BC Beat2/29/2008 07:00:00 PM Eastern
With John Eggerton and Michael Malone
For more BC Beat, Go to www.bcbeat.com
News Corp. Campaign Donors Favor Dems
Does Fox News have a Republican bias? Not according to the latest tally of contributions to 2008 presidential campaigns.
A search on Opensecrets.org, which follows the money on the campaign trail, found that donors who identified themselves as employees of Fox News' parent company, News Corp., gave to Democrats over Republicans by an overwhelming margin.
Of the 27 donations, totaling $41,000, from News Corp. employees, 25 went to Democrats, with the vast majority—19, totaling $32,100—going to Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.). Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) received five, totaling $3,600, while Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) got one, for $2,100.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and actor/former senator Fred Thompson were the only Republican beneficiaries—$2,300 for McCain and $1,000 for Thompson.
News Corp. president/CEO Peter Chernin, a known Democratic supporter, was the sole Dodd contributor and also gave to Clinton and Obama. Even News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, who's never been coy about his rightward tilt, gave $2,300 to Clinton, his only recorded donation. (Their counterparts at Viacom, Chairman Sumner Redstone and president/CEO Philippe Dauman, hedged their bets, splitting their contributions between Clinton and Rudy Giuliani.)
The pattern held in searches for "Fox Broadcasting" and "Fox TV" (Dennis Haysbert, who played the president on 24, is an Obama man).
The only donor listed under "Fox News Channel" gave $500—to Hillary Clinton.
So there you have it: They contribute, you decide.
In an old-fashioned "watch and win" sweeps stunt, Local TV station KFOR Oklahoma City gave $500 to 18 lucky late-news viewers last month—with one of those winners randomly chosen for a 60-second romp in a bank vault stuffed with over $100,000 in loose bills.
The stunt was also a hit at sister station WREG Memphis. But while WREG's winner managed to grab around $7,000, Benny Meier walked away last week with nearly $18,000 from KFOR's vault.
Here's the good part: he's blind. But that hasn't stopped Meier, who's in his mid 60s, from running marathons (with a guide) or using his lanky frame to gather a bundle of bills.
"It made for really good television," says KFOR president/General Manager Jim Boyer, who concedes that the vault was stocked with bigger bills than WREG's.
Boyer says he hasn't seen a ratings uptick from the stunt, a practice generally frowned upon by news critics that can earn stations an asterisk in Nielsen ratings books.
But a Nielsen spokesperson says, "As long as they targeted the entire market with the promotion, not just the Nielsen homes, there's nothing wrong with it."
Perils of UGC
IReport, CNN's 18-month-old citizen-journalism initiative, may have provided the network with video and images from breaking news events like the Virginia Tech shootings.
But iReport.com, the program's broadband forum that invites users to create and submit content "unedited" and "unfiltered," shows just how much user-generated news leaves to be desired.
Unveiled last month ahead of a full-scale March launch, iReport.com has its share of legitimate news footage—clips of rioting in Belgrade and caucusing in Hawaii. Some clips are satirical, like a cute spoof of CNN's The Situation Room that was one of the 915 submissions (out of 89,944, at presstime) actually picked up by CNN.
A good many, however, don't quite reach the level of news. Some are just silly, like the "breaking news" clip showing a bottle of ketchup gored by rival condiment mustard (No. 7 under "Most Viewed"). Others are outright advertisements, like a bizarre spot for a new Pokemon video game.
And then there are the video news releases (VNR), those pesky infomercials that masquerade as news—and famously found their way into local newscasts a couple of years back thanks in part to CNN's own Newsource distribution service. One, from a user known as "VNR-1," showcases "a new and approved method" for treating back pain.
CNN had yet to comment at presstime.