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Episode
47

Fox News // The Presidential Propaganda Machine

First published on
April 24, 2020
Arts & Culture
-
19
minutes
USA
US politics
True crime
Propaganda

It's one of the most powerful television channels in the United States, the current US president’s preferred news channel, and referred to by some as 'state TV'.

In today's episode we take a look at Fox News: who watches it, how it really makes money, and what event could cause its downfall.

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Download transcript & key vocabulary pdf
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Transcript

[00:00:03] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English, the show where you can learn fascinating things about the world and listen to interesting stories at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:20] I'm Alastair Budge. 

[00:00:22] Today we are going to be talking about Fox News. 

[00:00:27] It is one of the most powerful TV channels in the United States and the preferred TV channel of the current US president.

[00:00:36] And it's like Marmite, people either love it or they hate it. 

[00:00:42] Indeed, four out of 10 Americans say they trust it and about the same say that they distrust it.

[00:00:51] So today we are going to talk about how it all works, who is behind Fox News, what their motives may be, how Fox News really makes money and what the implications of this might be for the future of Fox News and how we think about the media. 

[00:01:11] It's going to be quite an exciting one. I think.

[00:01:14] Before we get into all that though, let me just take a minute to remind you that you can get a copy of the transcript and key vocabulary for this episode and all the other episodes for that matter over on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:01:30] The transcript and key vocabulary is super helpful for following along with the podcast and means that you can understand every word and build up your vocabulary at the same time as listening to the podcast.

[00:01:44] So that's definitely worth checking out if you haven't done so already. 

[00:01:48] The link to go to is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:01:53] Okay then let's talk about Fox News.

[00:01:58] For those of you that don't know much about it, Fox News is an American conservative news channel.

[00:02:06] It's actually America's most watched network on basic cable with an average of 3.5 million prime time viewers. 

[00:02:16] And it has been getting more and more popular over the past few years. 

[00:02:21] Why is this?

[00:02:22] Well, there are a few theories, but the obvious one might be that Fox News has a very, very cosy relationship with President Trump. 

[00:02:33] From an early stage in the Trump presidency, and even beforehand, during his candidacy, Fox News decided it was going to be almost unwaveringly loyal to the president. 

[00:02:47] And its loyalty has been repaid by Trump frequently re-tweeting clips, telling people to watch Fox News and appearing on the new shows.

[00:02:59] And no matter what you might think of Donald Trump, he certainly does bring in viewers. 

[00:03:05] For those of you who are unfamiliar with Fox News and haven't ever watched any of the clips of Fox News, you might think, hang on, if it's just the news, why is one particular channel so popular?

[00:03:24] Isn't the news or pretty much the same nowadays?

[00:03:29] Don't they just report what has happened?

[00:03:32] Well, despite being called Fox News, the majority of the content that is actually on Fox News is more opinion than news.

[00:03:43] The typical format is one of their star hosts, their star presenters will talk about something that has happened, but will give a very strong opinion on the event and on the implications for Fox News viewers, for ordinary Americans, as they would say. 

[00:04:05] And when it comes to Trump, which it almost always does with Fox News, the default position of almost every anchor, almost every presenter on Fox News, is to staunchly defend him. 

[00:04:22] So it's not so much news, but rather a constant stream of opinion.

[00:04:29] If you switch on Fox News looking for a balanced and objective view of the day's events, well, I think you will end up slightly disappointed.

[00:04:42] But the thing here is that opinion sells, opinion is what draws in the viewers. 

[00:04:51] In the era of information being so easy to distribute, the value of actually being on the ground and reporting news has reduced.

[00:05:04] When news can be reported by anyone with a Twitter account, the value of just being there and saying what happened is much less today then it was even 10 years ago. 

[00:05:19] And Fox News knows this. 

[00:05:22] Out of the top 15 cable shows in America, Fox News has 13 of them, and they all do a pretty similar thing.

[00:05:32] It's a strong conservative opinion that is almost universally based on defending or complimenting President Trump. 

[00:05:42] And this, for a country with a theoretically free media that talks so strongly about the power of free speech, this can seem just mad. 

[00:05:55] Lou Dobbs, who is a Fox News host and an incredibly loyal Trump supporter, recently asked his viewers to rate President Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 

[00:06:10] Viewers were given three options. 

[00:06:13] Very good, excellent, and superb. 

[00:06:18] Right, that seems to be reaching some North Korean levels of obsession with one's dear leader. 

[00:06:26] And despite the rest of the world. I think we can safely say not putting Trump's performance on coronavirus in any of those three categories, those three categories do strangely enough, seem appropriate for the Fox audience. 

