Media bias influences election

NBC, TV, Studios

MSNBC and FOX News are two of the biggest broadcasters in the US but, unlike Britain’s unbiased media, both have their own political agenda. Photo credit: www.dreamstime.com

By Tom Beasley

The media industry in America has long been known for its ideological bias when reporting stories compared to Britain, where broadcast journalists are mandated by law, to report impartially.

Historically in America, FOX News was considered to be the sole network that wore its right-leaning ideology on its metaphorical broadcast sleeve, so to speak, while the other major networks, always claimed to be impartial. In recent years, however, it seems that perhaps Fox is not the only American news network to exhibit bias, with MSNBC accused of adopting a strong left-wing position.

“Most people tend to think that MSNBC and Fox are polar opposites on the political spectrum,” said Marry Pivazian, a student studying Advertising at Boston University. “MSNBC just happens to go unnoticed because of how strong and prominently right-winged Fox is”.

Back during the presidential election of 2000, when Bush and Gore went head-to-head in Florida, it was Fox who first called the election for George W. Bush. During the 2004 election, FOX spent a large amount of time smearing John Kerry on the basis of his supposed tendency to flip-flop. They also repeatedly questioned his nationality because his mother was born in France to American parents.

FOX is often guilty of an obvious right-leaning ideology, with its pundits often shouting down liberal interviewees and ideas. In 2003, FOX broadcaster Bill O’Reilly interviewed Jeremy M Glick, the son of a man who was killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. O’Reilly expressed surprise that Glick had adopted strong anti-war views despite his father’s death and repeatedly told him to “shut up”, before motioning to producers and asking them to “cut his mic”. Other liberal viewpoints presented across the network are often treated in exactly this way.

“The difference we’ve got between the US and the UK is that the US doesn’t have any TV service like the BBC, which is duty-bound to be impartial” said James Halfpenny, a politics student at the University of Liverpool. “They have PBS but this is made up of a network of small broadcasters rather than one big one. You’ll watch what is essentially the same news with different degrees of spin depending on its political agenda.”

It seems that the US media is essentially a vehicle for political spin and campaigning, especially around election time as networks across the political spectrum try their best to make their candidates look as good as possible.

A characteristic of the 2012 presidential election seems to be that the right-wing media are deciding to attack accusations of bias with allegations of their own. Fox News chose to respond aggressively to MSNBC star Chris Matthews’ criticism of Mitt Romney in the second televised presidential debate, defending the Republican with the Constitution and deriding the “liberal media” for rallying against Mitt Romney.

Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan has spoken out on FOX News against supposed anti-Romney bias throughout the mainstream media, but he neglected to comment on any specific instances of this bias on the basis that he was disinclined to go “tit for tat”.

This is markedly different from previous presidential elections where the main criticism for bias has been aimed at FOX and other institutions on the political right, but now MSNBC and the liberal media are on the defensive. With the Messianic portrayal of Barack Obama perpetuated by media throughout the world, it is perhaps natural for the Republican Party to decide that attack is the best form of defence.