Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fox Pays The Politicians to Run Their De Facto Campaigns

This Politico article by Johnathan Martin and Keach Hagey was brought to my attention from one of the readers on this website and I thought it was very interesting.  The article discusses how Fox News has potential GOP candidates on the payroll - more then any other channel.
As Fox’s popularity grows among conservatives, the presence of four potentially serious Republican candidates as paid contributors is beginning to frustrate competitors of the network, figures within its own news division and rivals of what some GOP insiders have begun calling “the Fox candidates.”

With the exception of Mitt Romney, Fox now has deals with every major potential Republican presidential candidate not currently in elected office.

The matter is of no small consequence, since it’s uncertain how other news organizations can cover the early stages of the presidential race when some of the main GOP contenders are contractually forbidden to appear on any TV network besides Fox. 

C-SPAN Political Editor Steve Scully said that when C-SPAN tried to have Palin on for an interview, he was told he had to first get Fox’s permission — which the network, citing her contract, ultimately denied. Producers at NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and MSNBC all report similar experiences.

At issue are basic matters of political and journalistic fairness and propriety. With Fox effectively becoming the flagship network of the right and, more specifically, the tea party movement, the four Republicans it employs enjoy an unparalleled platform from which to speak directly to primary voters who will determine the party’s next nominee.

Their Fox jobs allow these politicians an opportunity to send conservative activists a mostly unfiltered message in what is almost always a friendly environment. Fox opinion hosts typically invite the Republicans simply to offer their views on issues of the day, rather than press them to defend their rhetoric or records as leaders of the party.

Fox, in an e-mail to POLITICO, indicated that once any of the candidates declares for the presidency he or she will have to sever the deal with the network.

But it’s such a lucrative and powerful pulpit that Palin, Gingrich, Santorum and Huckabee have every reason to delay formal announcements and stay on contract for as long as they can.
Although this is hardly news, it is welcome to see a major news source report on the conflict surrounding Fox News and their employing prominent GOP politicians who have their eyes on a higher office.  Because Palin gets limited scrutiny and softball questions on Fox, along with a pay check, and she gets to spread her message virtually unaltered, why would Palin leave the job unless she has to?  This is probably why Palin has played coy whenever questioned about the presidency.

Fox has tried to play off such criticism as just upset competitors who have lost the edge, but there is more to it then that - the fact that Fox News is paying candidates that they are supposed to cover.  This would be like asking a band manager their opinion of the bands they manage.

Fox's involvement is also upsetting non-Fox candidates, but they won't go on the record discussing their concerns for fear that Fox could shut them out in the campaign.

“I wish we could get that much airtime, but, oh yeah, we don’t get a paycheck” was what one aide told a Fox employee, according to a source familiar with the conversation.

“The longer they can remain ‘undecided’ about running, the longer they can stay at the network and get paid,” said another top aide to one potential GOP candidate.

I thought the following excerpt was of particular interest:
What worries some in the political and media community, though, is that behind Palin’s incessant attacks on what she calls “the lamestream media” is a strategy to de-legitimize traditional news outlets so as to avoid ever facing any accountability beyond Fox.

Part of Palin’s thinking could be seen in her advice to Delaware GOP Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell — offered, naturally, on Fox.

“Speak through Fox News,” Palin urged the much-maligned tea-party-backed candidate.

And, speaking earlier this month in Louisville, Ky., Palin said: “What would we do without Fox News, America? We love our Fox News, yes.”

While having candidates with Fox contracts may be an ideal media strategy for the primaries, the GOP may suffer in the general election if its candidates avoid speaking to the mass audiences of the Big Three networks.
What happens should any of these big candidates run for office - will they quickly do interviews on the "lamestream media?"

Would their attempt to discredit channels other then Fox leave them to avoid accountability?

What about the other candidates who do appear on other networks?

I predict that these individuals will continue as long as possible without stating their intentions, and then when they do, they will suspend their Fox News contract, but as soon as one loses, I'm sure they will pick that contract back up and use their position on television to sway their primary backers for any one candidate, and what better way to do it then on a station that reaches millions...

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