[00:06:44] 63% of Fox News viewers did rate his performance as excellent. 

[00:06:52] Well, I guess at least most of them didn't rate it as superb as that really would make you think of it being like a Pyongyang type situation. 

[00:07:01] So from an outsider's perspective, as a non-American, it's just mad to think that this is what millions of people are actually consuming every evening.

[00:07:14] While it might be mad on some levels, Fox News certainly knows its audience and it knows what they want. 

[00:07:23] It knows that Trump sells, it knows the buttons to press to ignite its audience, and it doesn't shy away from controversy, it doesn't avoid controversy. 

[00:07:38] And because of its outspoken views on certain topics, Fox News has got into some hot water, it has got into quite a lot of trouble with the advertisers that pay to show adverts on its shows. 

[00:07:54] Lots of the bigger shows have lost a load of their advertisers. 

[00:08:00] There have been big social media campaigns where customers try to get companies to stop advertising on Fox News saying that they will boycott, they will stop shopping with them, if they don't. 

[00:08:15] On one level, these petitions have worked, they have served their purpose. 

[00:08:21] Lots of advertisers have indeed pulled their adverts from Fox News. 

[00:08:27] One show, the Tucker Carlson show, has lost dozens of advertisers, and it's estimated that advertising revenue, the money they have made from advertising, has fallen by tens of millions of dollars.

[00:08:43] Brands just don't want to be featured alongside programmes with views that their customers might find offensive, so they've just stopped showing ads on Fox News. 

[00:08:56] But, and here is where it gets really interesting, even with no advertising money Fox News is still a very profitable organisation and it manages to make a vast amount of money.

[00:09:10] How this actually works is fascinating. 

[00:09:15] So there are TV channels, cable companies, and customers, the viewers. 

[00:09:22] Customers generally subscribe to a cable company which provides them with a series of different TV channels. 

[00:09:32] The TV channels charge the cable networks a fee for each customer, no matter whether that customer ever actually watches the channel.

[00:09:43] And Fox News charges a huge amount to the cable companies, which they then pass on to the customers.

[00:09:54] So to give you an example, while a network like MSNBC charges about 33 cents for each customer, CNN charges between 70 and 90 cents per customer, Fox News charges around $2 for each customer.

[00:10:14] It can afford to charge so much, firstly because it brings in lots of viewers, the cable companies know that if they don't offer Fox News, they will lose subscribers, and $2 to pass onto a customer isn't that much when the majority of American cable subscribers are paying over $75 a month. 

[00:10:38] These fees that Fox gets from the cable companies and ultimately from the customers are worth 1.8 billion a year.

[00:10:49] So just to reiterate on that, even if you don't watch Fox News, if you have a cable subscription with Fox News in it, you're still paying about $2 a month for Fox News. 

[00:11:04] Secondly, which I think is also pretty interesting, Fox News does an excellent job at presenting itself as the voice of the underdog, the voice of the true real American, and anyone who tries to silence it is an enemy of the people, an enemy of free speech, an enemy of American freedoms. 

[00:11:29] So why I mentioned this is that Fox News hosts frequently talk about the fact that cable companies are looking to remove Fox News from their packages, and it asks, or rather encourages its viewers to complain, telling them that their cable company is trying to silence them, is trying to silence Fox News.

[00:11:54] Understandably, this means that there's pressure from the cable companies not to drop Fox News and means that Fox News can charge larger and larger amounts of money to the cable companies. 

[00:12:08] They are basically holding them hostage, using their viewers as hostages

[00:12:15] So even without advertisers, Fox News can still survive and even flourish

[00:12:22] Such is the power of its community, of presenting itself as the voice of the underdog, of the underrepresented American. 

[00:12:33] The thing that I find particularly funny about this, or maybe it's not even that funny at all, is that Fox News isn't even that American.

[00:12:44] It was created by an Australian, the media mogul, Rupert Murdoch. 

[00:12:50] Now, the empire of Rupert Murdoch is too wide and far reaching to explain just as a small section in a podcast, but he is the boss of NewsCorp, a huge media conglomerate that spans newspapers and TV across the world.

[00:13:09] And whatever Murdoch's personal opinions may be, he is evidently incredibly savvy, very smart, and knows what makes people want to read or watch something. 

[00:13:23] And from early on it was clear that he had an idea about what people wanted. 

[00:13:30] Here's a quote from him in 1996 when Fox News launched, he said, "the appetite for news, particularly news that explains to people how it affects them is expanding enormously".

