Fox’s greed and distaste for the American public has finally caught up with it; the network fell to second place last night airing original – and typically well viewed – reality programming, with NBC taking home the ratings crown by airing a rare Presidential speech addressing a joint session of Congress.
I’ve written about Fox’s increasingly unpatriotic behavior – partly to point out the absurdity of using such a metric for an entertainment company, but now mostly because it’s verifiably true — a couple of times this year, prompted by their refusal to uphold their obligations to the American public by broadcasting news via publicly owned airwaves. Radio spectrum is an extremely valuable and scarce resource, and most companies – all companies except amateurs and the television broadcasters really – pay a great deal of money for the right to use something that is owned by the people.
As an example of just how valuable these frequencies are, the recent switch from analog to digital television broadcasts which opened up the 700MHz spectrum had sparked a bidding war amongst U.S. cellular carriers. The subsequent auction brought in nearly $20 billion dollars. Nobody was paying for that spectrum before, and nobody is paying for the new spectrum that stations like Fox are using now.
Fox’s excuse for refusing to fulfill its patriotic and legal obligations is that ratings for the news are terrible and without the ability to show commercials, nothing but a loss for them.
Perhaps, but that’s a nearly identical argument that torture works, so we should do it, even though it’s illegal. It ultimately doesn’t matter the networks lose a couple of million dollars on a rare night that the leader of the free world wants to speak to his constituents because they have no choice, and even if they did, the free use of our public airwaves more than offsets what they are losing during these speeches.
President Obama addressed the nation and Congress night, and again Fox showed its partisan bias by refusing to air what is generally considered a rather rare event. This suspiciously never happened when America had a Republican President, although I’d be the first to admit that this country’s last GOP President rarely showed any interest in listening or talking to the American people that were his boss to begin with.
And last night not only did the cost to Fox’s reputation for putting corporate profits over the welfare of the American people grow, its disgusting, hateful behavior also cost it in the ratings. NBC won the night with 8.11 million total viewers for the hour during which the speech was broadcast. Fox came in a losers second, just barely better than CBS (6.02 million) and ABC (5.43).
illiterate reality programming was seen by just 6.89 million people, a crushing 26 million were watching their elected leader speak to them about an issue that most American’s rank as a top priority. Even The CW, a small “netlet” that has exemptions from the FCC regarding news in order to encourage competition against the bigger networks – an exemption that Fox once benefited from many years ago – managed to find time on its schedule for the historic speech.
The once great Fox brand which was never associated with the damaged and embarrassing Fox News brand is trending so far to the right that it can hardly be considered a neutral entertainment channel anymore. Ditching a speech once can be forgiven, sometimes so much money goes into marketing a show that it would be irresponsible to the shareholders to change your schedule.
Twice is suspicious.
But three times in a row is a deliberate attack on the spirit of democracy and patriotic obligations.
Every Fox affiliate that chose to show reality programming instead of last night’s speech – and did so for the two previous speeches as well – should have their broadcast licenses revoked immediately, putting Fox off the air.
Either that, or Fox can start paying up what it owes this great country of ours. A one-hour block where the President can speak to the people without the filter of talking head pundits and political operatives, or a check for $5,000,000,000, written to the “American People”.