Politics & Policy

Gore 24

Will he save the media from conservatives?

Media bias — right-wing bias — is a big problem, says Al Gore. The few fat-cat conservatives who control the airwaves and printing presses are depriving good and true (i.e., liberal) Americans of the truly fair and balanced (i.e., liberal) news they deserve.

For some time, the Left has idly dreamed of remedying this dire situation by mounting direct challenges to their two archenemies — talk radio and Fox News. A few avowedly liberal talk-show hosts soldier on, but none has shown even the potential to decisively beat Limbaugh & co. As if that weren’t bad enough, going toe-to-toe with Fox News is even more problematic, thanks to the high capital costs associated with starting up an independent news network.

Now comes news that can only fan the flames of hope. According to Time magazine, Al Gore himself is willing to shoulder the burden of raising the big bucks needed to establish a liberal television-news network.

Gore believes this would be worth the risk and effort, because the righteous and just (i.e., liberal) politicos, analysts, and pundits just know that somewhere out there is a great, lost tribe of liberal and progressive readers, listeners, and viewers, yearning to finally read and hear The Truth. They’re simply waiting for a strong rallying cry or two to turn into a huge subscriber base, a mammoth viewing and listening audience, and, ultimately, an irresistible political force.

The evidence of this, they tell us, is all around us — if only we’d open our eyes. Michael Moore, the fabulist filmmaker, touts the success of his stupid Stupid White Men as proof positive of this audience’s existence; still others see the robust early sales of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s memoir-apologia as conclusive evidence that a real market exists for news and opinion from an unabashedly liberal perspective.

However, some of Al’s ideas might be a little rough around the edges. The article tells us that “part of what they [Gore and his partners] envisioned [was] youth-oriented programming, ‘putting video cameras in the hands of kids.’” Al, isn’t that a lot like what got the New York Times into some trouble recently — putting laptops into the hands of callow youths?

Moreover, Gore’s view of American news media is somewhat fantastic. “Fox News Network, the Washington Times, Rush Limbaugh — there’s a bunch of them, and some of them are financed by wealthy ultra-conservative billionaires who make political deals with Republican administrations and the rest of the media.” (Note to Time editor: Did anybody on staff bother to ask Gore for any proof of these rather sweeping assertions? Which billionaires? What deals? Sounds like quite a scoop, if it’s true.)

The prospects for “Gore 24″ are, in word, dismal. Because we’ve already seen the future of forthrightly liberal news media, and it is . . . its present. PBS’s sometimes cerebral NewsHour has a relatively minuscule audience. Magazines like Mother Jones and The Nation probably have as many subscribers now as they will ever get. The radical Pacifica Radio has a rabidly loyal but tiny audience that almost certainly would be suspicious of anything even remotely “corporate.” The politely liberal National Public Radio claims to serve “a growing audience of 21 million listeners a week.” Undoubtedly, many of these millions tune in for NPR’s news programming. But how many stop in just to listen to “Car Talk”?

With the exception of Mother Jones and The Nation, none of these outlets has ever been a commercial enterprise. Without exception, they depend on donations from individuals, corporations, foundations — and taxpayers — for their survival. Now, take the above facts and dump them into a business plan for a new liberal news channel. Care to guess how any venture capitalist actually interested in a return on his investment would greet it?

Still, I sincerely hope those who want to found a liberal news channel succeed in doing so. I want to see how it would fare in the marketplace. (A quick glance at the bone yard of liberal Limbaugh wannabes — liberal icon Mario Cuomo among them — will give you a good idea.) I hope these idealists screw up their courage and invest a fortune in building an overtly liberal network. I look forward to seeing its grand hopeful debut, to hearing the notes of righteous triumph at its founding, to reading the reverential reviews and profiles, and — two years later, tops — to laughing as the whole thing collapses in ignominious failure, taking all sorts of truly silly people down with it.

Now, that would be infotainment.

Scott Belliveau is the director of communications for the VMI Foundation and an adjunct instructor in political science at the Virginia Military Institute.

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