[00:13:48] Whether news that explains to people how it affects them is still true is slightly dubious, but 25 years ago, Murdoch saw that people wanted opinion. 

[00:14:01] Opinion is what sells, opinion is what brings people together. 

[00:14:06] And if you can make people think that their views are being aired, that they are being supported, then they will feel more and more loyal to the network that they feel is supporting them.

[00:14:21] So who are these people that are watching Fox News? 

[00:14:25] Who are these 3.5 million people who are watching it every day? 

[00:14:29] Well, I guess this might not come as a huge surprise to you. 

[00:14:34] Firstly, it's mainly conservatives, the programming is all pretty conservative. 

[00:14:40] And while Democrats tend to be split between a few different channels, there isn't really anything in America that unites conservatives and those on the right, in terms of news channels, like Fox News. 

[00:14:57] The viewers are also in general, older.

[00:15:01] The median age is 68, and nine out of 10 are white. 

[00:15:07] So you can, I guess, see why the Trump message resonates with this group of predominantly older, conservative, white Americans. 

[00:15:19] It's about making America great again, going back to some idyllic time that people like Fox News viewers imagine as preferable to a modern globalised world.

[00:15:31] There is one interesting development though, relating to the Fox News audience that could end up being the undoing of Fox News, the downfall of the channel.

[00:15:44] At the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, Fox News downplayed the impact of the virus, with one host even calling it another attempt to impeach the president. 

[00:15:59] Despite the fact that Fox News has now completely reversed its position, has changed its opinion, even saying that it always said that the Coronavirus was an important thing to take seriously, there are countless times in its programmes where it certainly minimised the threat. 

[00:16:19] And of course its viewers are loyal and likely to believe what their favourite hosts tell them. 

[00:16:27] Now, the current view is that the older you are, the more liable you are to have health problems and even die from the coronavirus. 

[00:16:36] And the Fox News viewers who had been told that the coronavirus wasn't anything to worry about, well, they are considerably older than the average. 

[00:16:48] So there is a big fear at the moment that there will be some kind of huge lawsuit from the families of Fox News viewers who died from the coronavirus saying that the network minimised the risk, and so their viewers didn't take it seriously.

[00:17:06] Fox News is at the moment, very busy preparing itself for this as it could end up being an incredibly expensive case. 

[00:17:17] Who knows what will happen, but it would be slightly ironic if something that the hosts had spent weeks calling a hoax and nothing to worry about was the thing that finally did for this network that has made billions of dollars through having a pretty fast and loose relationship with the truth. 

[00:17:41] Okay then that is it for today's episode on Fox News. 

[00:17:47] As I said, I'm not an American, as you can tell from my accent, but it is pretty fascinating for an outsider to think that this network really is so popular with so many Americans, and that shows that you and I might watch clips of and almost laugh at, are actually, some of the most popular news shows in America. 

[00:18:10] Fascinating, but also pretty scary. 

[00:18:13] So for our listeners who do live in America, as there are actually quite a few of you, I'd love to hear from you.

[00:18:21] What do you think about Fox News? 

[00:18:23] What do you think will happen to Fox News in 10 years time? 

[00:18:28] The email to write into is hi hi@leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:18:34] And as a final reminder, if you're looking for the transcripts and key vocabulary and also the bonus episodes, the place to go to is Leonardoenglish.com.

[00:18:46] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:18:51] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF PODCAST]

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[00:00:03] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English, the show where you can learn fascinating things about the world and listen to interesting stories at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:20] I'm Alastair Budge. 

[00:00:22] Today we are going to be talking about Fox News. 

[00:00:27] It is one of the most powerful TV channels in the United States and the preferred TV channel of the current US president.

[00:00:36] And it's like Marmite, people either love it or they hate it. 

[00:00:42] Indeed, four out of 10 Americans say they trust it and about the same say that they distrust it.

[00:00:51] So today we are going to talk about how it all works, who is behind Fox News, what their motives may be, how Fox News really makes money and what the implications of this might be for the future of Fox News and how we think about the media. 

[00:01:11] It's going to be quite an exciting one. I think.

[00:01:14] Before we get into all that though, let me just take a minute to remind you that you can get a copy of the transcript and key vocabulary for this episode and all the other episodes for that matter over on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:01:30] The transcript and key vocabulary is super helpful for following along with the podcast and means that you can understand every word and build up your vocabulary at the same time as listening to the podcast.

[00:01:44] So that's definitely worth checking out if you haven't done so already. 

[00:01:48] The link to go to is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:01:53] Okay then let's talk about Fox News.

[00:01:58] For those of you that don't know much about it, Fox News is an American conservative news channel.

