Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Fair and Balanced

We report, you decide.

Those are the slogans for Fox News, the cable channel dedicated to bringing you honest journalism. If you are a Canadian and have a digital cable package, you can actually get Fox News and live the lies every day.

A few months ago, the CBC did a special on the media war taking place in the US - where everything is either black or white, and anything can be blamed on one political group or another.

A prime target for the CBC special was Fox News blowhard Bill O'Reilly, who you may have heard something about. The CBC did not portray him in a favourable light, even saying that he wasn't a real journalist because there was nothing "fair and balanced" about his stance.

After the show, I wrote him this letter:

"Mr O'Reilly,

I recently watched a documentary (entitled "Sticks and Stones") on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's The Fifth Estate. The subject of the program was to explore the media war taking place in the United States.

This particular program used segments of your Fox News show, and it portrayed you as an angry and biased television personality.

I was very disappointed that you did not take the opportunity to appear on The Fifth Estate yourself and offer your perspective. Perhaps next time the CBC asks you on a program, you will accept the CBC's offer."

No word yet from Mr. O'Reilly.

But if you're in the mood to be enraged, Media Matters has a special section on Bill's many, many transgressions. They also allow a "comments" section where (often) informed individuals comment on the issue at hand. It can be very informative, but, as I said, also enraging.

I tend to agree with the CBC's assessment that the US (and to a lesser extent, Canada) stand at a point of pivot with respect to media coverage and political values. Everything is being polarized: you're a conservative or a liberal, you're a man of faith or you're not, you're either with us or with the terrorists, you believe in god or you don't. US politicians have been running a campaign of divisions, the media had to fall in line (or become irrelevant and unpopular from either camp). This sort of divisive language is dangerous, frightening, and (although I wasn't alive then) harkens me back to the propaganda campaigns used during the 2nd world war. It's a dangerous road we're travelling down.

Media Matters is a group that reports on perceived right-wing bias in the US media, and it provides an interesting insight - but is it biased? For a personal viewpoint, I believe that there are biases in all media, but that a right-wing bias is much more likely to exist in the large US media outlets - because these media outlets are almost exclusively owned by some person or company that has right-wing leanings.

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