Fox news was created in 1996 by Rupert Murdoch, a media mogul whose media appeals to conservative viewers. Fox News is one of the largest media channels in the United States. Fox hosts segments such as “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” “The Five,” “Hannity,” and “The Ingraham Angle.” Fox News can be found at www.foxnews.com and maintains a high ranking of 4th among other news and media sources.
Note: The bias ratings and analyses provided in this blog post focus on the Fox News website and not its TV or radio programming unless mentioned explicitly.
How Does Biasly Rate News Sources?
Biasly’s algorithms produce bias ratings to help provide multiple perspectives on given articles. Biasly has analyzed 200,000+ news articles from more than 3,200 news sources through our A.I. technology and team of political analysts to find the most factual, unbiased news stories.
Biasly determines the degree of political bias in news sources by using Biasly’s Bias Meter Rating, in which Biasly’s team analyzes media sources’ reliability and bias and produces three scores, a Reliability Score that measures the accuracy of media sources; an A.I. Bias Score, evaluated by A.I.; and an Analyst Bias Score evaluated by political analysts. These scores are rated based on seven rating metrics including Tone, Tendency, Diction, Author Check, Selection/Omission, Expediency Bias, and Accuracy. These metrics help our analysts to determine the political attitude of the article.
Our A.I. machine-learning system employs natural language processing and entity-specific sentiment analysis to examine individual articles and determine their bias levels. By analyzing the key terms in an article such as policies, bias phrases, political terminologies, politicians, and their nicknames, the algorithms can rate the attitude of the text. Bias scores range from -100% and 100%, with higher negative scores being more liberal and higher positive scores being more conservative, and 0% being neutral.
Is Fox News Politically Biased?
FOX News is often criticized by liberals as a far-right conservative news organization that causes undue panic over social issues. Conservatives often praise FOX news for providing what they see as unbiased truth-telling from figures such as Tucker Carlson and The Five. Objectively, is fox news biased? And towards what side are they biased?
Fox News scored an A.I. Bias Score of positive 68%, which is classified as Very Conservative. It scored an Analyst Bias Score of positive 27%, which is classified as Moderately Conservative. Coverage of political topics is generally done from an American conservative political perspective. Praise towards conservative policies and politicians, as well as dislike towards Democratic policies and politicians contribute towards this rating.
These ratings only take into account published articles on the Fox News website. Their talk shows, segments, and live news coverage are not factored into this analysis. We will discuss biases found in Fox News’ talk shows later in this article, independent of our A.I. Bias score.
This largely lines up with multiple other third-party bias research agencies like Allsides and Media Bias/Fact Check. Allsides gave Fox News a rating of right, which they define as strongly aligning with conservative or right-wing thoughts and/or agendas. Media Bias/Fact Check came to a similar conclusion, giving them a bias rating of right, and placing them near the more extreme right end of their scale.
American readers have most likely heard about Fox News. According to data from Nielson, Fox News is the most-watched cable news channel in the United States. Depending on your political leaning, you are more likely to have a positive or negative attitude than a neutral one towards Fox News because of the extremity of their biases on various topics and issues as represented by Biasly’s Very Conservative rating. This article will discuss why that is, and how we can determine if Fox News, the website, is biased.
Source: Pew Research
Before we begin, we need to discuss bias. Bias is a natural function of humans, and we can express it both consciously and unconsciously. Bias is one of the most fundamental forms of pattern recognition in humans. This isn’t to lower the bar and say that “all things are biased,” but to explain the process in which we may come to trust certain news organizations that display patterns of coverage.
On the media’s part, there is an incentive to retain audiences, encourage them to purchase subscriptions, and rate products positively. Bias is a two-way street, people want to see news stories about things they care about, and the media needs viewers to continue their operations. This creates a positive feedback loop that influences what stories are covered and from what perspective. This also explains the actions of more liberal news organizations.
It is important to remember that Fox News’s reporting is often very different from its talk show hosts. This is because the talk show broadcasts, such as Tucker Carlson and The Five, are meant to entertain and commentate on the news. Their online articles, excluding opinion pieces, tend to be much more controlled, less biased, and focused on factual reporting.