[00:02:06] It's actually America's most watched network on basic cable with an average of 3.5 million prime time viewers. 

[00:02:16] And it has been getting more and more popular over the past few years. 

[00:02:21] Why is this?

[00:02:22] Well, there are a few theories, but the obvious one might be that Fox News has a very, very cosy relationship with President Trump. 

[00:02:33] From an early stage in the Trump presidency, and even beforehand, during his candidacy, Fox News decided it was going to be almost unwaveringly loyal to the president. 

[00:02:47] And its loyalty has been repaid by Trump frequently re-tweeting clips, telling people to watch Fox News and appearing on the new shows.

[00:02:59] And no matter what you might think of Donald Trump, he certainly does bring in viewers. 

[00:03:05] For those of you who are unfamiliar with Fox News and haven't ever watched any of the clips of Fox News, you might think, hang on, if it's just the news, why is one particular channel so popular?

[00:03:24] Isn't the news or pretty much the same nowadays?

[00:03:29] Don't they just report what has happened?

[00:03:32] Well, despite being called Fox News, the majority of the content that is actually on Fox News is more opinion than news.

[00:03:43] The typical format is one of their star hosts, their star presenters will talk about something that has happened, but will give a very strong opinion on the event and on the implications for Fox News viewers, for ordinary Americans, as they would say. 

[00:04:05] And when it comes to Trump, which it almost always does with Fox News, the default position of almost every anchor, almost every presenter on Fox News, is to staunchly defend him. 

[00:04:22] So it's not so much news, but rather a constant stream of opinion.

[00:04:29] If you switch on Fox News looking for a balanced and objective view of the day's events, well, I think you will end up slightly disappointed.

[00:04:42] But the thing here is that opinion sells, opinion is what draws in the viewers. 

[00:04:51] In the era of information being so easy to distribute, the value of actually being on the ground and reporting news has reduced.

[00:05:04] When news can be reported by anyone with a Twitter account, the value of just being there and saying what happened is much less today then it was even 10 years ago. 

[00:05:19] And Fox News knows this. 

[00:05:22] Out of the top 15 cable shows in America, Fox News has 13 of them, and they all do a pretty similar thing.

[00:05:32] It's a strong conservative opinion that is almost universally based on defending or complimenting President Trump. 

[00:05:42] And this, for a country with a theoretically free media that talks so strongly about the power of free speech, this can seem just mad. 

[00:05:55] Lou Dobbs, who is a Fox News host and an incredibly loyal Trump supporter, recently asked his viewers to rate President Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 

[00:06:10] Viewers were given three options. 

[00:06:13] Very good, excellent, and superb. 

[00:06:18] Right, that seems to be reaching some North Korean levels of obsession with one's dear leader. 

[00:06:26] And despite the rest of the world. I think we can safely say not putting Trump's performance on coronavirus in any of those three categories, those three categories do strangely enough, seem appropriate for the Fox audience. 

[00:06:44] 63% of Fox News viewers did rate his performance as excellent. 

[00:06:52] Well, I guess at least most of them didn't rate it as superb as that really would make you think of it being like a Pyongyang type situation. 

[00:07:01] So from an outsider's perspective, as a non-American, it's just mad to think that this is what millions of people are actually consuming every evening.

[00:07:14] While it might be mad on some levels, Fox News certainly knows its audience and it knows what they want. 

[00:07:23] It knows that Trump sells, it knows the buttons to press to ignite its audience, and it doesn't shy away from controversy, it doesn't avoid controversy. 

[00:07:38] And because of its outspoken views on certain topics, Fox News has got into some hot water, it has got into quite a lot of trouble with the advertisers that pay to show adverts on its shows. 

[00:07:54] Lots of the bigger shows have lost a load of their advertisers. 

[00:08:00] There have been big social media campaigns where customers try to get companies to stop advertising on Fox News saying that they will boycott, they will stop shopping with them, if they don't. 

[00:08:15] On one level, these petitions have worked, they have served their purpose. 

[00:08:21] Lots of advertisers have indeed pulled their adverts from Fox News. 

[00:08:27] One show, the Tucker Carlson show, has lost dozens of advertisers, and it's estimated that advertising revenue, the money they have made from advertising, has fallen by tens of millions of dollars.

[00:08:43] Brands just don't want to be featured alongside programmes with views that their customers might find offensive, so they've just stopped showing ads on Fox News. 

[00:08:56] But, and here is where it gets really interesting, even with no advertising money Fox News is still a very profitable organisation and it manages to make a vast amount of money.

