Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism
Robert Greenwald (2004)
Outfoxed makes the case that media mogul Rupert Murdoch is first and foremost a politician – that he uses Fox News and his vast media monopoly* to promote conservative politicians who protect his financial interests. As evidence, it provides dozens of Fox News broadcast clips, samples of Roger Ailes’ daily editorial memos, and interviews with former Fox producers, reporters and commentators.
Murdoch used 21st Century Fox and the six TV stations owned by Metromedia he acquired in 1986 to form the Fox Broadcasting Company. In 1996, he entered the cable news market, hiring Roger Ailes to set up and run the Fox News Channel, a 24-hour cable news stations.
The former reporters and producers featured in the documentary talk at length about Ailes’ daily memos about topics they were required to cover (and avoid) and the spin he expected. Murdoch has a special hatred for the Kennedys, Bill Clinton, anti-war movie stars and Jesse Jackson and Fox employees were expected to invent opportunities to demonize them. The memos they received also heavily emphasized terrorism, fear of terrorism and divisive wedge issues, such as abortion, gay rights and religion, especially in election years. The intention was to distract US voters from issues, like the economy, that were problematic for Republicans.
Reporters and producers who failed to follow Ailes’ directives would be chewed out, demoted or fired. Commentators who failed to follow Murdoch’s party line would have their contracts canceled.
Election and War Coverage
Outfoxed devotes special attention to the biased coverage of the 2000 and 2004 election campaigns and the War in Iraq. In their vicious demonization of John Kerry in 2004, Fox News engaged in a deliberate attack campaign more typical of a political party.
The Fox Effect
Filmmaker Robert Greenwald also examines the effect Fox News has on other TV networks when they feel pressured to report Fox-initiated propaganda as news. The rumor that John Kerry looked and acted French – a pure Fox News invention – is a case in point. Likewise in 2000, ABC, NBC and CBS all declared Bush the winner at 2 am on election night, immediately after the Fox analyst (Bush’s first cousin) did so. Only Associated Press reported, correctly, that the Florida race was too close to call.
The Internet Effect
Produced ten years ago, the film’s call to action – lobbying the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – is totally obsolete. Greenwald had no way of predicted the social media revolution or its negative effect on traditional media. Young people no longer rely on TV for news and information. Young Americans (age 25-54) particularly avoid Fox News – there’s no way a network catering to an older male Republican base can possibly address the issues that concern them. This is reflected in a steady decline in Fox News ratings over the last five years.
*In addition to Fox Networks, Rupert Murdoch owns Harper Collins, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, the British Sun, Times and Sky Television, five regional US newspapers and more than 100 national and regional Australian newspapers.