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Fox News vs. Air America in 2008: An ‘Analysis’

Someone by the name of Cenk Uygur has authored a blog post over at liberal radio network Air America’s website that just might be the worst piece of media analysis ever composed.  Uygur’s thesis — and I use the term charitably — appears to be that Air America enjoyed a demonstrably more successful year in 2008 than Fox News. 


Let’s review his talking points: 

In 2008, former Air America host, Al Franken was elected the next Senator from Minnesota…In 2008, no Fox News host or anchor became a United States Senator.

Pretty solid logic, no?  Franken worked for Air America until 2007, when he departed after less than three years of lackluster ratings, and now he’s (almost) a U.S. senator.  By comparison, Fox stars Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity remain mere TV personalities, raking in enormous salaries, and influencing millions of viewers each night.  Neither of them managed to win a statewide election, though.  Advantage: Air America.


Uygur wasn’t through:


Current Air America host Rachel Maddow was given her own television show on MSNBC, where she instantly doubled the ratings and even beat legendary Larry King on CNN (and also tripled the ratings of current Fox host Glenn Beck when he was on CNN Headline News in the same time slot).


Hey, facts are facts: A reasonably talented Air America host was recruited to host her own cable news show.  In this new role, she sometimes beat CNN and CNN Headline News during her timeslot.  What a devastating blow to Fox News.  Who cares if Fox still regularly dominates the hour in question?  Advantage: Air America.


If you’re still not convinced, consider his next argument:

Oh yeah, one other thing–their parent corporation lost a tremendous amount of money. The Rupert Murdoch run News Corporation lost $30 billion in market cap. Yes, Fox’s parent corporation lost a stunning $30 billion in value in 2008. Boy, those conservatives sure know how to run a business!

What happened, I thought Air America couldn’t make money? Did you know that Fox News lost $90 million a year for its first five years of operation? Air America has never come close to losing that kind of money.

It’s a brash taunt coming from someone defending a network whose short history has been plagued by bankruptcy and financial scandals.  Still, Uygur makes a compelling point because anyone with even a basic understanding of the current media landscape must be aware of how rosy things have been recently.  Journalism and media are virtually recession-proof industries, yet News Corp barely eked out $5.4 billion in operating income during fiscal year ‘08 — growing a paltry 21 percent from 2007 What a bunch of financial dolts.  Surely Air America must have made huge bank last year.  Why even bother to check?  Advantage: Air America.


And don’t overlook the breathtaking revelation that Fox News lost money in the 1990s.   That’s a pretty damning—and relevant!—statistic to illustrate how rough it was for Fox in 2008.  All that (faded) red ink must have robbed Roger Ailes of countless hours of sleep last year.  Advantage: Air America.


Having laid out an air-tight case, Uygur concludes:

I assume we won’t be hearing much from Fox anymore about how to run a business. Or how to run a Senate campaign. Or how to double your ratings. They might be best served by drinking a tall glass of shut up juice for awhile. Somehow, I doubt they will though.

Oh, snap.  He went there.  Even worse for Fox, some industry insiders hear a lucrative advertising deal is in the works between the producers of Shut-up Juice and Air America.  Once again, Advantage: Air America.

The 2008 Final Score: Air America 5, Fox News 0.  Case closed.  Well, except for these silly little statistics:

Fox News racked up its seventh straight year as the most-watched cable news channel, delivering an average prime-time viewership of 2.1 million, 40% more than 2007, according to data released Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research. CNN placed second with 1.3 million, up 69%, while MNSBC drew 920,000, a boost of 82%.

Plus this:

On cable, Fox News Channel finished the week as the No. 5 ranked basic cable network in total viewers for primetime and total day. FNC has been in the top five for 19 of the last 20 weeks. Meanwhile, CNN last week came in at No. 21 in primetime, No. 20 in total day. And MSNBC came in at No. 24 in primetime, No. 26 in total day.

And this.


Air America’s flagship station in New York City averaged a whopping 0.5 share in both the winter and spring 2008 Arbitron ratings books.


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