[00:09:10] How this actually works is fascinating. 

[00:09:15] So there are TV channels, cable companies, and customers, the viewers. 

[00:09:22] Customers generally subscribe to a cable company which provides them with a series of different TV channels. 

[00:09:32] The TV channels charge the cable networks a fee for each customer, no matter whether that customer ever actually watches the channel.

[00:09:43] And Fox News charges a huge amount to the cable companies, which they then pass on to the customers.

[00:09:54] So to give you an example, while a network like MSNBC charges about 33 cents for each customer, CNN charges between 70 and 90 cents per customer, Fox News charges around $2 for each customer.

[00:10:14] It can afford to charge so much, firstly because it brings in lots of viewers, the cable companies know that if they don't offer Fox News, they will lose subscribers, and $2 to pass onto a customer isn't that much when the majority of American cable subscribers are paying over $75 a month. 

[00:10:38] These fees that Fox gets from the cable companies and ultimately from the customers are worth 1.8 billion a year.

[00:10:49] So just to reiterate on that, even if you don't watch Fox News, if you have a cable subscription with Fox News in it, you're still paying about $2 a month for Fox News. 

[00:11:04] Secondly, which I think is also pretty interesting, Fox News does an excellent job at presenting itself as the voice of the underdog, the voice of the true real American, and anyone who tries to silence it is an enemy of the people, an enemy of free speech, an enemy of American freedoms. 

[00:11:29] So why I mentioned this is that Fox News hosts frequently talk about the fact that cable companies are looking to remove Fox News from their packages, and it asks, or rather encourages its viewers to complain, telling them that their cable company is trying to silence them, is trying to silence Fox News.

[00:11:54] Understandably, this means that there's pressure from the cable companies not to drop Fox News and means that Fox News can charge larger and larger amounts of money to the cable companies. 

[00:12:08] They are basically holding them hostage, using their viewers as hostages

[00:12:15] So even without advertisers, Fox News can still survive and even flourish

[00:12:22] Such is the power of its community, of presenting itself as the voice of the underdog, of the underrepresented American. 

[00:12:33] The thing that I find particularly funny about this, or maybe it's not even that funny at all, is that Fox News isn't even that American.

[00:12:44] It was created by an Australian, the media mogul, Rupert Murdoch. 

[00:12:50] Now, the empire of Rupert Murdoch is too wide and far reaching to explain just as a small section in a podcast, but he is the boss of NewsCorp, a huge media conglomerate that spans newspapers and TV across the world.

[00:13:09] And whatever Murdoch's personal opinions may be, he is evidently incredibly savvy, very smart, and knows what makes people want to read or watch something. 

[00:13:23] And from early on it was clear that he had an idea about what people wanted. 

[00:13:30] Here's a quote from him in 1996 when Fox News launched, he said, "the appetite for news, particularly news that explains to people how it affects them is expanding enormously".

[00:13:48] Whether news that explains to people how it affects them is still true is slightly dubious, but 25 years ago, Murdoch saw that people wanted opinion. 

[00:14:01] Opinion is what sells, opinion is what brings people together. 

[00:14:06] And if you can make people think that their views are being aired, that they are being supported, then they will feel more and more loyal to the network that they feel is supporting them.

[00:14:21] So who are these people that are watching Fox News? 

[00:14:25] Who are these 3.5 million people who are watching it every day? 

[00:14:29] Well, I guess this might not come as a huge surprise to you. 

[00:14:34] Firstly, it's mainly conservatives, the programming is all pretty conservative. 

[00:14:40] And while Democrats tend to be split between a few different channels, there isn't really anything in America that unites conservatives and those on the right, in terms of news channels, like Fox News. 

[00:14:57] The viewers are also in general, older.

[00:15:01] The median age is 68, and nine out of 10 are white. 

[00:15:07] So you can, I guess, see why the Trump message resonates with this group of predominantly older, conservative, white Americans. 

[00:15:19] It's about making America great again, going back to some idyllic time that people like Fox News viewers imagine as preferable to a modern globalised world.

[00:15:31] There is one interesting development though, relating to the Fox News audience that could end up being the undoing of Fox News, the downfall of the channel.

[00:15:44] At the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, Fox News downplayed the impact of the virus, with one host even calling it another attempt to impeach the president. 

[00:15:59] Despite the fact that Fox News has now completely reversed its position, has changed its opinion, even saying that it always said that the Coronavirus was an important thing to take seriously, there are countless times in its programmes where it certainly minimised the threat. 

[00:16:19] And of course its viewers are loyal and likely to believe what their favourite hosts tell them. 

