Why America’s News Networks Are So Bad

It's Nixon's fault?

President Donald J. Trump participates in a FOX News Channel virtual town hall entitled America Together: Returning to Work, with co-moderators Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum live from the Lincoln Memorial Sunday, May 3, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

In an Atlantic essay, Purdue history professor Kathryn Cramer Brownell argues, “The Problem With Fox News Goes Way, Way Back.”

The cable-news industry that Americans know today is a cautionary tale in what happens when democracy collides with consumerism. For years, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News raked in profits while amplifying partisan rancor in varying ways. Starting in 2015, CNN pumped its ratings by playing up Donald Trump, whose presidency then buoyed all three cable-news giants. But now CNN is in turmoil after a recent change of ownership and the departure of its president, Chris Licht, after 15 months. After the 2020 election, Fox News amplified false claims about voting irregularities rather than offend its disproportionately pro-Trump audience—and subsequently settled a defamation suit by Dominion Voting Systems for more than $700 million. These cable-news networks have long relied on receiving fees from cable companies for each basic-cable subscriber. Now the networks need to replace that income with subscription dollars as more and more Americans cut the cord, and the scramble for money does not bode well for investment in deep, factual reporting about the United States and the rest of the world.

Cable news, in short, is in a crisis—but not a new one. Indeed, the story goes back years, to a time before Fox News or CNN was even founded. More than half a century ago, the United States had decisions to make about how the emerging medium would operate: Should the government strictly regulate it as a common carrier to cultivate a more informed and engaged citizenry, or should cable be a for-profit industry driven by the bottom line?

Richard Nixon settled the issue in the latter direction. The electronic-media landscape has always existed within parameters determined by regulators, and politicians bend regulatory policy to their own political needs. That’s what Nixon did with cable. His motives were mixed: A believer in free competition, he also despised the main broadcast networks and believed that embattled politicians like him could more easily manipulate a fragmented television world. Some of the paths not taken during cable’s early development should remind us that the current cable-news landscape was not inevitable—and that largely forgotten government decisions from earlier eras turned out to have enormous consequences.

I’m a bit skeptical of the claim that Nixon is to blame here. This would have been a decision made by the independent FCC, not Nixon himself. And, while the results of a profit-driven news organization may well have been predictable, it’s noteworthy that it didn’t take place until a quarter-century or so after Nixon left office.

CNN was founded in 1980 and its headline news-oriented spinoff, CNN2/Headline News/HLN came in 1982. They were pretty much straight news outlets, distinguishable from the traditional broadcast network news initially by lower production value and the convenience of being able to watch when desired by the viewer rather than on the network’s schedule. Still, with 24 hours to fill rather than 30 minutes, there was a gradual increase in focusing on trivial but sensational stories and the rise of Left/Right “debate” style shows.

MSNBC and Fox both came onto the scene in 1996, 22 years after Nixon’s resignation and two years after his death. The former wasn’t particularly ideological at the outset while the latter was clearly conservative-leaning but nothing like what it would morph into.

By the late 1960s, federal broadcast-television regulations had fostered a marketplace dominated by the Big Three. The government had effectively allowed CBS, NBC, and ABC to control the national television marketplace in exchange for their promise to serve the public interest. Today’s polarized politics has inspired some nostalgia for an era when Americans all got their TV news—and their entertainment, for that matter—from common sources. But at the time, discontent abounded. Many on the left saw a network culture steeped in racial and gender stereotypes that news and entertainment programs tended to perpetuate. Conservatives were eager to disrupt a media culture that they viewed as ideologically exclusionary. Many economists lamented that new entrants were frozen out, while free-expression advocates reasoned that, as television became the main venue in which national politics played out, average Americans needed ways to present their ideas on the nation’s screens.


Seeking to protect local broadcasters from competition, the Federal Communications Commission initially regulated which programs cable could offer and where systems could even operate. But by the late ’60s, reform-minded FCC commissioners, think-tank researchers, and political activists alike began to see that wired infrastructure, which could offer far more channels than rabbit-ear antennas, could bring about a communications revolution. All of the power, according to the 1970 Sloan Commission on Cable Television, lay with the government, which could “prohibit” cable, “permit it,” or “promote it almost by fiat.”

In the early ’70s, the progressive writer Ralph Lee Smith urged the government to subsidize the creation of a “Wired Nation,” just as it had built the nation’s interstate-highway system. Liberal organizations such as the Americans for Democratic Action, the ACLU, and the Ford Foundation all extolled how the technology could deliver essential employment and educational opportunities to fulfill Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society promises.

