Yesterday was April 15, which is to say Tax Day, which is to say Tea Party Day, and needless to say that meant plenty of coverage on Fox News in particular of the anti-big-government protests held yesterday. One could get all J-school and tsk-tsk-y about how closely the news channel and especially its opinion hosts have associated themselves with this political camp, but it’s to be expected, given how well Fox has done in the ratings by appealing to anti-government, anti-Obama spirit. A New York Times poll found that a majority of Tea Party supporters watch Fox as their chief source of news. Fox News publicizing Tea Parties is like your local Fox affiliate promoting American Idol or ABC News covering The Bachelor: whatever it is as journalism, it’s just good business sense.
What is news is that even Fox has its limits as to how closely it will link itself to the Tea Parties, and yesterday it acted to prevent Sean Hannity from crossing them.
As David Zurawik writes at the Baltimore Sun, FNC officials put the kibosh on a planned Hannity broadcast from a Tea Party event in Cincinnati when it learned that the organizers were raising money by selling tickets to the broadcast. “FOX News never agreed to allow the Cincinnati Tea Party organizers to use Sean Hannity’s television program to profit from broadcasting his show from the event,” stated Fox News executive vice president Bill Shine.
In any event, I agree with Zurawik that it’s notable that, even with a popular host and a popular movement, executives at the Fox News mothership were willing to draw a line for the sake of credibility. But I’m not sure I agree when he says, “Let’s hope [Hannity] also knows now that his show does not exist solely to promote his political agenda.” I’m pretty sure that’s why they call it, well, “Hannity.”
But at least there are limits. Attention, Tea Party: You do not make money off Fox News! Fox News makes money off you!