[00:16:27] Now, the current view is that the older you are, the more liable you are to have health problems and even die from the coronavirus. 

[00:16:36] And the Fox News viewers who had been told that the coronavirus wasn't anything to worry about, well, they are considerably older than the average. 

[00:16:48] So there is a big fear at the moment that there will be some kind of huge lawsuit from the families of Fox News viewers who died from the coronavirus saying that the network minimised the risk, and so their viewers didn't take it seriously.

[00:17:06] Fox News is at the moment, very busy preparing itself for this as it could end up being an incredibly expensive case. 

[00:17:17] Who knows what will happen, but it would be slightly ironic if something that the hosts had spent weeks calling a hoax and nothing to worry about was the thing that finally did for this network that has made billions of dollars through having a pretty fast and loose relationship with the truth. 

[00:17:41] Okay then that is it for today's episode on Fox News. 

[00:17:47] As I said, I'm not an American, as you can tell from my accent, but it is pretty fascinating for an outsider to think that this network really is so popular with so many Americans, and that shows that you and I might watch clips of and almost laugh at, are actually, some of the most popular news shows in America. 

[00:18:10] Fascinating, but also pretty scary. 

[00:18:13] So for our listeners who do live in America, as there are actually quite a few of you, I'd love to hear from you.

[00:18:21] What do you think about Fox News? 

[00:18:23] What do you think will happen to Fox News in 10 years time? 

[00:18:28] The email to write into is hi hi@leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:18:34] And as a final reminder, if you're looking for the transcripts and key vocabulary and also the bonus episodes, the place to go to is Leonardoenglish.com.

[00:18:46] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:18:51] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF PODCAST]

[00:00:03] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English, the show where you can learn fascinating things about the world and listen to interesting stories at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:20] I'm Alastair Budge. 

[00:00:22] Today we are going to be talking about Fox News. 

[00:00:27] It is one of the most powerful TV channels in the United States and the preferred TV channel of the current US president.

[00:00:36] And it's like Marmite, people either love it or they hate it. 

[00:00:42] Indeed, four out of 10 Americans say they trust it and about the same say that they distrust it.

[00:00:51] So today we are going to talk about how it all works, who is behind Fox News, what their motives may be, how Fox News really makes money and what the implications of this might be for the future of Fox News and how we think about the media. 

[00:01:11] It's going to be quite an exciting one. I think.

[00:01:14] Before we get into all that though, let me just take a minute to remind you that you can get a copy of the transcript and key vocabulary for this episode and all the other episodes for that matter over on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:01:30] The transcript and key vocabulary is super helpful for following along with the podcast and means that you can understand every word and build up your vocabulary at the same time as listening to the podcast.

[00:01:44] So that's definitely worth checking out if you haven't done so already. 

[00:01:48] The link to go to is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:01:53] Okay then let's talk about Fox News.

[00:01:58] For those of you that don't know much about it, Fox News is an American conservative news channel.

[00:02:06] It's actually America's most watched network on basic cable with an average of 3.5 million prime time viewers. 

[00:02:16] And it has been getting more and more popular over the past few years. 

[00:02:21] Why is this?

[00:02:22] Well, there are a few theories, but the obvious one might be that Fox News has a very, very cosy relationship with President Trump. 

[00:02:33] From an early stage in the Trump presidency, and even beforehand, during his candidacy, Fox News decided it was going to be almost unwaveringly loyal to the president. 

[00:02:47] And its loyalty has been repaid by Trump frequently re-tweeting clips, telling people to watch Fox News and appearing on the new shows.

[00:02:59] And no matter what you might think of Donald Trump, he certainly does bring in viewers. 

[00:03:05] For those of you who are unfamiliar with Fox News and haven't ever watched any of the clips of Fox News, you might think, hang on, if it's just the news, why is one particular channel so popular?

[00:03:24] Isn't the news or pretty much the same nowadays?

[00:03:29] Don't they just report what has happened?

[00:03:32] Well, despite being called Fox News, the majority of the content that is actually on Fox News is more opinion than news.

[00:03:43] The typical format is one of their star hosts, their star presenters will talk about something that has happened, but will give a very strong opinion on the event and on the implications for Fox News viewers, for ordinary Americans, as they would say. 

[00:04:05] And when it comes to Trump, which it almost always does with Fox News, the default position of almost every anchor, almost every presenter on Fox News, is to staunchly defend him. 

[00:04:22] So it's not so much news, but rather a constant stream of opinion.

[00:04:29] If you switch on Fox News looking for a balanced and objective view of the day's events, well, I think you will end up slightly disappointed.

