly, however, who again criticized the Times for misleading its readers by terming the detainees innocent and not dangerous. I replied that he was misleading his own viewers, by exaggerating what the Times had said. "No, I'm not," he retorted. So far, the usual fare on newstalk television.
But then I decided to go one step further: "It seems to me like the pot calling the kettle black, Bill, because I just sat here five minutes ago as you re-recorded the introduction to this show to take out a statement from the head of the 9/11 commission stating that there was no evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11."
Apparently O'Reilly does not like being called "the pot." He exploded, repeatedly called me an "S.O.B." and assured me that he would cut my accusation from the interview when the show aired. He also said I would "never ever" be on his show again. At this point, I wasn't sure whether to take that as a threat or a promise.
Sure enough, when The O'Reilly Factor aired later that night, both Thomas Kean's statement about 9/11 and my charge about O'Reilly deleting it were missing. All that was left was Bill O'Reilly, fuming at the liberal media's lack of objectivity and balance, and ruing the divisive effect "spin" has on our national unity."
Finally, Fox Gets Called on the Carpet
D. Brown | Hyattsville, MD USA | 07/12/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As if you didn't know already, this movie makes it clear: Fox is only nominally a "news" organization. It's main purpose and goals are to be the propaganda arm for the Republican Party. The owner, Australian-born Rupert Murdoch also owns similarly Right Wing screeds, the New York Post and The Weekly Standard. Also owns HarperCollins books. HarperCollins once was scheduled to publish the memoirs of Chris Patten, former governor of Hong Kong
but they cancelled it because he was a very vocal critic of Communist China, and Murdoch feared it might damage business concerns he had with the country. (Something to think about when you see all those American flags waving around Fox News Promos)
One thing you never hear about is how the News Director of Fox is former Republican Media Consultant Roger Ailes, who was employed in the Nixon, Reagan and Bush 41 administrations. Whenever the Republicans issue any sort of statemet or press conference, Fox News circles the wagons and immediately starts to promote it to their viewers, who mistake it for "analysis". Of course, to blockade any criticism they promote themselves as the opposite of what they are: "Fair and Balanced" is exactly what they are NOT; Bill O Reilly's No Spin Zone is nothing BUT spin for the GOP; As has been noted by many a writer, they have an Orwellian tendency to say the exact opposite of what something really is. BUY this DVD. If you know people who watch Fox News religiously,
LEND IT TO THEM and see what they say next. Fox is lies, sensationalism, distortion, propaganda, and slander, NOT news."
The News about the News
matthewslaughter | Arlington, VA USA | 07/27/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Even though I'm an ardent hater of Fox News Channel, Outfoxed could have been much better for several reasons. First, there were obvious examples of Fox's conservative bias that the program missed (the way the studio audiences for Linda Vester's Day Side always deride liberals and applaud conservatives, the way every email comment put up before the commercial breaks on The Big Story with John Gibson always slam liberals and the way Hannity and Colmes always opens with Newt Gingrich, William Bennett or Ann Coulter, when they never have guests on like, say, Noam Chomsky or Michael Moore).
Second, by having only liberal critics of Fox News Channel interviewed for the documentary, the documentary unwittingly gives credence to the conservative dictum that the mainstream media has a liberal bias (I put mainstream in quotes because more people watch Fox News Channel now than CNN or MSNBC combined -- therefore who is the real media elite now?). For instance, if director Robert Greenwald could have secured interviews with conservatives like William F. Buckley, Pat Buchanan, Matt Drudge or even William Kristol (who, because he is on the FNC payroll probably couldn't be asked), their views might have given this film more depth.
Third, a consideration of how other news outlets operates is necessary to show just how different Fox News Channel is from CNN, MSNBC, PBS or the Network News on ABC, CBS or NBC. If, as certain people suggest, CNN is the Clinton News Network, how is their practicing of journalism any different from Fox's? The documentary makes too many assumptions about what constitutes objective journalism. It ends up sounding like liberal journalism (I mean, this documentary is funded by moveon.org). Does this mean that they want a model of news reporting that is simply the political opposite of Fox News, yet similar in tactical and practical approach (which this film is actually critical of)?
Fourth, the film's supposed smoking gun evidence of Fox's Right Wing Conspiracy is interesting but hardly compelling. Memos from Fox News Executives are hardly earthshattering. But the interview the with the reporter hired to cover an underwhelming response to Ronald Reagan's birthday was very relevatory. He was suspended because he couldn't make a flashier story out of circumstances that really presented no interesting news story. The satellite-feed exchange between Carl Cameron (whose wife was campaigning for George W. Bush) and George W. Bush is also damning. Can you say conflict of interest? I knew you could. Also, the claim that Fox News basically won the election for Bush in 2000 is an interesting claim--though not nearly as cool as the one's devised by conspiracy theorists.
