Fox Business: Aspirational, biased, but really not bad at all

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I’ve had Fox Business on all day, and I don’t think I’ll be able to stand leaving it on long enough to join Cody and Rebecca at Happy Hour, so here’s my take: It’s not bad at all, although I’m unclear on who the heck is gonna watch it.

CNBC covers business, and in particular financial markets, like a sports channel. It assumes people are already interested in the subject matter, and approaches it with jokey sophistication. Sort of like ESPN.

Fox Business does some of that, albeit with less panache than CNBC, but is out for something more. Here’s what bossman Rupert Murdoch told Fortune’s Time Arango:

I’m looking for a wider audience, more people in business and on Main Street, more than people who are just watching the market all the time. It will be a real business channel – a real aspirational channel, if you will.

And so Fox Business viewers today got to hear former adman Michael Gates talking about how working at Starbucks saved his life, ING Direct chief Arkadi Kuhlman discussing his Harleys, the Razor and Tie guys explaining how they got rich off those Kidz Bop CDs, and the Naked Cowboy of Times Square thanking Tony Robbins for inspiring his burgeoning career. There was also a genuinely interesting interview with Alan Greenspan in which he talked not about the latest economic news but about his 1996 “irrational exuberance” speech, his relationship with Ayn Rand, and the like. Plus an overlong visit to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, with a wireless camera that appears to have been held at belly-button level, in which an attempt was actually made to explain what they do there. (You should be able to see all or most of these at the Fox Business video site, but I can’t get it to load in my browser and thus can’t link to the segments individually.)

So it’s aspirational. It’s also more slanted politically than CNBC, but struck me as less so than Fox News Channel. Poniewozik has a post about a cringeworthy exchange between afternoon anchor David Asman (who came to Fox Business via Fox News and the Wall Street Journal editorial page) and tax-hater Grover Norquist. Almost every discussion of Washington is animated by a clear anti-tax bias (CNBC has a little of that too; these are business channels, after all), and they did an excruciatingly long live feed from the President’s Democrat-bashing speech in Rogers, Ark.

But the business coverage, which took up most of the airtime, was pretty straight, and was probably more comprehensible to non-market-geeks than most of what you’ll see on CNBC.

The question is: Are there hundreds of thousands of affluent Americans who aren’t obsessed with the market but do want to watch business news all day? I would think not, but then I wouldn’t have thought there were enough cranky, right-wing old people out there to make Fox News the No. 1 cable news channel. Roger Ailes knows a lot more about TV than I do.

I have in fact lasted until Happy Hour, broadcast from the Bull & Bear bar at the Waldorf Astoria. Hosts Cody and Rebecca are very animated. But the sound went out more than ten minutes ago (some sort of nefarious Time Warner Cable plot, I’m sure) so I can’t really tell what they’re being animated about.

Update: I can’t stop watching! I came home to discover that RCN, which was having some problems this morning, has finally succeeded in adding Fox Business to its lineup. The Dave Ramsey Show was kinda weird: Just this guy staring into the camera and speaking intently. But the message–get outta debt, get outta debt, get outta debt–is such a good one that I’m certainly not gonna complain about it. People like Ramsey and Suze Orman are American heroes. Seriously.

After Ramsey, a rerun of Neil Cavuto’s 6 p.m. broadcast came on. It began with an absurdly tendentious Cavuto rant about pharmaceutical companies and the people who want to take away all their profits to bring us free health care. What people are those, Neil? Got any names? Because that sure doesn’t sound like anything in, say, the Wyden plan. Or the Hillary plan. I almost switched channels there, but stuck it out for his interview with Mitt Romney, which was okay. Then I switched to Monday Night Football.

Speaking of tendentious, commenter Joe doesn’t like my characterization of Fox’s audience as “cranky, right-wing old people.” I was being deliberately provocative, but thanks to some numbers posted today by my new friends at Inside Cable News, I can at least speak to the “old” part. Of Fox News’ daytime audience, 71% are outside the 25-54 age segment–and I’m going to make a little leap and assume that most of those are above 54. At CNN it’s 66%, at MSNBC it’s 59%. During prime time it’s Fox: 76%, CNN: 63%, and MSNBC: 59%. So they all skew old, but Fox skews by far the oldest.