- The Washington Times - Friday, November 29, 2002

Fox News is the only cable news network with improved ratings in the past year. The network is in prime-time triumph.
With an average of 1.4 million nightly viewers this month, Fox has had a 17 percent increase in viewership compared with a year ago, according to Nielsen Media Research numbers released Wednesday.
CNN lost 31 percent of its prime-time viewers compared with last year's numbers, with an audience of 921,000. MSNBC continues to languish in third place with a 43 percent drop and 528,000 viewers.
Fox's win lends some irony to former Vice President Al Gore's implication that the network is nothing more than a Republican mouthpiece.
Cable news is "a hybrid product now that's news plus news-helper; whether it's entertainment or attitude or news that's marbled with opinion, it's different," Mr. Gore told the New York Observer this week.
Savvy broadcasters could attract a "hard-core following that appreciates the predictability of a right-wing point of view," then veil their partisanship "to avoid offending the broader audience that mass advertisers want," Mr. Gore said.
"Thus the Fox slogan, 'We report, you decide,' or whatever the current version of their ritual denial is," he said.
Still, Fox News produces four of the five top-rated cable news shows.
"The O'Reilly Factor" rules the evening with 2.4 million viewers, "Hannity & Colmes" is second with 1.6 million viewers, followed by "The Fox Report" with Shepard Smith with 1.4 million viewers.
CNN's "Larry King Live" holds on to the fourth spot with 1.4 million viewers, though Mr. King has lost 20 percent of his audience in the past year.
Fox's "Special Report" with Brit Hume is in fifth place, with 1.2 million viewers, while its "On the Record" with Greta Van Susteren bested CNN's "News Night" with Aaron Brown in the 10 p.m. slot, 1 million viewers to 808,000 viewers, respectively.
CNN, meanwhile, has taken one behind-the-scenes player and put her in front of the camera.
Dana Bash is CNN's newest White House correspondent after working as a Washington-based producer for a decade. She was named an "unsung hero" by the American Journalism Review in August and also writes a weekly column for Roll Call.
Elsewhere, cable viewers are revealing their aesthetic preferences beyond news coverage: Sports, lifestyle, science fiction, food, court drama and music are favorites.
With 2.4 million viewers, ESPN dominates non-news prime time, buoyed by cable's five highest-rated programs: a quartet of Sunday-night NFL games and a college-football match. ESPN's ratings are up 33 percent in the past year.
A dozen networks also have made substantial gains, including the Sci Fi Channel (up 43 percent), TLC (up 38 percent), the Food Network (up 20 percent), Court TV (up 17 percent), Home and Garden Television (up 17 percent) and MTV (up 14 percent).
MTV, which counts the quirky reality show "The Osbournes" as a crown jewel in its lineup, was undermined on ABC by one of musician Ozzie Osbourne's own children this week.
Daughter Kelly, 18, told the broadcast network in an interview Wednesday that MTV had staged two incidents on the show a no-no in the reality-TV realm.
"The most fake thing about that show was the family meeting, because that was an MTV idea," Miss Osbourne said. "The dog and the dog therapist, that was an MTV thing."
The music network denied all.
"You could not stage anything with that family. That is the beauty of the show," said an MTV spokesman.
Contact Jennifer Harper at [email protected]washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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