Lady C's InfoNapsterizer

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8.10.2004

MSMedia formula for audience success? - 1 -- Viewing Fox News with a German accent

The NYT carries an article translated from Der Spiegel discussing the Fox News phenomenon (hat tip mnewsblues.com, sub req'd). While acknowledging Fox's success vis a vis other cable networks, the author, Jan Fleischhauer, writes that "an alliance is beginning to form against the troops of Australian-American Bush champion Rupert Murdoch."The article rehearses the well-known accusations of political bias against Fox and its leader, Roger Ailes, as well as the standard defenses, including the number of "quality" anchors and reporters who have been lured to the network from other broadcasters.

The most interesting part of the article, however, deals with the distinctive Fox News style.

Fox News is something like the busty blonde among news channels: colorful, loud, in-your-face, and always wearing a little too much make-up. All kinds of graphics constantly appear on the program, the camera seems unable to remain stationary for even a minute, and whenever it's time for another "news alert" (which, at Fox News, can be triggered by as little as the arrest of a sufficiently brutal murderer), the entire screen turns orange.

The aggressive visuals are part and parcel of the Ailes package.

When Roger Ailes was still making a living as a media consultant, television networks would occasionally ask him to take a closer look at a moderator on local TV station. Ailes would then sit down in a hotel room, switch off the sound on the television, and watch the candidate soundlessly go about his or her work.

In explaining his method of searching for stars, Ailes later said: "If nothing happened on the screen that I felt was interesting enough to make me stand up and turn on the sound, it was obvious to me that the moderator was not a particularly effective actor."

Ailes was always convinced that the first thing about good TV is delivering a perfect performance, whether the subject is hosting a game show, delivering the weather report, or reporting on the beginning of a war. No one had ever thought that this was a principle that could also be applied to news programs.

"Television is an entertainment medium," says Ailes. The result of his efforts is called Fox News.

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