Others hoped that cable would bring about more radical social changes. Activists calling themselves “video guerrillas” wanted to use new art forms distributed on the cable dial to criticize capitalism, imperialism, and racial discrimination. To push the boundaries of acceptable content and decentralize production, they built community production centers, shared resources in volunteer collectives, and got support from foundations to underwrite operations.

Nixon, too, saw the possibilities of cable to advance his agenda. The 37th president traced his political struggles to media bias and his own inability to control his media image. He worried that public television—the preferred response of Johnson, his predecessor, to the Big Three monopoly—would only give more power to the liberal elite. So Nixon attacked the credibility and budget of the newly established Corporation for Public Broadcasting and its television-programming partner, PBS.

He saw a different role for cable: undermining the network newsrooms. Nixon was waging a broader campaign against the Big Three’s business operations; his administration also threatened to revoke broadcasting licenses and filed an antitrust suit against them. But his advisers told him that the real dagger to the networks would be to encourage cable television’s expansion as a competitor. In December 1972, an economist for Nixon’s new Office of Technology Policy (OTP) laid out Project BUN (which stood for Break Up Networks), an initiative whose very name shows how Nixon’s media vendetta shaped his policies. It emphasized deregulation of cable, a goal further enshrined in a 1974 special Cabinet-committee report endorsing the idea of letting the medium “prove its worth to the American people” in the marketplace.

This very much fits into Nixon’s paranoid style. But its noteworthy that the broadcast networks weren’t broken up and that PBS continues to operate to this day (along with NPR) as high-quality news outlets aimed at an elite audience.

Nixon’s approach changed the whole conversation. The video guerrillas’ hopes for cable television as a venue for nonprofit and viewer-created programming soon faded. 

In fairness, this was always a pipe dream. Regardless of whether it would have been a good idea, it’s not at all consistent with American culture. And, frankly, public access television is crap.

With the Nixon administration dangling the possibility of deregulation, the cable industry rushed to lobby for that outcome, frequently reminding elected officials how cable could serve their political agendas. Subsequent laws and regulations for cable made little effort to promote common citizenship. Notably, although the FCC once required the major networks to cover multiple points of view about matters of controversy in the name of advancing the public interest, subsequent cable legislation did little to cultivate that ethos.

I’m not sure that the courts would have allowed that had they tried. The reason that broadcast has been so heavily regulated is because there was no viable alternative. The nature of bandwidth is such that, to be functional, only one provider at a time can broadcast on a given frequency at a particular locale. This meant that somebody had to allocate the spectrum and provide regulation of things like how much power a given station could have. Because “the public owns the airwaves,” there was a reasonable case for regulation “in the public interest” that would otherwise violate the First Amendment’s free speech protections.

With cable and its successors, none of these factors come into play. There are essentially an infinite number of channels that can exist at a given time, so there’s no compelling reason for, say, a Ted Turner or a Roger Ailes not to be able to have their views dominate the channels they owned. If viewers don’t like it, they can easily switch channels in a way they couldn’t in a three-network world.

By the time Nixon retreated to Southern California in disgrace, in 1974, politicians across the political spectrum understood, as he had, that the emerging cable landscape might give them more chances to be on television and more control over how they were presented. Still, Nixon’s motives—manipulating his image, punishing his opponents, decentralizing the television landscape to open it to new voices—pulled the emerging industry in multiple directions, as illustrated by the trajectory of two men who worked for Nixon: Brian Lamb, a former OTP staffer who went on to launch C-SPAN, and Roger Ailes, a former campaign adviser who later started Fox News.

For Lamb, cable television offered a meaningful path to shift power from elitist television networks to individual viewers, providing voters with more information and more transparency into Washington. C-SPAN, a public-affairs channel that aired call-in shows and brought footage of congressional proceedings into American living rooms, soon became proof of this concept. The channel, voluntarily underwritten as a public service by cable companies, delivered political benefits to the very lawmakers who would in 1984 pass a law explicitly lifting many local and state regulations on the industry. As the cable business flourished in the ’90s and early 2000s, the increasing number of subscribers meant that C-SPAN’s budget grew (operators paid a per-subscriber fee to fund it), and C-SPAN expanded programming to include such earnest shows as Book TV and American History TV.