Analysis of Fox News Online Articles
In January of 2015, FoxNews.com received more than 55,000,000 unique visitors, a number that has only continued to climb in the months and years since as virtual news has become more prominent. While Fox is known best for its television news, many viewers still consume their news through the articles they publish online. So can these articles be trusted?
Let’s look at an example of a Fox news online article on efforts to pass the Equal Rights Amendment:
If we look at Biasly’s breakdown of this article’s bias, we can see right off the bat it was given a rating of 66%, making it very conservative. If we look further into Biasly’s analysis we can see that the policy leaning of this article was also designated as very conservative with a rating of 77% and that its portrayal of politicians mentioned in the article had negative sentiment, with a rating of -54%.
Moving on to the article itself, we can identify almost immediately through the language used that the author has bias. Look at the following statement:
“Thirty-eight states had to ratify the ERA by 1979. It didn’t happen. Supporters are still trying to bend the rules to ensure its passage decades later.”
The use of the phrase “bend the rules,” in reference to the actions taken by those in support of passing the ERA to the constitution suggests a bias against the ERA. The implication is that not only was the ERA a bad amendment that one would need to bend the rules to pass, but those in support of the ERA are willing to act unethically by bending the rules to get what they want. No factual evidence was provided that shows that the ERA was ratified by bending the rules to support this claim.
Instead of citing a specific bending or violating of a legal or constitutional framework for amendment ratification, the article relied on quotes from those who believed the ERA should be tabled. This includes quotes from Senator Ted Cruz and former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. However, while these quotes support the main point of the article, that the ERA should be abandoned, they do nothing to prove whether or not supporters of the ERA have bent the rules to keep it alive. Phrasings like this are used continuously throughout the article, to create a negative picture of the amendment and its supporters, who in general are more liberal.
We can see another instance of negative language being used to describe supporters of the ERA in the following passage:
“But in a the-rules-don’t-apply-to-me kind of mindset, ERA activists ignored the facts, pushing its ratification far beyond its shelf life.”
ERA activists here are referred to as ignoring the facts and above the rules. The sentiment is negative against the ERA and its supporters.
Our analysis also analyzed and picked apart the sentiments present within this article. These sentiments were found to be largely conservative-leaning. Overall, 5 negative sentiments towards abortion, and 1 negative sentiment towards planned parenthood were found, as well a single positive sentiment towards abortion and a single negative sentiment towards religious freedom. Sentiments towards politicians were largely negative, with Ted Cruz and Alex Padilla having the only positive sentiments.
What these measures suggest is that while there were some elements of the article that were biased towards moderate ideologies, by and large, the article was found to be very conservative-leaning. This falls in line with our analysis of Fox News as a network with a tendency to lean conservative in its biases.
That said, while this article landed on the more biased end of the spectrum, bias in articles can differ even between articles from the same network, which highlights the importance of keeping on the lookout for signs of bias within any article. While one article, like the one we examined above, might be fine, another article written by another author for the same source might be rated differently.
Analysis of Fox News Talk Shows
With this in mind, let’s look at what Fox News is most well known for, its talk shows. We’ll do this by examining an episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight focused on the Biden administration’s response to those questioning the possibility of a recession. We’ll do this using this transcript of Tucker Carlson tonight which was published on December 20, 2022.
Some key characteristics of bias in the piece involve telling one side of the story, direct and negative responses towards policies promoted by the Biden administration, and omitting inconvenient facts.
Let’s take the second paragraph of the piece for example. The following contextualizes the Biden Administration’s messaging leading up to the midterm election.
“The US economy had just recorded two consecutive quarters of declining GDP. That’s not just an academic observation. That’s a technical definition of a recession. Two quarters. Declining GDP. Recession. We’re not making that up. You’ll find it in every economics textbook ever written. Go look up the one you used in college. But the Biden administration could not admit that. If they admitted that the US was in a recession, they would lose the Senate. They would lose control of both chambers of Congress. So they had to lie about it.”
An interesting note about this paragraph is that it is true for Quarters 1 & 2, but is not true for Quarter 3, which ended close to the midterm elections. The following graph (figure 1.1) demonstrates the two quarters in which Tucker’s statement was true and the most recent quarter. Since Tucker’s segment occurred well after Quarter 3 ended, the fact that he does not include an inconvenient piece of information is an example of bias.
