In an interview with Esquire magazine, former president Bill Clinton commented on the current state of the media, calling MSNBC “our version of Fox,” and saying that the Internet has resulted in the breaking up of the media which has contributed to less actual reporting.
I also think that the diffusion of the media has complicated things. For example, I was just watching — I don’t know if you heard what I said in the other room — I was just watching MSNBC, and they had a woman that used to work for me and a couple of other people on there, and they were talking about the Republican primary. And I was laughing. I said, “Boy, it really has become our version of Fox.” And I say that because think of the economics of running cable channels. Suppose you and I bought a cable channel, and he [pointing] bought another. You know that to make a living out of it, you’ve got to get about eight hundred thousand viewers for all your major programs. So you can get eight hundred thousand, and you won’t be as wealthy as Fox, but you’ll do okay. And now if you get a slice that’s that small and still viable — and you know it’s not like when we just had NBC, CBS, and ABC. That’s all there was. Everybody had enough market share that they knew would guarantee some comfortable level of profit. And yet there was enough competition that everybody could keep each other honest, and when the Vietnam War came along, they could send fifty-five-year-old reporters to Vietnam for extended stays. They could afford to have correspondents in Europe to report. Correspondents in Asia. All that’s changed now. And so the good news is you can get a lot of information off the Internet for free and in a hurry. But I think the breaking up of the media, which is otherwise kind of healthy, has contributed to less actual reporting and a louder, more contentious, more divisive public discourse, highlighting conflict, sometimes falsely.
MSNBC does provide a clear alternative for liberals to Fox News, especially when compared to CNN, but since making that commitment to the liberal cause they have struggled to achieve even a fraction of the success that Fox has had. And that isn’t likely to change any time soon, even with Clintons’ endorsement.