Where the film succeeds is in its criticism of the channel's use of the phrase fair and balanced and in its assertion of being news. Now to be fair (ha-ha), if Fox would just admit to being a conservative news outlet, I would have no problem with them at all. Conservatives need a place to get the news they want to hear in a place where they feel comfortable. I understand that. But when they say fair and balanced yet 85 percent of the guests on Special Report with Brit Hume (that number is presumably higher on Neil Cavuto's shows) are Republicans, that seems pretty far from fair or balanced. (Also, the fact that FNC is, currently, airing very little of the Democratic National Convention gives credence to this film's claims.) The film does a good job of showing that the network has a strong roster of notable conservatives but a lackluster roster of liberals (who the hell is David Corn for instance). In this sense, Fox News Channel is only balanced if the conceit of a liberal media bias is seriously considered (i.e. FNC balances out fairness in coverage ideologically amongst the news outlets). On its own, though, it is hardly fair and balanced. As far as considering its network a news channel, Outfoxed also excels, but does not go far enough. Even though I don't trust FNC as a resource for getting news (I would rather watch MSNBC as far as TV is concerned), it is incredibly entertaining (watching CNN is unbearable: Aaron Brown is about as boring as watching a painting of a vase). Like conservative radio, FNC is chock-full of bullying personalities who spin opinions as news in a confrontational manner. No wonder people watch this stuff. It's fun, but it's hardly a way to get news.
Though the film is filled with plenty cannon-fodder for any Fox News-hater worth his/her mettle, I just wish it was more rigorous in its examination of why Fox News Channel is so successful (in terms beyond those that are purely ideological). Where it is successful is in its pessimism regarding the consequences of FNC's success on the world of news coverage in the West."
The television is mightier than the sword
Derek G | Redneck, South Carolina | 07/31/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First, an admission. The Fox News phenomenon is rather new to me. I haven't watched TV news in years, preferring to sift through the newspaper or the best I could find online from sources like Reuters and Associated Press. For me, the reason, outside of the annoying increase in commercials, was the endless parade of, "woe is me because the government ain't taking care of me" stories. Outside of headlines of the day, practically every "focus" story on the major networks had a definite left-wing bent. I couldn't stand the overriding feeling that I constantly was being told how I should think, or more accurately, that I shouldn't think at all. So I tuned out - and missed Fox's rise to fame or, I suppose I should say, notoriety.
How surprised was I to skim through the channels and discover this upstart news channel that wasn't, well, boring! Flashy graphics, hot news babes and, best of all, people who weren't afraid to mix it up with their guests. No more pandering and slobbering on the mic (Larry King) to get a guest. If you started mouthing off, getting off track, or just being an idiot in general, they would flat-out tell you to shut up (O'Reilly). Sure, there was a definite right-wing slant, you'd have to be a moron not to realize that. Some are so far right they may have fallen off (Hannity). I didn't care. I was hooked! Then, slowly, after a couple of months of viewing, I started realizing something.
Those on the right never, ever, lose.
This was already in the back of my mind, but it never became clearer than at Fox's recent coverage of the Democratic Convention. Here sits Hannity with a stack of prepared talking points and reference notes while the supposed liberal, Colmes, has a post-it note or two containing some hastily scrawled handwriting. Colmes mutters something about not being ashamed to be a liberal. Hannity then proceeds to eviscerate not only Colmes, but three democratic pundits simultaneously. Sorry folks, but even at their own convention, the dems just couldn't compete.
There's a reason why, and it's why you should watch Outfoxed.
Outfoxed goes much deeper into the psyche of Fox News than just the flashy graphics and the right-wing agenda. Among the movie's claims, interviews appear to be legitimate or objective, while the graphics and headers on the bottom third of the screen often contain opinionated headlines. Off the cuff remarks are encouraged and any promoting the republican agenda or discrediting the democrats will get you the "atta boy" after the segment ends. Many internal memos obtained, while not necessarily incriminating, do reveal a definite agenda reporters needed to use on stories or when talking to guests.
Even more interesting is Fox's use of the term, "Some people say..." While other journalists may say this in order to advance a storyline without revealing the source of the information. Fox uses the term liberally, (pardon the pun), so their reporters can insert political opinion instead of remaining objective. Of course you can gather which side of the political spectrum these opinions fall. As one writer explains, it's not necessary that Fox wins an argument. They simply need to muddy the argument to keep the viewer in a state of confusion. This way the viewer is unable to make a decision one way or the other which, to Fox, is as good as a victory.