The final statement claiming that the Biden Administration lied in order to win the Senate is another example of very strong language that negatively represents the actions taken by Biden and attributes malice to the administration’s actions. A more fair way of phrasing the Biden administration’s actions would focus more specifically on the change in how they are measuring the economy.
Tucker Carlson was correct about Biden’s incorrect claims of adding one million new jobs, which was disproved by the Pennsylvania federal report that he mentions here:
“And now we get to learn the truth. A million new jobs, really? The Philadelphia Fed decided to check those numbers and they found the US economy did not add more than a million jobs in the second quarter of this year. Instead, the net additional jobs were about 10,000.”
We mention this to illustrate how segments that do include bias can also include factual statements. It is important to recognize that when external research and sources are reported on, they are almost always factual statements.
How Opinionated is Fox News?
Let’s take a moment to discuss the difference of opinion versus reporting. Reporting is the neutral act of conveying information to an audience without advocating for any particular opinion yourself. Reporting uses a neutral tone and focuses on provable facts, events, and quotes from different parties involved. Opinion-based articles, on the other hand, make use of a more pointed tone to express the feelings, thoughts, and perspectives of the author regarding the situation being reported on.
Let’s apply these two methods of sharing information to the ERA article we discussed above. In it we can find elements of both factual reporting, like the quotes from others included, and more opinionated reporting, like when the author says the following:
“And there it was: the true goal of ending the lives of the preborn for any reason at all as an enshrined and deified constitutional “right,” an ugly agenda for a beautiful document.
Here the author is sharing their opinion, both on the ERA and abortion. They make use of emotional language like “ending the lives of” and “ugly agenda” to make a statement on the event they are reporting on. Since these words are both pointed and from the author’s own perspective we can differentiate this piece from more factual articles that would instead rely on reporting to portray different positions. We are not agreeing or disagreeing with the opinion but rather distinguishing why it contains more slant.
We can see some more instances of some more opinionated language in the Tucker Carlson transcript. For example, when Tucker Carlson said the Biden administration “had to lie about it.” The wording in this line is both pointed, with the choice of the word “lie,” and emotional in the accusatory tone of it. These articles suggest that there is a good degree of opinionated language in many Fox News articles, highlighting the importance of keeping an eye out for the signifiers of a more opinionated piece when reading any new article.
Who owns Fox News?
Fox News is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also happens to own The Times of London and The Wall Street Journal. Many have speculated over whether Murdoch, a man with a net worth of more than $18.5 billion, may be pushing for more conservative policy favoring the rich through the media he owns. Studies have, after all, found that the rich are more likely to lean conservative.
Rupert himself stated that he identified as a libertarian, and while over the course of his life, he has shown a preference for more conservative parties in line with this libertarian identity, he did, according to some sources, at one point advocated for democratic candidate Mike Bloomberg over Donald Trump, suggesting a more fluid political standpoint.
In addition, it’s important to note, that like most media, a large portion of Fox News’s funding comes from ad revenue, with Fox reporting to have made $605 million in the first quarter of 2022.
How to Evaluate and Uncover Bias
It can often be difficult to tell if the news you watch is biased. If you have settled on a news channel, it’s usually because you trust the information you are gaining. Unfortunately, many trust the information they are hearing because it confirms what they already believe. This is referred to as “confirmation bias.” It is important to challenge your beliefs and get third-party verification that what you are hearing is the full story. This is why we recommend using Biasly to compare different news stories side-by-side using our bias ratings to figure out what both sides think of a political issue.
While Biasly ultimately gave Fox News a bias score of 68%, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. First, that bias varies from article to article and even a source like Fox News is capable of producing more centrist or even extremely conservative articles every now and again. Second, different types of articles come with a potential for more or less bias. More factual articles, for example, often have less bias than talk shows or opinion pieces that call for more subjectivity inherently. Finally, while every news source has some degree of bias, some are inherently more centrist than others, and you should always be sure to check out the Biasly political leaning score at Biasly.com if you’re unsure about the bias of any particular source.