Mr. Murdoch's business channel
Rupert Murdoch, after months of showing just ankle when it comes to revealing what's in store on the new Fox Business Network, is now showing some calf. And while I don't want to carry the stripper analogy too far, considering that launch is less than a month away — October 15 — one might expect him to show at least some thigh by now. Still, I can read between the lines and get some idea of what's taking shape.
At a Goldman Sachs conference, Murdoch fleshed out the way he'll handle the most glaring problem for his new network vis-a-vis his acquisition of Dow Jones:
While an existing deal obligates WSJ reporters to appear on CNBC, Murdoch — who’s slated to take over WSJ parent Dow Jones later this year — stressed that the pact was only for financial news. “There’s no reason why we can’t have them talk about politics, national affairs, international affairs, lifestyle, travel,” he added.
CNBC spokesman Kevin Goldman didn't dispute Murdoch's interpretation of the agreement. "We're about providing fast, accurate, actionable and unbiased business news to people with a lot of money and those who aspire to have a lot of money," he said.
This ought to be interesting. So on Fox Business, Journal reporters can presumably talk about fiscal policy, since that's a political process involving Congress and the White House, but evidently monetary policy will be off-limits. Or maybe monetary policy will be OK, but its impact on the stock market will be verboten. Whatever the case, it might make the reporter debriefings and roundtable discussions a bit awkward, no?
Murdoch repeated his mantra from a few months ago about CNBC being a channel for Wall Street, while Fox Business will be for Main Street. Again he took a swipe at CNBC: "They dwell too much on failures and scandals and politics," Murdoch said of CNBC. "We want to spend a lot of time on innovation, successes and people who are making money."
But really, what will business news geared to "Main Street" actually look like on the tube? I think we have a pretty good idea of what that already means, when Fox News Channel's "premier business program" stokes righteous outrage over P. Diddy's raunchy fragrance commercial and Britney Spears's questionable parenting skills — all the while looping video of said raunchy fragrance commercial and Britney prancing around in her underwear. What that has to do with "innovation, successes and people who are making money," I have no idea, but I suspect we'll see a whole lot of it on Fox Business.
We get further insight into what to expect from something I noted a few weeks ago, when Peter Schiff appeared on Fox News Channel's Saturday morning business block and was actually shouted down as "anti-American" for deigning to say the sort of thing we talk about all the time here at the DR — that there are serious underlying structural issues in the U.S. economy that will have to be wrung out eventually, one way or another. No such unpatriotic talk will be allowed on Fox Business. If CNBC is bubble-vision, Fox Business will be more like the boy in the bubble — a pristine environment devoid of any potentially negative influences.
The one bright spot I can see is the rumor — and at the moment it remains only rumor — that the linchpin of the network's prime time lineup will be personal finance guru Dave Ramsey. An excellent choice, certainly better than trying to poach the ethically-challenged [scroll down] Suze Orman from CNBC. (The evangelical Ramsey will go down a lot better with the Fox crowd than the recently self-outed Orman, anyway.)
But Ramsey would be merely an oasis in yet another toxic wasteland of Murdoch-branded jingoism. The only real difference between Fox Business Network and Fox News Channel is the former's aim to deliver a slightly younger and more upscale audience than the latter.
[Obligatory full disclosure: I worked for eight years at Mr. Murdoch's Fox Television Stations division, where Fox News had relatively little editorial influence and I could function with a clear conscience. I left on friendly terms earlier this year.]