The broadcast media is a business that operates very differently than your average business. Most folks do not understand what the business model is for a radio or TV station or network. This becomes very clear when hearing folks discuss how biased a news station like Fox or MSNBC are. Here is some background info that will help you better understand what they are doing.

Radio and TV stations and networks spend serious money studying, via consultants, to learn what people want. The reason they do that is because the radio’s music or talk programming, or a TV’s programs are not their product. It is the listener [radio] or viewer [TV] that is THEIR product. The music, talk, sports, other spoken word programming is the bait to get a desired listener. Just as dramas, comedy, news magazine shows, game shows, sports, etc., are the bait TV uses to get a desired viewer.

The reason they do this is, an advertiser will tell the station or network what sort of demography [type of person, age, sex, race, married, single, gay, straight, rich, middle class, college educated, no college, etc.] they want to reach with their commercial. Then the station or network will design a program to reach that listener or viewer.

For example, with radio, a station will hire a consultant who has done extensive research to find out what a female, college educated, middle class, white, straight, soccer mom type listener wants to hear. The consultant knows which songs those women like, from extensive studies. They’ll make recommendations to the station as to what songs to play.

The stations have pretty tight play lists, because they realize that if they play one “clinker” she’ll change the station and may not come back. The listener is the product that the radio station is selling to the advertiser. Essentially, they tell the potential advertiser, buy time on our station and we’ll guarantee that your spot message will reach most of that particular listener [they show a percentage], in that radio market, say in Wilmington, or Philly, or Lancaster. They’ll bring out the recent radio ratings to show that they indeed are reaching that type of listener. TV does the exact same thing with their advertisers.

Interestingly, politicians, on both sides of the isle, also have done studies to see how to reach a certain segment of the population via radio and TV advertisements.

So, they are using radio and TV marketing ideas to reach the certain demographic voter they want. Read an old book, from 1957, called The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard to learn more about this. This has been very well studied. It is essentially the science of selling to people or as one salesman, Red Motley used to say, selling is getting people to buy things they don't need, we're want creators not need fillers.

How does this apply to Cable TV News Channels? Most radio and TV networks, do put a slant on the news. What is commonly referred to as the mainstream media [for radio: ABC, CBS, NBC, and NPR; for TV ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS] tend to slant the news towards the left, some more so than others.

What caused the Fox News Channel on Cable and Fox News Radio to be created? Rupert Murdock isn't a conservative, but he saw a marketing opportunity, in the US, as he saw a need for a conservative leaning news station, and created Fox News.

Just as with radio, his programming on Fox News [conservative news and talk] are not the product, but the people who will watch or listen to conservative news and talk. So, he tells advertisers if you want to reach this demo graph that are folks with conservative views, attitudes, and who vote conservative, then Fox News and Fox News Radio is where you want to place your ads.

Make no mistake about it, the liberal leaning cable news stations, CNN and MSNBC do exactly the same, but they are trying to lure in the liberal viewer. It’s not political, it’s about making money for the stockholders of CNN, MSNBC, just as it is for Fox News.

Some of the reporters have moved around from liberal to conservative networks, and others from conservative to liberal networks. It’s a gig for them. They’ll jump ship if the other network makes them a better offer. They have their personal political view, and some get to express that on the air, others don’t. It’s all about luring in the viewer the advertiser wants, because the networks make their money from advertisers buying air time.

The more viewers, watching, the more the network can charge to run that same 30 second spot. It works exactly the same way for radio. The reporters will write their stories to fit the slant of their station.

So, what to do, if you are a listener or viewer who wants the truth, and not either slant of conservative or liberal views? Then listen or watch both. I listen to CBS and NPR for liberal slanting and listen to Fox News Radio for conservative slanting. I’ve come to realize that you’ll hear commonalities to both versions of the story. There’s the truth, the other stuff is the spin they’ve added. Sadly, there really isn’t a network, on the radio or TV that doesn’t at some point slant the news, so a little extra work is required if you really want to find out the truth.

Just remember that all radio and TV stations are on the air to do one thing, and that is make the most money they can for their owners and stockholders. So, neither Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC are pure in what they report. Now you know why.

Mike Cannatelli’s column appears every other week in the print edition of the Avon Grove Sun and Kennett News.
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