Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War On Journalism

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War On Journalism

***1/2

Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

Robert Greenwald's documentary is a feisty rail against the politically motivated and ideologically biased reporting of Rupert Murdoch's Fox News channel. At just over 75 minutes long, it's not a lengthy exposition and is absorbing enough to feel over all too quickly.

Outfoxed opens with one of its many talking heads referring to a scene in The Godfather when an ageing mafia kingpin divides up his empire for his successors whilst segmenting a cake of Cuba. It's used as a way of understanding how media policies are devised in the States. The comparison is swiftly followed by a ream of statistics that outline the extent of Murdoch's empire and it's combined capacity to reach a quarter of the entire planet's audience.

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Using such a filmic reference sets the tone: Murdoch is the Godfather of media control and his unchecked, dubious activities are "fundamentally undermining democracy."

How so?

Focusing on his News channel, Outfoxed helpfully divides its nefarious travesties of professional journalism into digestible chapters. Greenwald highlights everything from its from-on-high mandates, selective news coverage, partisan politics and guest choices, to its election exposure, character assassinations, manipulative graphics and downright bigoted anchor people. The attack is remorseless throughout. Past Fox News producers, music supervisors, graphics artists, reporters, anchors and contributors divulge their experiences, while erudite media commentators underline the effects on modern society. They are complemented by deftly mixed and edited examples from Fox News broadcasts that make up most of the film.

Ironically, the film's use of scrolling titles to introduce its commentators, stimulating chapter animations and foreboding deep bass music do seem akin to some of the manipulative misdemeanours that it accuses Fox News of. Whether this is deliberately self-referential is never made explicit, but this is a film, not a news channel describing itself as "fair & balanced."

Yes, it's one-sided and there is not a single talking head to say anything in support of Fox News under Murdoch. But that's the point. Greenwald is clear that the channel's had more than enough say; this is the response, an effort to try and redress the balance again.

As a relatively short-lived cinema release, Outfoxed stood in the Fahrenheit 9/11 and Super Size Me camp, grating against Bush administration politics and mega-corporation control. As a DVD it could have greater longevity. Central to the piece is the premise that ethical journalism is an inherent necessity of democracy. As it presents the insidious erosion of that democracy, the film is an enervating commentary on how we, the masses, sometimes seem happy to believe what we're told to believe. In the years to come, the disc could become a referential tool, a testament to how things did, or did not, improve.

Reviewed on: 08 Jan 2005
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Documentary about bias on the Fox News channel.
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