Ailes had less noble goals for television. In 1970, he championed a White House “Plan for Putting the GOP on TV News,” which celebrated TV’s political power. “People are lazy. With television, you just sit—watch—listen. The thinking is done for you,” the plan explained. At the time, Nixon’s team worried that the partisan propaganda Ailes proposed would generate too much blowback. Three decades later, liberal and centrist criticism did not faze Ailes’s Fox News, which mixed news with entertainment in ways that played to conservative viewers’ fears and grievances and kept them glued to the screen.

So, I think most OTB readers would agree that C-SPAN has been better for the country than Fox. But it’s not because Ailes had a profit motive but rather that he had a propagandistic one.

Therein lies the dashed promise of cable: Despite Fox’s recent setbacks—and despite the fact that its divisive brand of programming and deliberate delivery of election falsehoods are, I would argue, toxic for democracy—the network’s approach is likely to retain a distinct, sustainable paying audience, even if shifting viewing habits change the delivery mechanism from cable to streaming. By contrast, C-SPAN, which gives viewers genuine information in a neutral way, faces a budding crisis: Because it is dependent on cable subscriptions, cord cutting has put its future into jeopardy.

Alas, while I’ve got to be in the 99th percentile as a news junkie, I couldn’t tell you the last time I watched C-SPAN. It was probably for a presidential debate or address or the like rather than for any of their standard programming. The rise of the Internet as a major news and information source as well as the advent of social media, podcasts, and other niche content has made C-SPAN rather obsolete. (Of course, I’d say the same for network and cable news; their core audience is literally dying off.)

In recent years, lawmakers in Congress have been debating whether and how to regulate big internet companies. The history of the cable industry highlights the consequences of allowing such a powerful medium to develop with little or no democratic oversight. For the past 50 years, boosters of the cable industry made the case that the marketplace could deliver for American consumers and citizens. But the pursuit of profits has resulted in cable news networks that overwhelmingly appeal to viewers’ worst impulses, overrunning efforts to inculcate good citizenship. That’s why another revelation from Project BUN also matters today as we look at the world it helped create: Technology and public policy together produced our media environment, and this same combination could also change it for the better.

Again, I think that trying to blame all of this on a Nixon-era conspiracy is a distraction. This isn’t an argument for a cable industry that’s somehow not driven by profit. The likes of HBO and ESPN have been a boon for society, giving us a plethora or choices and the ability to serve niche interests. While there was something to be said for there being only three channels, all of which broadcast only shows that were suitable for the whole family and which, by virtue of scarcity, created something of a common culture in that just about everyone watched the hit shows, we’d also have missed “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” “Mad Men,” “Yellowstone,” and so many other programs that would have been impossible.

That said, I agree with Brownell’s argument that profit-driven news is problematic. But that was true before Nixon was born, going back at least to the days of yellow journalism. Our cousins across the Pond have funded BBC for a century now and it’s something of a gold standard for television news. Then again, we’ve funded PBS for over half a century and it, too, produces excellent news programming. It’s just that essentially no one is watching. And those who do are the opposite of the people Brownell would like to reach—PBS’s audience is wealthy and highly educated.

FILED UNDER: Media, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    The fault is not in our stars, or in our media, but in ourselves.

    The Occam’s answer to almost any political question is, ‘Because people are ignorant assholes.”

  2. Kylopod says:

    I think when Drudge Report became the first news source to drop the Lewinsky story, that was a key moment that pushed the networks more toward sensationalism.

  3. Modulo Myself says:

    Nixon is useful shorthand for the point in American political culture where there seems to have been a choice–either treat people like children, infantilize them into believing they need what corporations say they need, or treat them adults and risk more of what seemed to happen in the 60s globally. Ten years after Nixon you had complete support for Reagan, deregulation, LBOs, right-wing death squads in Central America, the war on drugs.

    The odd thing is that it wasn’t a pipe dream to think of an alternative. The sold-out mass culture people enjoy now owes way more to the counter-culture/DIY/downtown/alternative whatever worlds of the 70s than it does to mainstream culture (a few exceptions aside). Public-access tv in NYC in the 70s was dope, way more than anything on TV except from Columbo maybe. Hip-hop is a global phenomenon which comes from block parties in Harlem and the Bronx in 1973. Nothing avant-garde that filtered its way into the scripts of prestige-tv came from anywhere other than people who were bored and screwing around.

    The pipe dream is more of a dream about New Deal-style public spaces free of the ‘market’ which have supported random attempts at art existing in the same world as CEOs and Reaganites. It’s not a dream about what people make or do.

