Broadcast nets: Ailes is what's good for you
The Bradley Foundation, a private, independent grant-making organization based in Milwaukee, recently handed out its annual Bradley Prize to four men who have, in the words of the organization's mission statement, “(preserved and defended) the tradition of free representative government and private enterprise that has enabled the American nation and, in a larger sense, the entire Western world to flourish intellectually and economically.”
Among the winners at the Kennedy Center event in Washington, D.C., was Roger Ailes, chairman of Fox News, the bete noire to the broadcast networks and other media elites.
In his acceptance remarks, Ailes noted that Fox (on which I occasionally appear) has racked up 137 consecutive months as the No. 1 cable news network and that it has the top 13 shows on cable. He didn't say that CNN and MSNBC are in a ratings decline. He didn't have to.
It has been my privilege to know the three most influential pioneers in television. One was David Sarnoff. Biographer Kenneth W. Bilby calls Sarnoff an “early champion of home radio, creator of the first national broadcasting network and pioneer of color TV (and) RCA's president (who) did more than anyone to bring electronic technology to the public.”
The second is Ted Turner, founder of CNN, which broke the broadcast news monopoly.
The third is Roger Ailes, who brought his long TV experience and political background to Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel and turned it into a juggernaut, eclipsing CNN and MSNBC and challenging the broadcast networks in viewership.
In the early 1980s, before the founding of Fox News, I met with each of the broadcast news presidents — Robert Mulholland, Av Westin and Andrew Heyward. I told them of the vast demographic — conservative Americans — they were ignoring and how I was building my column by appealing to them.
Editors who bought my column told me they had begun to attract new (and former) subscribers. I told the broadcast presidents that same audience was available to them. “Someone was going to do it and prosper,” I said. They ignored me. But Roger Ailes “got it.”
As George Will noted in his introduction of Ailes at the awards ceremony, the model of people sitting before their TV sets at the dinner hour watching what amounts to the same news from the same ideological perspective is no more.
Instead of making adjustments in their content, broadcast news divisions continue to act as if there is nothing to be learned from the success of Fox News. Meanwhile, Ailes and Murdoch reap the rewards that go with success.
There have been numerous surveys that have attempted to portray Fox News viewers as less informed than those of other networks. Such elitist thinking explains the decline of network news.
The broadcast networks would do well to match Ailes' success by reaching out to the Fox audience, but they won't. They're caught in an ideological cage of their own making.
In the film “Ray,” Quincy Jones tells Ray Charles he isn't going to play the South because of racial prejudice. Ray, who at the time was playing the South, says that just meant more money for him.
Let the broadcast networks not make a “play” for the Fox audience. That just means more success and more money for Roger Ailes.
Cal Thomas is a columnist for USA Today.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McKeesport Area, South Allegheny, Elizabeth Forward musicians head to holiday parades
- Membership fees predicted for continued Heritage van use in the Mon Valley
- Lost election inspires South Allegheny student’s clothing project
- Former Clairton resident killed
- Steelers cornerback Taylor ready to swap earpiece for helmet
- Casey supports food donation tax break extension
- DUI checkpoints take on dangerous drivers
- Penguins notebook: Bennett status remains fluid
- No. 15 San Diego State hammers Pitt, 74-57
- Ehrhoff finding his way with Penguins
- Cancer didn’t stop mother from living for her son