Move over Fox News. OAN and CBN offer US conservatives an alternative
Though Fox News is the leading conservative news source in the United States, both One America News Network (OAN) and Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) are quickly emerging as alternatives.
OAN is more right-wing than Fox News and has been called President Donald Trump’s favorite news network. OAN’s profile has increased as its journalists have been invited to press briefings of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Alternatively, evangelical Christians receive news from an conservative Christian point of view with CBN, a network with roots going back to the 1960s. Both networks have helped to provide additional sources for right-leaning news to conservatives in the US, a category long dominated solely by Fox.
Trump’s “favorite news network“
OAN launched in 2013 as a collaboration between the center-right newspaper The Washington Times and the San Diego-based Herring Broadcasting.
Its stated mission is to provide credible news while fostering “an independent, cutting-edge debate about the policies, issues and solutions facing the country.”
While announcing the launch of the network, Robert Herring, the CEO of Herring Broadcasting, expressed his desire that the new network be a conservative companion, if not outright rival, to Fox News.
“Fox News has done a commendable job serving the center-right and independent audiences, yet those who consider themselves liberal have a dozen or more choices on a typical cable programming lineup. We strongly believe it’s time for another platform offering healthy debates representing independent, Libertarian and conservative ideologies to have more programming options for the issues we care most about.”
The Guardian and Business Insider are among the varied news sources that have labeled OAN “Trump’s favorite network.” However, despite Trump regularly praising the network on Twitter, OAN has yet to become a household name, with the network’s own name often leading to confusion.
Officially, the network’s abbreviation is OAN, but because that URL was already taken, the site is published at OANN.com. Similarly, the network posts on Twitter to its more than 600,000 followers as @OANN. For that reason, its name is rendered both as OAN and OANN.
Critiques of OAN
While the network remains niche, it has received the attention of liberal members of the media.
In September 2019, OAN sued MSNBC host Rachel Maddow for saying OAN “literally is paid Russian propaganda” on her show in July of that year. Though former employees of the network have supported Maddow’s assertion, OAN’s attorney called the accusation “false and malicious libel.”
On April 5, in a nearly 20-minute piece on his Sunday night satirical show, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” the show’s host described OAN as “Fox News with even less shame and even fewer scruples.”
Oliver critically discussed the network’s hosts and reporting, noting that OAN has spread conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and that one of the hosts, Graham Ledger, regularly signs off at the end of each show by saying, “Even when I’m wrong, I’m right.”
OAN at the White House
OAN’s profile has been rising in recent weeks, in large part due to their perceived antagonism toward other news outlets.
OAN’s reporter, Chanel Rion, in particular, has become a controversial figure during the Coronavirus Task Force press briefings at the White House.
During March 19’s televised briefing, Rion asked if Trump considered the term “Chinese food” racist before saying, “Major left wing news media, even in this room, have teamed up with Chinese communist party narratives, and they’re claiming you’re racist for making these claims about Chinese virus.”
This was in reference to Trump’s usage of the term “Chinese virus” to refer to COVID-19. Many have suggested that this non-technical term for the virus is dangerous in light of the fact that Asian-Americans have experienced race-based attacks during the pandemic.
Rion continued by saying that the media opposed Trump and was “siding with foreign state propaganda, Islamic radicals, and Latin gangs and cartels.” Trump thanked her for her question, saying, “this administration has done a great job. But the press is very dishonest.”
Last week, the White House Correspondents Association banned Rion from the White House press briefing room after she failed to follow social distancing rules.
However, Rion has continued to appear at the briefings due to personal invites from the White House Press Secretary, Stephanie Grisham.
Christian news from CBN
Before OAN or Fox News existed, evangelical Christians in America were able to see their views represented on television on CBN.
CBN launched in the 1960s, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, who remains a regular host on the network. The network’s flagship show is “The 700 Club,” a Bible-based news and interview show that is one of the longest-running shows on television.
In 2018, CBN expanded its news platform into CBN News Channel, called the “first 24-hours news channel from a Christian perspective.” The news channel originally launched in 15 television markets, including Los Angeles, Nashville, Atlanta and Kansas City. Its programming can also be watched online.
Robertson has been a Trump supporter throughout most of his presidency, defending Trump after The Washington Post published an Access Hollywood video of the future president bragging about grabbing women without their permission. Robertson has also personally interviewed Trump on multiple occasions.
The influential evangelical did, however, criticize Trump after the president pulled troops from Syria saying that the president was “in danger of losing the mandate of heaven” for betraying America’s Kurdish allies in the region.
Throughout his presidency, Trump has consistently received broad support from white evangelical Christians.
Recent polling from March 2020 found 77% of evangelicals were at least somewhat confident in Trump’s coronavirus response (49% said they were “very confident” in his response), a higher percentage than any other religious group.
The Disney-owned Freeform TV station is an offshoot of the CBN Family Channel launched by Robertson in 1977. The current ownership of Freeform has no affiliation with CBN, but the station still airs “The 700 Club.”
Fox News’ conservative reputation
The Fox News Channel launched in 1996, created by Roger Ailes and Australian billionaire Rupert Murdoch, after Murdoch was unable to buy CNN. Its tagline was “Fair and Balanced” until 2017, when that motto was dropped in the wake of Ailes being forced out due to sexual harassment claims. The network’s current motto is “Most Watched, Most Trusted.”
In May 2018, the eldest of Murdoch’s sons, Lachlan Murdoch, took over as chairman and CEO of Fox News. Lachlan has been described as even more conservative than his father and has stated that Fox News fills an underserved market for center-right news viewers.
Murdoch’s other son, James Murdoch, has been called the black sheep of the family for his liberal views. He has expressed a desire to challenge Fox News and fund media outlets to challenge his family’s network.
Since Lachlan took over, Fox has at times been criticized by Trump, with the president believing the Murdoch sons are too liberal. In August 2019, Trump tweeted Fox “isn’t working for us anymore.”
Long-time Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace (son of highly respected news anchor Mike Wallace), has been slammed by both Trump and the president’s supporters for at times being critical of the Trump administration.
Wallace has also leveled criticism at his Fox News colleagues. He says he gets “attacked by both sides” for his efforts.
The partisan divide of network news
Despite the competition, Fox News regularly tops the ratings among the cable news networks, with its primetime news personalities like Tucker Carlson routinely winning their respective timeslots.
According to polling conducted by the Pew Research Center in early 2020, partisan alliances largely determine which networks viewers choose for political news.
Self-identified Republicans rely mostly on Fox, at a rate of 60%, while 53% of Democrats turn to CNN. Only 23% of Democrats watch Fox, and only 24% of Republicans watch CNN. Both networks accounted for 39% of political and election news for Americans.
MSNBC, which The New York Times once called “Fox’s liberal evil twin,” is watched by 33% of Democrats and only 14% of Republicans.
The polling also found that “Republicans (and independents who lean Republican) get political and election news from a smaller group of sources than Democrats.” More Republicans than Democrats get their news from only one source, and that source is largely Fox News.
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