January 30, 2008

I’ll admit it; I have a special fondness for news about Fox News’ declining ratings. There’s just something about the drop in numbers that helps restore my faith in the American political system.

Eric Boehlert has the latest, in a great piece on why the Republican network is poised to have a very rough year.

The point is that Fox News years ago made an obvious decision to appeal almost exclusively to Republican viewers. The good news then for Fox News was that it succeeded. The bad news now for Fox News is that it succeeded.

Meaning, when the GOP catches a cold, everybody at Fox News gets sick. As blogger Logan Murphy put it at Crooks and Liars, “Watching FOXNews getting their comeuppance has been fun to watch. They made their bed, now they’re having to lie in it and it’s not too comfortable.”

The most obvious signs of Fox News’ downturn have been the cable ratings for the big primary and caucus votes this year, as well as the high-profile debates. With this election season generating unprecedented voter and viewer interest, Fox News’ rating bumps to date have remained underwhelming, to say the least.

In 2004, on the night of the New Hampshire primary, for example, Fox News beat CNN by 200,000 viewers, despite the fact that there was no Republican contest at the time. Four years later, CNN beat Fox News by 250,000 viewers, despite very competitive contests in both parties. (On Saturday night, when results of the Dems’ South Carolina primary were dominating the news, Fox News came in third, behind both CNN and MSNBC.)

CNN President Jonathan Klein, following its New Hampshire ratings win, said, “There’s a freshness and exuberance to our coverage that the others just aren’t matching…. Fox almost seems downright despondent in their coverage.”

It couldn’t have happened to a more appropriate network.

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