[00:04:42] But the thing here is that opinion sells, opinion is what draws in the viewers. 

[00:04:51] In the era of information being so easy to distribute, the value of actually being on the ground and reporting news has reduced.

[00:05:04] When news can be reported by anyone with a Twitter account, the value of just being there and saying what happened is much less today then it was even 10 years ago. 

[00:05:19] And Fox News knows this. 

[00:05:22] Out of the top 15 cable shows in America, Fox News has 13 of them, and they all do a pretty similar thing.

[00:05:32] It's a strong conservative opinion that is almost universally based on defending or complimenting President Trump. 

[00:05:42] And this, for a country with a theoretically free media that talks so strongly about the power of free speech, this can seem just mad. 

[00:05:55] Lou Dobbs, who is a Fox News host and an incredibly loyal Trump supporter, recently asked his viewers to rate President Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 

[00:06:10] Viewers were given three options. 

[00:06:13] Very good, excellent, and superb. 

[00:06:18] Right, that seems to be reaching some North Korean levels of obsession with one's dear leader. 

[00:06:26] And despite the rest of the world. I think we can safely say not putting Trump's performance on coronavirus in any of those three categories, those three categories do strangely enough, seem appropriate for the Fox audience. 

[00:06:44] 63% of Fox News viewers did rate his performance as excellent. 

[00:06:52] Well, I guess at least most of them didn't rate it as superb as that really would make you think of it being like a Pyongyang type situation. 

[00:07:01] So from an outsider's perspective, as a non-American, it's just mad to think that this is what millions of people are actually consuming every evening.

[00:07:14] While it might be mad on some levels, Fox News certainly knows its audience and it knows what they want. 

[00:07:23] It knows that Trump sells, it knows the buttons to press to ignite its audience, and it doesn't shy away from controversy, it doesn't avoid controversy. 

[00:07:38] And because of its outspoken views on certain topics, Fox News has got into some hot water, it has got into quite a lot of trouble with the advertisers that pay to show adverts on its shows. 

[00:07:54] Lots of the bigger shows have lost a load of their advertisers. 

[00:08:00] There have been big social media campaigns where customers try to get companies to stop advertising on Fox News saying that they will boycott, they will stop shopping with them, if they don't. 

[00:08:15] On one level, these petitions have worked, they have served their purpose. 

[00:08:21] Lots of advertisers have indeed pulled their adverts from Fox News. 

[00:08:27] One show, the Tucker Carlson show, has lost dozens of advertisers, and it's estimated that advertising revenue, the money they have made from advertising, has fallen by tens of millions of dollars.

[00:08:43] Brands just don't want to be featured alongside programmes with views that their customers might find offensive, so they've just stopped showing ads on Fox News. 

[00:08:56] But, and here is where it gets really interesting, even with no advertising money Fox News is still a very profitable organisation and it manages to make a vast amount of money.

[00:09:10] How this actually works is fascinating. 

[00:09:15] So there are TV channels, cable companies, and customers, the viewers. 

[00:09:22] Customers generally subscribe to a cable company which provides them with a series of different TV channels. 

[00:09:32] The TV channels charge the cable networks a fee for each customer, no matter whether that customer ever actually watches the channel.

[00:09:43] And Fox News charges a huge amount to the cable companies, which they then pass on to the customers.

[00:09:54] So to give you an example, while a network like MSNBC charges about 33 cents for each customer, CNN charges between 70 and 90 cents per customer, Fox News charges around $2 for each customer.

[00:10:14] It can afford to charge so much, firstly because it brings in lots of viewers, the cable companies know that if they don't offer Fox News, they will lose subscribers, and $2 to pass onto a customer isn't that much when the majority of American cable subscribers are paying over $75 a month. 

[00:10:38] These fees that Fox gets from the cable companies and ultimately from the customers are worth 1.8 billion a year.

[00:10:49] So just to reiterate on that, even if you don't watch Fox News, if you have a cable subscription with Fox News in it, you're still paying about $2 a month for Fox News. 

[00:11:04] Secondly, which I think is also pretty interesting, Fox News does an excellent job at presenting itself as the voice of the underdog, the voice of the true real American, and anyone who tries to silence it is an enemy of the people, an enemy of free speech, an enemy of American freedoms. 

[00:11:29] So why I mentioned this is that Fox News hosts frequently talk about the fact that cable companies are looking to remove Fox News from their packages, and it asks, or rather encourages its viewers to complain, telling them that their cable company is trying to silence them, is trying to silence Fox News.

