O'Reilly: Networks Tailoring News to Attract Viewers

Monday, 14 Oct 2013 09:36 PM

By Greg Richter

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Citing the scant network news coverage of the military death benefit story last week,  Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly accused them of tailoring their broadcasts to lure viewers who aren't inclined to tune into Fox.

While the "NBC Nightly News" and print newspapers gave the story fair coverage, he said, others didn't.

And Fox's cable news competitor CNN did only 6 1/2 minutes on "Anderson Cooper 360" and 5 minutes on "Piers Morgan Live" over a two-night period, he said.

"Obviously, CNN wanted no part of this story," O'Reilly said Monday night on his program, "The O'Reilly Factor." Fox News Channel, he noted, had by far the most coverage, though he did not give figures.

Former CBS News contributor Bernard Goldberg agreed, noting that the mainstream media went easy on President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

"If George Bush were president when this screw-up happened and Donald Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defense they would have been hammered," Goldberg said. "Bush would have been portrayed as a hopeless dunce and Rumsfeld as a bloodless technocrat."

The Pentagon stopped paying the military death benefit of $100,000 to families of soldiers killed in war when the government shut down on Oct. 1. Congress said it thought the bill it passed to fund the military covered the death benefit, but Pentagon lawyers said the law was vague, so the benefit was not paid.

O'Reilly said CNN decided Fox News was going to be all over the story, so they counterprogrammed "in the hopes that the people who don't like the story will come to us. … It wasn't a news decision; it was a counterprogramming decision." He noted that Fox still swept the ratings.
 
Goldberg noted that CNN is a news network, so the fact that it played the big story down shows O'Reilly may be onto something.

Goldberg said he has no idea why the story would be downplayed "unless they've done some focus groups … Maybe they're not as left-wing as MSNBC – nobody is – but I think you may be onto something."

Goldberg said he hopes O'Reilly is wrong.

"Because if you're right, think about the implications," he said, "that the networks are doing studies and finding out precisely what kind of people are watching their news shows."

No matter what conservatives think of Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and others, Goldberg said, they never tailored their news to viewership.

Cable news channels have staked out ideological positions, he said, but "if the networks do that, then the game's over."

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