Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year to all...except FOX

I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year out there. Except the executives at FOX who are doing their best to destroy journalism as we know it.

As documented in hundreds of stories this week - including ours - News Corp. (owners of FOX) and Time-Warner Cable (owners of Brighthouse Networks)are at odds over a new contract. The current one is set to expire at midnight on Dec. 31.

Because ad revenue alone doesn't always create profits anymore, FOX wants the cable company to pay a small fee for their broadcast stations. I'm fine with that. It sounds fair. But broadcast stations are traditionally provided for , so Time Warner is balking at the precident-setting demand. I'm fine with that too. It's business.

Heck, I'm even fine with FOX threatening to pull the plug on their stations come Jan. 1 if their demands aren't met (estimated at $0.50-$1.00/mo. per customer). Nor do I have a problem with the corporations taking their pleas public.

However, I have a HUGE problem with FOX forcing its news anchors in local markets to read a scripted ad disguised as news copy. It isn't even entirely true.

FOX anchors here in Tampa are saying that Brighthouse is going to prevent Gator fans from watching the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day. The truth is, it's FOX choosing to remove itself from the cable box prior to Tim Tebow's final college game.

I got a hold of News Corp.'s Senior Vice President of Communications this week (he wasn't happy that I did). But when asked about the company's threat, he responded with a non-answer: "We're not optimistic an agreement will be made in time for Gator fans."

Playing the Gators card is the same strategy the corporation is forcing upon its anchors and reporters at FOX-owned stations. And when news employees are forced to blur - or blatently ignore - the line between journalism and P.R., EVERYBODY loses.

Then again, I don't think anybody should be surprised FOX is willing to inappropriately influence their "news" product...

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