[00:11:54] Understandably, this means that there's pressure from the cable companies not to drop Fox News and means that Fox News can charge larger and larger amounts of money to the cable companies. 

[00:12:08] They are basically holding them hostage, using their viewers as hostages

[00:12:15] So even without advertisers, Fox News can still survive and even flourish

[00:12:22] Such is the power of its community, of presenting itself as the voice of the underdog, of the underrepresented American. 

[00:12:33] The thing that I find particularly funny about this, or maybe it's not even that funny at all, is that Fox News isn't even that American.

[00:12:44] It was created by an Australian, the media mogul, Rupert Murdoch. 

[00:12:50] Now, the empire of Rupert Murdoch is too wide and far reaching to explain just as a small section in a podcast, but he is the boss of NewsCorp, a huge media conglomerate that spans newspapers and TV across the world.

[00:13:09] And whatever Murdoch's personal opinions may be, he is evidently incredibly savvy, very smart, and knows what makes people want to read or watch something. 

[00:13:23] And from early on it was clear that he had an idea about what people wanted. 

[00:13:30] Here's a quote from him in 1996 when Fox News launched, he said, "the appetite for news, particularly news that explains to people how it affects them is expanding enormously".

[00:13:48] Whether news that explains to people how it affects them is still true is slightly dubious, but 25 years ago, Murdoch saw that people wanted opinion. 

[00:14:01] Opinion is what sells, opinion is what brings people together. 

[00:14:06] And if you can make people think that their views are being aired, that they are being supported, then they will feel more and more loyal to the network that they feel is supporting them.

[00:14:21] So who are these people that are watching Fox News? 

[00:14:25] Who are these 3.5 million people who are watching it every day? 

[00:14:29] Well, I guess this might not come as a huge surprise to you. 

[00:14:34] Firstly, it's mainly conservatives, the programming is all pretty conservative. 

[00:14:40] And while Democrats tend to be split between a few different channels, there isn't really anything in America that unites conservatives and those on the right, in terms of news channels, like Fox News. 

[00:14:57] The viewers are also in general, older.

[00:15:01] The median age is 68, and nine out of 10 are white. 

[00:15:07] So you can, I guess, see why the Trump message resonates with this group of predominantly older, conservative, white Americans. 

[00:15:19] It's about making America great again, going back to some idyllic time that people like Fox News viewers imagine as preferable to a modern globalised world.

[00:15:31] There is one interesting development though, relating to the Fox News audience that could end up being the undoing of Fox News, the downfall of the channel.

[00:15:44] At the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, Fox News downplayed the impact of the virus, with one host even calling it another attempt to impeach the president. 

[00:15:59] Despite the fact that Fox News has now completely reversed its position, has changed its opinion, even saying that it always said that the Coronavirus was an important thing to take seriously, there are countless times in its programmes where it certainly minimised the threat. 

[00:16:19] And of course its viewers are loyal and likely to believe what their favourite hosts tell them. 

[00:16:27] Now, the current view is that the older you are, the more liable you are to have health problems and even die from the coronavirus. 

[00:16:36] And the Fox News viewers who had been told that the coronavirus wasn't anything to worry about, well, they are considerably older than the average. 

[00:16:48] So there is a big fear at the moment that there will be some kind of huge lawsuit from the families of Fox News viewers who died from the coronavirus saying that the network minimised the risk, and so their viewers didn't take it seriously.

[00:17:06] Fox News is at the moment, very busy preparing itself for this as it could end up being an incredibly expensive case. 

[00:17:17] Who knows what will happen, but it would be slightly ironic if something that the hosts had spent weeks calling a hoax and nothing to worry about was the thing that finally did for this network that has made billions of dollars through having a pretty fast and loose relationship with the truth. 

[00:17:41] Okay then that is it for today's episode on Fox News. 

[00:17:47] As I said, I'm not an American, as you can tell from my accent, but it is pretty fascinating for an outsider to think that this network really is so popular with so many Americans, and that shows that you and I might watch clips of and almost laugh at, are actually, some of the most popular news shows in America. 

[00:18:10] Fascinating, but also pretty scary. 

[00:18:13] So for our listeners who do live in America, as there are actually quite a few of you, I'd love to hear from you.

[00:18:21] What do you think about Fox News? 

[00:18:23] What do you think will happen to Fox News in 10 years time? 

[00:18:28] The email to write into is hi hi@leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:18:34] And as a final reminder, if you're looking for the transcripts and key vocabulary and also the bonus episodes, the place to go to is Leonardoenglish.com.

[00:18:46] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:18:51] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I'll catch you in the next episode.

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