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BILL O’REILLY AND THE DECLINE OF CABLE NEWS

 

 

 

By Cliff Kincaid

December 5, 2005
NewsWithViews.com

My favorite show on cable news has been cancelled. MSNBC’s Connected Coast-to-Coast political talk show with Monica Crowley and Ron Reagan has been disconnected. I was on the show several times, pleased with the fact that the hosts permitted guests enough time to complete their sentences. It provided a serious forum for the discussion of hard news. Crowley is a knowledgeable conservative who never gave any ground to her liberal co-host, the pleasant but usually smirking Ron Reagan.

Rita Cosby’s Live & Direct program seems to represent the new direction of MSNBC. Her show was supposed to feature a story about a male brothel. That certainly got my attention, if only because it seemed to represent another new low in programming. No topic, no matter how sleazy, is out of bounds. On December 2, she was covering the issue of “postal porn.” Then she tackled the subject of “two people apparently having sex in the front of a window inside a dorm at the University of Pennsylvania.” No kidding.

I was pleased, however, to discover that she was going to be doing some stories about World Wrestling Entertainment stars going to Afghanistan to entertain U.S. forces. So-called “professional” wrestling is fake but fun to watch. It will probably be a welcome break for our troops from the hunt for terrorists. Perhaps Cosby will return to the states with a new appreciation for the sacrifices being made in the war on terrorism and cover the issue on a regular basis.

Cosby got her show in the 9 p.m. EST time slot when Tucker Carlson was booted to 11 p.m. He actually advertised his later time period as being more hospitable to those who were drunk. I tuned in once last week, only to discover that he was still wasting valuable airtime bantering with liberal lesbian Rachel Maddow.

If MSNBC President Rick Kaplan wants to do a good conservative vs. liberal show, he ought to consider airing some solid, hard-hitting media criticism. The Fox News Watch program on Saturday nights has completely failed in that regard. Host Eric Burns opened one recent program by showing a fake People magazine with Burns on the cover as the sexiest man alive. He’s certainly not the most informed.

I didn’t need to read any transcripts of the Chris Matthews MSNBC Hardball show to know what’s he’s been doing. It’s a safe bet he was hyping some Bush-related “scandal.” The former Democratic congressional staffer does what he does best—make Democrats into heroes and Republicans into villains. He may be predictable and boring, but at least he’s not wasting time on hopeless missing person cases.

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a former Congressman and author of a book about corruption in Washington, D.C., could provide a counterweight to Matthews. But he’s still covering the Natalee Holloway case. Slowly but surely, he seems to be trying to move on to more serious matters.

Over at Fox News Channel (FNC), Greta Van Susteren started running sycophantic interviews with Hillary and Bill Clinton, and Shepard Smith and Geraldo tried to act like self-righteous heroes during the hurricane disaster. And this is the conservative channel?

Van Susteren, a refugee from CNN, led the stampede to cover the Holloway case. This was seen as a smart move on her part because her ratings shot up. At best, of course, we are only talking about a couple million people watching these cable shows. The concept of expanding an audience by covering real news is apparently out of fashion.

The “War on Christmas” has been a major topic for FNC anchors John Gibson and Bill O’Reilly and it’s a legitimate issue. But liberals on the lookout for conservative hypocrisy charged that Fox News Christmas merchandise was being sold on the channel’s website as “Holiday” merchandise. O’Reilly had been highlighting those companies unwilling to highlight the Christ in Christmas.

In response, an “O’Reilly Factor Holiday Ornament” was quickly transformed into an “O’Reilly Factor Christmas Ornament” in the Fox News online store. But the real issue is why anybody would put something like this on a Christmas tree anyway. Can you imagine having an ornament on your Christmas tree with the O’Reilly Factor logo on it? Do people actually buy these things? Or give them away as gifts?

I don’t know which is worse—the ACLU’s War on Christmas, as noted by Gibson and O’Reilly, or making a commercial killing from the birth of Christ, as demonstrated in the Fox News Shop. One thing is certain: you won’t find O’Reilly targeting his own employer for a boycott.

To make matters worse, FNC, which became the number one cable news channel because it appealed to political conservatives, aired a November program on global warming featuring liberal Democratic Party activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. as a “special correspondent.” The airing of this one-sided show suggests that this network, too, has lost its sense of direction.

But if you think this is bad, wait until you read our forthcoming AIM Report on how a Saudi Prince has increased his financial stake in News Corporation, the parent of Fox News. How do you think Bill O’Reilly will factor that?

© 2005 Cliff Kincaid - All Rights Reserved

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Cliff Kincaid, a veteran journalist and media critic, Cliff concentrated in journalism and communications at the University of Toledo, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Cliff has written or co-authored nine books on media and cultural affairs and foreign policy issues.

Cliff has appeared on Hannity & Colmes, The O’Reilly Factor, Crossfire and has been published in the Washington Post, Washington Times, Chronicles, Human Events and Insight.
Web Site: www.AIM.org

E-Mail: kincaid@comcast.net


 

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I don’t know which is worse—the ACLU’s War on Christmas, as noted by Gibson and O’Reilly, or making a commercial killing from the birth of Christ, as demonstrated in the Fox News Shop.