Most interesting, however, are the numerous times that people with a liberal agenda are simply outmatched. Again, there's a reason for this. After 25 weeks of study of the guests appearing on Special Report (Brit Hume) in 2003, 83% of the guests were republicans. On top of this, the liberals appearing repeatedly on the channel are usually "faux liberals" that often agree with the conservative side after some debate. Real liberals are rarely seen, intelligent liberals are rarely invited, and the ones who did put up a good argument are usually not invited to return. Fair and balanced?
Finally, numerous ex-Fox employees testify of the almost crushing conditions they experienced while working there. In one hilarious segment, ex anchor Jon du Pre relates how he was suspended because he was unable to find anyone outside of a few people and a class of fourth graders celebrating Ronald Reagan's 80th birthday at his presidential library.
Other reviewers have complained this movie is as much a propaganda piece as the news channel they're attacking. Frankly, they're right. Repeatedly, conservative media outlets like Fox and Clear Channel are railed against in this movie. Strange how no complaints were made against Viacom and Infinity (owners of MTV and Howard Stern.) The testimonies of so-called anonymous employees contain little credibility in my view. And, once you consider the backers and financiers of this film, the timing of this release during an important election is certainly no coincidence. As one writer correctly states, the reason why our propaganda system is vastly superior to the old Soviet-style propaganda machine, is we don't realize we are constantly being manipulated.
If you get past the spin to the left, you get to the main reason why I recommend this movie. This movie made me see that media concentration is a worse problem than even I originally realized (and I consider myself a cynic and skeptic by nature.) I certainly don't want my news filtered by Murdoch any more than I want it filtered by Soros. Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you are on, the FCC's relaxation of limits on media ownership severely limits the information you receive, not to mention the quality of the information, so that you may form an objective opinion. How can you do this when independent publications keep getting silenced?
Ok, I gotta run, Laurie Dhue's on. Hope the review helped. "
A Fair and Balanced Review: I write; you decide
!Edwin C. Pauzer | New York City | 03/15/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Greenwald presents a picture of a man [Rupert Murdoch) possessed with a right wing agenda and a flair for sensationalism. This was the man who once had his NY Post run a headline that said, "Terror from the Sky." No, it wasn't about 9/11. Back then it was about an air conditioner that fell from a ninth floor window.
Some of the people interviewed for this video were former Fox employees. Some may have an agenda, but some may be revealing the truth about Fox's penchant for slanting the news to favor conservative views. As one of the interviewees charged, the liberal counterpoints they generally have on the air, were nobodies. Alan Combes, the supposed counterweight to Sean Hannity is like pitting the Washington Generals against the Harlem Globetrotters. (Guess who wins!) The video correctly intimates Hannity lacks the cohonas and wits to take on Michael Moore, Joe Conason, or an Al Frankel. (Hmmmm. Why did Hannity cancel that debate in Colorado with Michael Moore, anyway?) From what I have seen on Fox, the liberal counterpoints are no one I recognize.
Greenwald cleverly creates clip after clip of Fox editorializing guests and news with comments like,"Some people say he's trying to sell a book." Implication? Richard Clarke, who is particularly unkind to the Bush administration in his book "Against All Enemies," was sacrificing truth for profit. Of course, Fox never got more specific about who the "some people say" were.
Bill O'Reilly is also grist for Greenwald's mill demonstrating for anyone to see that Bill will say something on the air, and then deny it with pathological amnesia. His signature example was telling a viewer that he only told one person to shut up on the air. Naturally, it then shows Bill saying it several times demonstrating his level of journalistic talent. In another example he tells a viewer that after we've gone to war, it's time to shut up and get behind the president. (Sorry, Billy. Someone once said that citizens have an obligation to criticize their government. Those who don't are treasonous in their silence [or words to that effect]. Unlike Fox, I'll mention his name. It was Theodore Roosevelt--a republican.)
What scares me most is not this video or Fox network. It's the gullibility of Americans who rationalize the network's clear bias, but then scream propaganda if another network dares to say anything derogatory about a conservative no matter how accurate the story may be. I'm afraid for America if Americans desperately cling to their opinions, which they don't want distorted by the facts. This country will definitely fall from within. As for me, there is only so much rationalization on Fox's behalf I can take.
If Americans believe what they hear from Fox is journalism and news, they can be made to believe anything.