  4. DrDaveT says:

    I have a very different take on this. To me, it’s all about the failure of (mostly liberal arts degree) politicians and lawyers to genuinely understand how new dissemination technologies (including eventually the world wide web) were going to make “broadcast” as irrelevant as the telegraph. Everyone focused on airwaves and newsprint, and didn’t worry about those fringe operators using “other media”. Except the fringe is now essentially everything, and the carefully-regulated legacy media are the irrelevancy.

    It’s sort of like focusing on regulating licensed taxicabs while watching 90% of ridership move to ride share services…

  5. Mister Bluster says:

    It couldn’t possibly be Nixon’s fault!
    He retired from politics in 1962!

  6. Modulo Myself says:


    Many academics had caught on by the 90s that the interior life of consumer content ate from
    inside-out the logic of television’s authority. When the real news is supported by ads and then followed by laugh tracks, melodramas, and then talk shows where celebrities just happening to be promoting their latest vehicles, night after night, year after year, the model itself for watching creates an abnormal type of viewer. That’s why Letterman’s irony took off everywhere. And there were weird, quasi-reactions to CNN during the first Gulf War by legit adults that were just odd to me, as a teenager. CNN was as much a story as the war itself, actually, in retrospect.

    All of the above is what people call postmodernism, I guess, and postmodernism was a major demon for all the dumbasses in the culture wars of the 90s. Mainstream news culture was so defiantly middlebrow. French television could put on Baudrillard to talk about the Gulf War, but America still had George Will, Michael Kinsley, and William Buckley talking about gangster rap, or some shit.

  7. Mister Bluster says:

    I should have done a wider search before selecting the Nixon clip. Turns out it is edited to exclude some of Tricky Dick’s sage remarks on the broadcast media of the day and political reporting in general.
    Since I get a righteous guffaw every time I watch the former Commander in Chief claim
    “…gentlemen, this is my last press conference…” and in the interest of full disclosure, here is a longer version of the loser’s statement.

  8. Kylopod says:

    @Modulo Myself: Appropriately enough, the other day Stephen Miller engaged in something I haven’t heard in quite some time, which is Watergate trutherism:

    But this was back to the Watergate era in which, by the way, the cost of that just that we’re talking about measuring this in human lives, is that just I know it is a tangent, but to understand the consequence of the deep state thinking they run policy. Getting rid of Nixon, who was pursuing an honorable peace and a durable peace in Vietnam, led to the complete collapse of Nixon’s Vietnam strategy after he left office.

    It shouldn’t be terribly surprising the Trumpists would lean in this direction. We like to say Trump makes Nixon look like a choirboy, but there are some notable similarities in the way both men operated. Nixon essentially talked about a Deep State out to destroy him, only he used other terms, such as the “eastern establishment.” Similarly, he may never have uttered the words “fake news,” but he was the first Republican president to popularize the notion of a liberal-biased media that shouldn’t be trusted. And despite efforts by the press to revive his reputation in his later years, he never admitted he did anything wrong.

    A lot of people forget what the Watergate conspiracy was really about–an attempt to interfere in the Democratic primaries to make sure his opponent was George McGovern. It wasn’t quite the same as creating fake electors, trying to intimidate state officials into changing the results, encouraging a mob to storm the Capitol, etc. He may well have won the election even if he’d faced a different opponent than McGovern. (I definitely believe he would have.) But it was a form of election interference nonetheless. That’s why it makes sense Trumpists might try to frame Nixon as a fellow traveler and victim of the Deep State. It also meshes with the older belief on the right that the 1960 election was stolen by the corrupt Democratic machine. Poor old Dick just couldn’t catch a break, huh?

  9. Kingdaddy says:

    A good book on this topic is Breaking The News by James Fallows.

  10. Modulo Myself says:


    From what we know now, I think the people behind Watergate were paranoid about the interference with the peace talks in 1968 being revealed and somehow someone in the old school Establishment burning everybody. Add to that the total lawlessness of the CIA/FBI apparatus against the anti-war and civil rights movement, and you have Nixon going after anybody who might reveal anything—Ellsberg, whoever leaked the Cambodia bombings, etc. Plus he was an insane alcoholic surrounded by strivers who needed him, i.e. Kissinger.

    I think Trump just comes out of the almost-implausible phoniness of everything in right-wing culture. Nixon committed serious treason in 1968, and yet he was ostensibly paranoid about anti-war protestors undermining America. It’s really no different than right-wing Americans who want to control everything about everybody being angry about welfare and trans people and the deep state telling you what to think (i.e. don’t be a bigot).

