Three Dirty Little Words: Liberal Media Bias

“Are any of you voting for Mitt Romney?” host Jimmy Kimmel asked the audience at the Emmy’s last month. “Okay,” he said after listening to the smattering of applause, “there’s forty Republicans and the rest: godless, liberal homosexuals.”

“Being a Republican in Hollywood,” he joked, “is like being a Chick-fil-A sandwich on the snack table at Glee.”

I work in Hollywood. So I’ve seen my fair share of “liberal bias.” And I’m here to tell you that there is no liberal bias in the American media.

Oh sure, some news outlets are more liberal than others. Everyone knows that MSNBC is the channel for Democrats and Fox News is the channel for Republicans. And everyone knows that the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal is more conservative than that of the New York Times. But it is flat-out untrue that the media as a whole leans to the left.

I mention this because Paul Ryan, the Republican nominee for vice president, recently accused the media of trying to swing the election in his opponents’ favor.

All evidence to the contrary. This summer, the Pew Research Center examined the news reports of 50 major news outlets and found that 72 percent of the references to Barack Obama were negative, compared to 71 percent of the references to Mitt Romney. Similarly, statistical wunderkind Nate Silver examined the historical record and found that presidential election “polls have no…history of partisan bias.”

This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s spent any time studying the subject. Experts have combed through the archives looking for all sorts of bias. The Journal of Communication collected the results of 59 published research papers on media bias, and they came to three clear conclusions: In newspapers, there is no bias. In network television, there is a tiny — and I mean tiny — liberal bias. And in magazines, there is — wait for it — a conservative bias!

But you don’t have to read the Journal of Communication to figure that out. Just look around you. As media reporter David Carr pointed out earlier this week, the bestselling newspaper in America is the famously conservative Wall Street Journal, the most popular cable news channel is Fox News, and three of the top five radio broadcasters are Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage — and those guys make Mitt Romney look like Lyndon Johnson.

Moreover, every major news outlet is owned by a massive multinational corporation. Gannett owns the USA Today. Time Warner owns CNN. Comcast and General Electric own NBC and MSNBC. Walt Disney owns ABC. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and CBS are all listed on the New York Stock Exchange — and the majority shareholder of CBS is the billionaire Sumner Redstone.

Where do you think the sympathies of these mega-rich capitalists lie? Do you really think they’d let their news outlets dismantle the free market system that’s made them so wealthy?

And so what if they did? Is a “liberal bias” inherently wrong? Instead of asking whether a news outlet is conservative or liberal, shouldn’t we be asking if they’re right? Shouldn’t we demand, above all else, that the media tell us the truth? And what law of nature says that the truth is always nonpartisan?

It’s a fact that tax cuts for the rich haven’t increased economic growth. It’s a fact that the Earth is warming because of carbon emissions from manmade objects. It’s a fact that Palestine is a humanitarian disaster because Israel is blockading critical exports and imports.

And we’re supposed to sugarcoat these facts because they don’t fit into some people’s agendas?

The economist Paul Krugman has a famous saying: “If a presidential candidate were to declare that the earth is flat, you would be sure to see a news analysis under the headline ‘Shape of the Planet: Both Sides Have a Point.'”

And who comes up with these “sides” anyway?

In Europe, “conservatives” recoil at the idea of a government failing to allocate affordable health insurance to all its citizens. In America, rightwinger Glenn Beck gets a primetime slot on television, but a real leftist like Noam Chomsky is taboo.

Who’s the liberal equivalent of Glenn Beck? Rachel Maddow? Come on. This is a woman who said she’s “in almost total agreement with the Eisenhower-era Republican party platform.”

When was the last time you heard an American politician say that the government should give a job to every unemployed person who is willing and able to work? How many media pundits endorse tax rates above 50 percent or the abolition of nuclear weapons? Forty years ago, some of our most famous leaders were advocating exactly these solutions. Now, they’re fringe ideas at best.

Every time someone says “conservative” or “liberal,” I’m reminded of a line from the movie Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

My point here isn’t that we should change the system or that we should embrace leftist ideology. All I’m saying is, this is a ridiculous debate, and we must stop having it because it’s distracting us from the real issues in a very important election.


An abbreviated version of this op-ed was published in today’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Where Did I Park My Horse?

by Norman Horowitz

In the beginning, there was the heavens, the earth, NBC, CBS, and ABC.

This was quickly followed by Robert Edward “Ted” Turner.

Ted was/is, in the true sense of the words, a “media mogul.” He literally founded the “superstation” concept with TBS. At the time, the major studios, including Warner Brothers, fought against Turner’s superstation because it would compete with their broadcast networks. Now, of course, Turner’s media empire is part of that itsy bitsy benevolent American company Time Warner.

In a twist of irony-cum-hypocrisy, now it’s Ted’s company that’s railing against a new technology that might impinge on their business.

I’m reminded of a short story from my own career.

In the mid-70s, the very-big-deal Australian broadcaster Kerry Packer told me that the prices for American programming sold to Australia must be controlled in order to create “an orderly marketplace.” He went on to tell me that he raised the prices he charged to advertisers regularly because the advertisers had no alternative but to pay it. I remarked that he wanted an “orderly marketplace” when he was buying but not when he was selling. He took a moment and replied: “Norman, it’s different because it’s MY MONEY!”

Back to Ted.

There’s a new DVR technology that lets consumers delete broadcast TV commercials at the touch of a button. It’s called “Auto-Hop,” and it’ll be offered by Dish Network. Nothing has really changed, except fast-forwarding is no longer required. It’s a good thing if you’re a consumer (but who cares about them?) and a bad thing if you’re selling time to advertisers.

So, naturally, Time Warner executive Glenn Britt immediately expressed disapproval over Auto-Hop, putting him on the side of television networks that want to kill the service. “I don’t think we want to destroy one of [our] revenue streams,” said Britt.

Fox and NBC went further by refusing to allow ads for the new DVR on their networks. NBC Broadcasting chairman Ted Harbert justified the decision by calling Auto-Hop “an insult to our joint investment in programming.” It’s a little like the provider of candles saying that the providers of electricity are “an insult to our candle-making operation.”

This isn’t the first time TV executives have reacted this way. In 2001, the networks sued the company that made Replay TV, a DVR with a similar feature. The company removed the feature from its next model, and they eventually went bankrupt.

Clearly, the big studios will stop at nothing to stifle any competition, no matter how beneficial it may be to consumers.

And clearly, the feds are willing to stand by and watch these mammoth companies have their way with the American public.

The point is this: Had municipalities never paved roads, we would still have horses and wagons, but alas, no one ever organized the horses!

Were Kerry Packer alive today, he would be pleased.

32 Days To Go: My Holiday Contribution…

My contribution to Trading8s for the Holidays has been to visit the most excellent video front-end and aggregator Clicker (which aggregates or indexes the popular content from a variety of sources) and posting various Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Christmas-themed TV episodes.

FireShot capture #016 - Clicker Screenshot

I have not searched for Hanakuah episodes as of yet, and the Seinfeld ‘Festivus’ episode is not online – anywhere – to my knowledge.    No slight was intended.   Enjoy!