Viewers Beware: Neoliberals Dominate Financial Broadcast Journalism

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Beating back reform

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While the 2016 election is going to have serious ramifications for political journalism for years to come, it should also be noted that financial broadcast journalism is more reactionary and conservative than

Beating back reform
Beating back reform

political journalism and is just as dangerous to average Americans.

The reason is that broadcast financial journalists are steeped in conservative monetary theory that extol the benefits of unregulated free markets, anti-average investor positions and the unchallenged benefits of corporations and globalism over societal accountability.

This means the average viewer of the major financial journalism outlets–FOX business, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg–receive a constant barrage of neo-liberal, conservative economic theory that shapes all of the business and investment reporting from a broadcasting network.

But what is even worse is that viewers do not even know the tainted filter their news is being subjected to. They don’t even know there are alternatives to what they are seeing in a lot of financial journalism.

This means that in financial broadcast journalism, there is really no such thing as “fair and balanced” reporting since it all comes from a single political and economic perspective.

In practice, this means viewers get a constant stream of banter and opinions that are beholden to monetarist policy, anti-Keynesian economics, and the lack of reporting about any alternative economic to unregulated capitalism, such as the benefits of co-ops.

These on-air financial reporters also minimize accountability for consumer frauds perpetrated by the likes of Well-Fargo, Swiss Bancorp, Chase, UBS, as well as the host of banks involved the LIBOR scandal. It also means that opponents of consumer protections, as evidenced by the new DOL fiduciary standard, get excessive coverage to denigrate the consumer protections, including the new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.

But what is even worse is that viewers do not even know the tainted filter their news is being subjected to. They don’t even know there are alternatives to what they are seeing in a lot of financial journalism.

The Basics of Neo-Liberalism

The dominant philosophy that governs financial broadcast journalism today is neoliberalism. The confluence of major historic events from 1978-1980 launched the forces which created neoliberalism. As described by David Harvey in A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford University Press, 2005), this doctrine  believed state-run, market-oriented companies and democratic institutions could create a new stable peaceful, inclusive political structure.

Propelled by strong post-WW II economic growth in many advanced nations in the Fifties and Sixties, the middle class and global corporations grew to unprecedented levels. The problem was that much of the Third World was left behind.

But by the end of the 1960s, these economic advances slowed or were derailed. Inflation, strikes, and the demise of fixed exchange rates accelerated this breakdown. Socialist movements gained momentum from labor, student and urban movements in many advanced capitalist countries, primarily in Europe and South America. This posed a serious political problem to the parties in power and the upper classes. But what would take its place?

But to mask the special benefits that accrued to the financial class and a few well-placed financial beneficiaries, neoliberalism was pitched as a doctrine that expanded individual liberties and unfettered entrepreneurship. Hence the popularity of social billboards, such as “Shark Tank,” Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, hedge fund managers, and the anti-regulation mantra aimed at all governmental levels.

By the 1990s, neoliberalism emerged as a powerful, alternative political philosophy. In practice, neoliberal policies created wide income disparities, reduced the role of unions, and promoted unfettered consumerism. It also produced some dramatic economic changes, such as grossly unequal income distributions, largely due to forced privatization, wherever neoliberal government policies were enacted.

This philosophy dominated business schools and is the main reason broadcast financial journalists are steeped in conservative monetary theory today. Neoliberalism extols the benefits of unregulated free markets, anti-average investor positions and the unchallenged benefits of corporations and globalism over societal accountability.

This means average viewers of the major financial journalism outlets–FOX business, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg–receive a constant barrage of neo-liberal, conservative economic theory that shapes all of their business and investment reporting.

Neoliberals on the Air

So who are the financial commentators who are most blindly pro-corporate today? It could be a longer

Protecting the corporations
Protecting the corporations

list, but the most obvious are Larry Kudlow, Stuart Varney, Lou Dobbs, David Faber, Neil Cavutto, Maria Bartiromo, Joe Kernen, Steve Liesman, and Rick Santelli. I’m sure they are all nice people, but they and their editor-producers should run more stories that show the dark sides of being in business today.

 

A recent case in point happened today when then-Bloomberg TV anchorwoman Stephanie Ruhle, (she is now on MSNBC) said “America is not ready for a socialist president” when referring to Democratic presidential contender Senator Bernie Sanders. After she made the statement, she said something to the effect “Yes, I just said that,” as if to emphasize her point, state some universal truth or to say on-air that that is what she and others in her network think about a socialist candidate for president. larry-kudlow-large

While Ruhle made her comments just before she led into a commercial break, it could have been considered a throwaway line, but it was not. The idea that American is not ready for a socialist candidate is widely said in the media, but it also ignores the fact the Sanders is tremendously popular because of his long-held beliefs about policies and politics that favor equal economic social and legal justice.

Maria Bartiromo
Maria Bartiromo

Ruhle’s comments may also reflect her personal beliefs which are fine, but in journalism school, personal beliefs do not become part of the story unless they are consciously and intentionally inserted into it and labelled as editorializing.

Ruhle is no reporter, so maybe her opinion and that of many others at FOX and CNBC, to name a few outlets, reflect the fact that most on-air financial reporters today are blatantly and blindly pro-corporate and have adopted all of the beliefs buttressing modern global corporate, anti-average investor philosophies. These would include anti-regulation, anti-environment, blindly free-market monetarism, the supremacy of the markets embodied in the Chicago and Austrian schools of economics.

In practice, these absolutist assumptions taint journalistic practices in many forms, including slanted discussions about the economic crisis in Greece (it was due to years of  profligate spending), the pro-austerity mandates issued by the World Bank and IMF, causes of the 2008 recession (irresponsible home borrowers), global warming (not due to humans and the coal industry), major financial scandals (the multi-bank, multi-trillion dollar scam to rig the LIBOR rate had no victims worldwide, according to CNBC commentator Larry Kudlow.), and even who is qualified to run for president.

It Won’t Change

These blind, pro-corporate slants are common in today’s broadcast financial journalism.  They will not change. As a result, average investors have to be alert when they hear about a bank scandal as reported by the SEC or U.S. Justice Department and compare those facts to what the broadcast outlets are saying.  The real impact of reporting any scandals is that the reporters are not interested in digging deeper into the scandals or asking for corporate or executive accountability.  That is not part of the neo-liberal agenda in financial broadcast journalism.

Instead, scandals are considered an externality, an economic or management aberration, when in reality, average citizens know that these scandals and criminal wrongdoing are an inherent part of the corporate fabric. The recent scandals at Wells-Fargo, UBS, LIBOR and Volkswagen are great examples, but I’d like to see one broadcast financial reporter who editorialized that the scandals are getting bigger and go all the way to the top of the world’s largest corporations.

We will not hear that. And that means TV viewers of broadcast journalism will just get financial reporting that is business as usual.

 

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Chuck Epstein has managed marketing communications and public relations departments for major global financial institutions and participated in the launch of industry-changing financial products. He also has written by-lined articles for over 50 publications, five books and served as editor and publisher of nation’s first newsletter on the topic of using the PC for personal investing and trading. (“Investing Online, 1994-1999). He also is a marketing consultant, writer and speaker on topics related to investor protection and opportunities in the very dynamic cannabis industry. He has held senior-level marketing, PR and communications positions at the New York Futures Exchange, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Lind-Waldock, Zacks Investment Research, Russell Investments and Principal Financial. He has won national awards from the Mutual Fund Education Alliance (MFEA) and his web site, www.mutualfundreform.com, was named best small blog in 2009 by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW).

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