The tight, interlocking relationship between Fox News and the Republican Party has become more and more obvious in the past year. But a new Politico piece raises a couple of interesting consequences to that arrangement:
“With the exception of Mitt Romney, Fox now has deals with every major potential Republican presidential candidate not currently in elected office.
The matter is of no small consequence, since it’s uncertain how other news organizations can cover the early stages of the presidential race when some of the main GOP contenders are contractually forbidden to appear on any TV network besides Fox.
C-SPAN Political Editor Steve Scully said that when C-SPAN tried to have Palin on for an interview, he was told he had to first get Fox’s permission — which the network, citing her contract, ultimately denied. Producers at NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and MSNBC all report similar experiences….”
As the Politico piece points out, the arrangement is great for Fox. They have the candidates under contract, which means that if you want to see Palin, Gingrich or Huckabee, you have no choice as a viewer but to turn to Fox. The system also enhances Fox’s position as kingmaker within the party. The candidates whom it puts under contract are rewarded with a straight pipeline to the Fox audience, which also happens to be the Republican base, while those excluded from Fox World operate at a great disadvantage.
It’s probably no accident that Romney, the most moderate of the GOP contenders, doesn’t get the guaranteed airtime of his competitors.
In effect, though, Fox and its candidate/stars are condemning themselves to an ideological ghetto. By not appearing on other outlets, the candidates not only lose access to a broader audience, they also aren’t forced to develop a broader message. Fox and its audience becomes their entire universe, and the only way to compete for popularity within that universe is to get more and more conservative.
The emphasis on party purity and loyalty intensifies. The circle gets tighter, the echoes get louder, the island gets smaller.