Photo Credit: AP, Frank Augstein

When Rupert Murdoch decided to create the Fox network in 1996 and named Roger Ailes, the former Republican image-maker, to run its news division, there was a clear reason and mandate. According to some analysts, Right-wingers had for too long accused the media of harboring a ‘liberal bias’ as part of a larger ideological offensive. Then Fox and Friends, by articulating an unabashedly right-wing take on the world and accumulating a large audience in the process, in effect convinced the mainstream media that the political spectrum extended much further to the right than they had recognized. When in 2016, over 19% of the US electorate said they got their elections news from Fox News, more than any other channel, the point had been proven. People were slowly realizing that what CBS, NBC, CNN and New York Times were calling objective reporting was in effect a liberal machine preaching liberal values and you had no choice but to accept them because they were throwing it down your throat as objective news.

Take for example what the The 12 Issue of South Africa’s Joy Magazine said about our countries Media. ‘According to the mainstream liberal media, the worldview of the majority of South African citizens is liberal secular humanism. But nothing can be further from the truth. By virtue of their total dominance, the liberal media typically drowns out dissenting opinion in order to amplify their secular humanistic ideology’, Joy Magazine said

Joy Magazine continues, ‘As a South African Media has convinced itself and others that liberal secular humanism is the prevailing philosophy of post-apartheid South Africa – despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The mainstream media in South Africa is almost exclusively pro-abortion, pro-homosexual and hostile to Biblical Christianity. However, whenever surveys are conducted on the issues of abortion, homosexuality, pornography, etc – the vast majority of citizens reject the liberal view, subscribing mostly to a conservative approach. Although they claim to report the news objectively, there is actually no evidence of this in the popular media or in our daily news bulletins’.

The views of Joy Magazine are very true because previous surveys have shown that South Africans are a very religious people, with over 70% claiming to be Christian (even if they are not affiliated to a church), which follows then that they would not necessarily have liberal views on most things.

Throughout the world, critics of the media say liberal bias exists within a wide variety of media channels, especially within the so called mainstream media, including network news shows of CBS, ABC, and NBC, cable channels CNN, MSNBC and the former Current TV, as well as major newspapers, news-wires, and radio outlets, especially CBS News, Newsweek, and The New York Times.

These arguments intensified when it was revealed that the Democratic Party (US) received a total donation of $1,020,816, given by 1,160 employees of the three major broadcast television networks (NBC, CBS, ABC), while the Republican Party received only $142,863 via 193 donations from employees of these same organizations.
Here in South Africa, the DA’s angry refusal to the proposal of the exposure of funders to political party may well reveal that the same mainstream media that claims objectivity in their liberal bias are its biggest funders. They are dared to reveal their funders.

Jim A. Kuypers of Dartmouth College investigated the issue of media bias in the 2002 book Press Bias and Politics. In this study of 116 mainstream U.S. papers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle, Kuypers stated that the mainstream press in America tends to favor liberal viewpoints. They argued that reporters who they thought were expressing moderate or conservative points of view were often labeled as holding a minority point of view. In most of my conversations with Journalists, they are almost unaware of their liberal biases because a liberal view is what is punted as mainstream and these journlists views is what they were employed for. A liberal view is not an objective view. Kuypers said he found liberal bias in the reporting of a variety of issues including race, welfare reform, environmental protection, and gun control. According to the Media Research Center, and David Brady of the Hoover Institute, conservative individuals and groups are more often labeled as such, than liberal individuals and groups, who are labeled as mainstream.

The daily antagonistic and even hostile bashing of the news chanel ANN7 and its sister paper New Age and the immeasurable intolerance reveals this dogmatic self assurance of the rest of the South African Media which beleives that their thinking and htei rway is the mainstream and any other one must be taken out of the Media space. They are hugely mistaken. Liberal view is not by divine providence and barely represents the majority of our citizens and the growth of ANN7 and New Age is testament to that

A 2008 joint study by the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University and the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that viewers believe a liberal media bias can be found in television news on networks such as CNN. Although research of this nature is begging to be done in South Africa it most likely would arrive at the same conclusions with such affirnity to the west.  Our own research would without a doubt confirm this about ENCA. These findings concerning a perception of liberal bias in television news were also reported by other sources. As would be expected, the study met with criticism from media outlets and academics, including the Wall Street Journal, and progressive media watchdog Media Matters.

Study after study has shown that the mainstream media is liberal, and that, as economists Tim Groseclose and Jeff Milyo have written, “an almost overwhelming fraction of journalists are liberal.” The extent of this bias, of course, depends on what your definitions of liberal and conservative. And the media has other, arguably more important, biases: towards controversy and producing content that is profitable. But it is safe to say that the median journalist are liberal and that this affects how the news presented to the public.

Back in 1971, Edith Efron outlined the pervasive bias of liberalism in the news media in her book The News Twisters. As one writer says, In the nearly 45 years since then, not much has changed. Yes, there is Fox News, America’s most watched cable news network. And there has been a proliferation of small conservative websites. But most Americans still get their news from television, and the ratings of network news broadcasts—the same organizations that conservatives claim have been biased for decades—triple the ratings of even Fox’s most popular programs.

Many thinkers have asked, ‘So why hasn’t the free market corrected this imbalance between the demand for left leaning news and the supply?’ The analysis is that It’s because economic outcomes are driven by much more than supply and demand. Institutions, rules, and power matter just as much as what consumers demand. When economist Daniel Sutter examined the question of how a liberal media can persist in a free market, his most convincing explanation was that journalists themselves, and the type of person who aspires to journalism, are almost uniformly of a liberal disposition. “People with the talent, temperament, and personality to be journalists might also be inclined toward liberal political causes,” he writes.

Ryan Peter author of “When Twins War” writing for Mail & Guardian said, For some reason journalism attracts more liberals than conservatives so it stands to reason that we seem to see more liberal ideas in the media. Among other things, this shift to bias is probably due to marketing and the bottom line: having a bias means you have a ready-made audience. It means you can be controversial and sensationalist. These things sell.

The Movement for Transformation in Media in South Africa (MTMSA) has called for a probe on the transformation of Times Media Group (TMG). “We have seen a concerted effort by the largely white-owned and run media houses, in this case specifically the TMG, to discredit black business and political leaders in South Africa while at the same time ignoring the shortcomings of their white compatriots,” MTMSA wrote in a letter to the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).

MTMSA said, “We have heard that TMG has established a slush fund to operate a ‘dirty tricks department’ with the express purpose of targeting its rival media operator Independent Media South Africa and its owner Dr Iqbal Survé.” Weather this is true or not it speaks to the fact that liberal Ideas are not as a result of Market Forces, they are being empowered elsewhere to dominate the market, not least by opportunities only offered to liberal thinking journalists.

There is only one answer.

The left needs to build its own Media.

Yonela Diko is a media consultant and strategist 

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