  11. Mister Bluster says:

    @Kylopod:..he never admitted he did anything wrong.

    When the President does it…

  12. drj says:

    There are essentially an infinite number of channels that can exist at a given time, so there’s no compelling reason for, say, a Ted Turner or a Roger Ailes not to be able to have their views dominate the channels they owned. If viewers don’t like it, they can easily switch channels

    Consumer choice in news consumption doesn’t negate the outsized power of money in political speech.

    The fact that someone like Murdoch can more or less dictate what a significant part of the electorate ends up believing should tell you that there are, in fact, compelling reasons why the views of an owner should not dominate a news channel.

    Markets (the news sector included) are not just governed by consumer choice, but also by what suppliers are willing to provide. In other words, suppliers shape consumer demand at least as much as they are subject to it.

    But while Apple fans (for instance) can be tedious, a not insignificant amount of Fox News junkies are a straight-up threat to the nation.

  13. Modulo Myself says:


    The counter-argument is that Fox has about at best 4-5 million viewers, whereas 74 million people voted for Donald Trump, and that conservative Americans are now conditioned to just accepting the logic of what’s in front of them. Murdoch doesn’t need to reach 70 million Americans because the logic of the market and the culture which produces right-wing people is based on conformity and being disengaged. It creates a race to the cheapest bottom–because why invest anything except in niche propaganda which then becomes allegedly powerful, even though the audience for it is incredibly small.

    There’s probably a crazier version of Fox waiting–smaller audiences, cheaper production values, dumber humans, flat-out Nazis and holocaust deniers, who will make MAGA seem like the golden age of conservatism.

  14. drj says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    The Trump campaign was pretty pissed when Fox called Arizona for Biden. Kushner even contacted Murdoch to have the call overturned.

    I don’t think this was because Fox was in the habit of passively reporting the conservative viewpoint to only 5 million Americans.

    News organizations shape narratives. Fox, for the most part, deliberately so. Those narratives reach far more people than those tuning in every night.

    ETA: Let’s not pretend that propaganda doesn’t work – or only works on people who are fully committed to watching every broadcast, attending every rally, etc.

  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    No one puts a gun to anyone’s head forcing them to watch, let alone believe. People have free will, they make choices. It’s a bit like addiction in that you can say goddamn the pusher man, but the lowest common denominator is the individual human with free will. Willing buyer, willing seller. If you’re going to fill your head with garbage someone will be happy to turn a profit on your self-destruction. You want lies? Lies are available for your consumption.

    I’m not diminishing the evil done by scum like Murdoch, but his lies found fertile ground in which to grow, especially among those trained from childhood to believe preposterous nonsense and call it faith.

  16. Kylopod says:

    @drj: Even to this day, Fox has a news division that engages in some real journalism–on occasion. Just last year they ran a positive story about a trans kid, leading predictably to another freakout on the right. But their willingness to report things the right doesn’t like has been gradually phased out over the years. I even found their early call for Arizona a little surprising, as by that point I thought they didn’t give a damn anymore about presenting themselves as a legitimate news network. After all, one of the key moments where they first started to shift away from being thought of as a slightly Republican-slanted news network to being full-on right-wing agitprop was in 2000 when they prematurely called Florida for Bush, and the anchor was Bush’s first cousin (John Ellis). It not only made the other networks more cautious about calling states too quickly (one of the big reasons Biden’s victory wasn’t announced until four days after the election, even though it was pretty clear he was the likely winner early on), it made them wary about trusting Fox altogether. Despite all that, Fox continues to try to maintain a fig leaf of credibility as a news outlet.

  17. Andy says:

    The reality is that Nixon and the early 1970’s FCC could not imagine how the media landscape would change, especially after the internet changed everything. And the idea that a different regulatory regime back then would have changed the democratization of the media we’ve seen over the last 25 years is fanciful at best.

    The story is much more simple IMO. Mass media is dead. The internet killed it. Media companies, including cable news, have to make money by catering to niche audiences.

    Secondly, one thing I keep returning to is that cable news is a dying industry. The demographics for cable news are highly skewed to old people. Just looking at recent stats, Fox had about 2 million average viewers, and of those, about 200k were in the 25-54 demographic. CNBC had about 1.5 million viewers with about 150k in the 25-54 demographic. CNN only had 600-700k total watchers. Combined, only about 2-3% of Americans watch cable news, and 80-90 percent are Boomers or older Gen-X.

