from the delusion-express dept
Usually when people start whining about the propaganda dumpster fire that is Fox News, several things predictably happen. First, somebody with no idea how any of this works will yell out something about how the FCC should ban Fox from doing this (which is unconstitutional), or restore the mythologized Fairness Doctrine (which wouldn’t have applied to cable TV anyway).
That will generally be followed by a lot of First Amendment experts getting healthy Twitter engagement for justly making fun of those people in a variety of new and creative ways.
It’s at that point the conversation usually sputters. Rarely in this process does anybody provide any meaningful, creative solutions about what to actually do about Fox News. When I speak to media scholars and experts I’m routinely amazed by how few creative solutions to the Fox News problem there actually are floating about. It’s an entire, elaborate discourse primarily focused on what’s not possible.
Still, every so often you do see people pop up that are actually trying to do… something. Enter a nonprofit named CheckMyAds, which unveiled a new campaign taking aim at Fox News online ad revenues by pressuring the ad exchanges that routinely fund right wing extremism, COVID denialism, and other harmful gibberish:
“We’re kicking off by focusing on many of the same exchanges we previously contacted over their ties to various insurrectionists,” Claire Atkin, one of the groups’ co-founders, told Gizmodo. She noted that while some of the exchanges—Yahoo is among the group’s targets—cut off ad-dollar access to digital properties from Steve Bannon, they remain tethered to Fox News’s site.
The adtech sector is an intentionally convoluted hellscape of algorithmic confusion, intentionally over-complicated to pre-empt regulation, oversight, or even basic levels of accountability and transparency. There’s just an absolute universe of influencer shit-merchants that have exploited this to rake in millions while spewing conspiratorial gibberish, including Fox.
There’s also a long list of advertisers who rely on this confusion to abdicate their ethical responsibility in terms of their money winding up in the pockets of bottom-dwelling grifters and bigots. The murkiness makes it easier to pretend it’s not happening, and it’s this accountability gap the group hopes to target:
Gizmodo’s Shoshana Wodinsky had a good piece explaining how this maze of accountability dodgeball works in a bit more detail.
Advertising bans haven’t done much to thwart the popularity of white supremacist allies like Tucker Carlson, in part because Fox News is primarily financed by cable subscriber fees it obtains whether users watch the channel or not. Efforts to target this systemic dysfunction have also seen limited results so far.
That’s because there’s no single, easy fix for Fox News. It likely requires a rethink of cable retrans fees, a huge dose of accountability and transparency for adtech markets, education standards that prioritize critical thinking in media consumption (see: Finland), a massive boost in creative funding for real journalism, and (according to media scholars like Victor Pickard) a big boost in public media funding.
This is all difficult to implement in a country that prioritizes wealth accumulation above all else, struggles to fund education or journalism, has long cultivated a nasty strain of anti-intellectualism, and has growing distrust in a Congress that’s too corrupt to function on even the most basic of issues.
Still, given the absolute parade of creative thought and financing we’ve thrown at shitty NFT art alone, you have to think the wealthiest country in the history of the planet could do a hell of a better job finding smart, creative ways to clean up blatant propaganda, even if the deck is likely stacked in bullshit’s favor.