Tuesday 25 October 2011

How Fox News made me love the BBC

I love watching the news and political features and when it comes to news providers, I am all for diversity and choice. Having recently installed a Sky dish I noticed that I have added to the menu of news programmes. Sky feeds in CNN and Fox News! Pure bliss! So I thought. 
While most CNN programmes are often bordering on the soporific, and I quickly tired of seeing repeatedly the same ad of another Thai holiday resort, I finally gave Fox News a try. 
Now, before you say it: I am keenly aware of its reputation, but I also think it is a good thing to judge for yourself and so I tuned in as an analyst was talking about Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for the presidency. His comments were balanced, sounded scrupulously fair and his conclusion, that Romney stood a better chance against Obama than the Texan governor Perry, was probably spot on. No mention of Romney's Mormon faith or his health reform in Massachusetts which are highly controversial on the right side of the Republican Party, let alone the Tea Party movement. So far so good!
This was a promising start; there were no obviously tendentious comments and it seemed Romney got fair deal. Cynics may point out that selecting Romney by the Republican Party may just suit the proprietor of Fox News (Rupert Murdoch) given that Romney appeals to some moderate Democrats. He may just defeat Obama in November next year. 
Be that as it may, the programme made me skeptical of all the high strung criticism of Fox News and I decided to stick with it for the evening. Coming up next was a feature on why the US pays development aid to China. This was topical. We have a similar debate here in Britain about the restructuring of aid to countries like Russia, Pakistan and India. So again, this was something I was interested in and I put the kettle on while an sheer endless number of flashy graphics swished across the screen advertising other Fox News programmes. 
Returning just in time with my tea and settling down in front of the telly I looked forward to learn more about the debate in the US on development aid to countries that had a trade surplus with the US. The programme started with a still picture of a Chinese street with lots of red lanterns and an off screen voice talking about the extent of the trade surplus of China with the US (25 billion US dollar in 2010) and the amount of development aid spent in China (about 275 million US dollar per annum). It then cut to a clip of some poor Washington bureaucrat who said something along the lines that China still had pockets of immense poverty. The feature then showed a house representative who denounced the aid to China without really saying anything else. 
So far, the feature had lasted about 3 or 4 minutes and I thought the analysis of these positions would start imminently. Sipping on my tea, my hopes were still high as a guy with a funny hairpiece suddenly appeared on the telly and shouted: 'Why are we giving aid to China? It's stupidity!'. Apparently afraid the audience may not have understood this fairly straightforward remark he felt compelled to repeat it: 'It's stupidity, nothing else!' he barked. I was slightly taken aback, not knowing what to make of this guy who had appeared from nowhere. Not least I was afraid for his hairpiece which seemed to move precariously as he got increasingly agitated. 
The programme cut to an advert on diapers and I was left stunned in front of my TV not sure what to make of it, when, in between baby pooh and happy cats in cat food adverts it finally dawned on me that this was it! This had been the feature on US aid to China. No half an hour in depth analysis of a political or social issue, no Panorama style detailed investigation, just a guy with a hairpiece shouting at his audience: 'It's stupidity! That's what it is!' 
In case you wanted to know, I have now cancelled my Sky subscription and went back to another provider. I hope this will save me from stumbling over another Fox News feature or anything similar. For now, I think I stick with the good old BBC; in fact, if need be I take my cheque for the license fee personally down to the post office, if it keeps me and this country from the mad men at Fox News passing themselves off as journalists. 

Newsnight anyone? 

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