    The cable news industry is dying because of these demographics IMO. The vast majority of Americans don’t watch and don’t care about cable news, especially younger people who get their info from other sources. Its continued importance in the national conversation is only because the political establishment and political hobbyists continue to care about cable news.

  18. Modulo Myself says:


    Sure, Fox has an influence. But they seem to be influencing people who need to be influenced. I got a ton of LI-based political ads in 2022 during the baseball playoffs, and I swear 50% just were playing security footage of crimes. They worked, but the people who they worked on were people who have not experienced crime–they’ve only experienced the news reports about crime.

    When your entire political world is about nothing–brave and desperate humans crossing the border to take jobs nobody wants, 4K kids a year or so going on puberty blockers, a sandwich in Oberlin, you are ready to be used by the Murdochs. He did not create these people. They created Fox. 50 million or so lives are constructed around propaganda (with a few moments reality breaking through) and Fox is downstream from them, until something cheaper and worse comes along.

  19. Sleeping Dog says:

    As bad as cable news is, it’s magnitudes better than accepting as factual, random posts on social media. Which unfortunately is where an increasing number of people are getting their news.

  20. Mister Bluster says:
  21. Gustopher says:

    I think looking at the fragmentation of cable news into the quick-hit emotion machine that it has become is incomplete without also looking at internet news sites, and then social media.

    People desperately want their prior beliefs validated and their basest emotions not just stoked, or excused, but vindicated. And maybe even “you would be right, if you weren’t such a good person who can’t believe how terrible these other people are.”

    And there are folks out there happily willing to give people the products they want, and the more outlets there are the more tailored they can be be.

    It’s a weaponization of free speech to undermine democracy with disinformation.

    From the cigarette industry to petroleum to Fox to QAnon outlets, it’s a pretty straight line. I don’t typically like slippery slope arguments (“where will it stop?” “Somewhere”), but we’re pretty far down that slope, and there’s not a lot of friction keeping it from getting worse.

  22. DrDaveT says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    People have free will, they make choices.

    You only typed that because the chemistry in your brain made you do it.

    More seriously, if people have any free will at all, they only have it sporadically. The heritability of religion is sobering confirmation of this. I am not convinced that democracy is viable in a world of scientifically-crafted weaponized memes, but Churchill may have been right about the alternatives.

  23. DrDaveT says:

    @Modulo Myself: I don’t disagree, but I was actually trying to talk about the regulatory gap. Cable and internet were much less regulated than broadcast, not because the regulators didn’t think they were media but because they didn’t think they were important. Until it was too late.

  24. Rick DeMent says:


    The demographics for cable news are highly skewed to old people.

    Sure but the content these “news” outlets are creating is becoming memeafide and showing up as highly curated clips on You Tube and podcasts which the kids (and all the demos under catatonically old) are seeing them. While they aren’t watching live the can get all the dopamine hits they need on the internet.

    Heck ask yourself when the last time you saw a clip of one of the traditional network newscasts on You Tube? I mean those broadcasts, while also skewing old, have more then twice the live audience then any of the cable channels but I have never seen anyone share them.

  25. Andy says:

    @Rick DeMent:

    Yes, content is memeified by the political hobbyists who care about cable news. But that can persist only as long as cable news is a viable business model. And there are already online competitors eating at the margins for cable news – this is one reason why Fox went all in Trump-associated nonsense, because they didn’t want to lose the crazy market to competitors like Newsmax and OAN.

  26. Rick DeMent says:


    Sure, I was just commenting, mostly, on how cable news channels that skew so old can influence younger folk. Even if\when they collapse there will be content to share that will be every bit as awful as FOX, OAN or News MAX.

  27. Andy says:

    @Rick DeMent:

    Yep, that’s a good point.

  28. Jay L Gischer says:

    I recall reading an oped in maybe 1980 – maybe earlier – that pointed out that the networks had turned their news organizations into profit centers and this would turn out to be a very bad thing for the country.

    That was spot on, even though I don’t recall it even mentioning cable news. The world of Walter Cronkite and Tom Brokaw was purposely destroyed.

    I think you’re being a bit naive about the FCC, though. Was it an accident that Ajit Pai overturned Net Neutrality after being appointed by Trump? You think that surprised Trump?

    (And that was after Net Neutrality got the most comment of anything the FCC ever requested comment on, with overwhelming support for Net Neutrality.)

    The FCC is not non-partisan. It never has been. Just like the Supreme Court. It’s less subject to elections, yes.