RealClearPolitics Media Watch

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Great "News" for Conservatives

The presidency of Barack Obama has proved to be a boon for conservative media. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have relished being targeted by the administration by name. And Fox News is continuing its reign as the ruler of the cable news universe.

While Fox News remains comfortably ahead of MSNBC and CNN in total and prime-time ratings, it has vaulted into second place in prime-time among all cable networks, behind only USA. Fox News' prime-time audience (2.8 million) easily doubled CNN (1.3 million) and MSNBC (1.1 million). Through February, Fox News has led the cable news ratings for 86 consecutive months.

Standing athwart of the Obama tide and yelling stop has been great business for Fox News, whose overall ratings jumped (21%) in February while CNN's declined sharply (44%). While claiming that its news programming is non-partisan, Fox News has benefited from its commentators' vociferous criticism of the Obama administration. The top three rated news talk shows currently are, in order: Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck.

Hannity's show has gotten a lift (up 38%) since shedding his hapless liberal sidekick Alan Colmes in January. But the addition of Glenn Beck to the 5 p.m. slot has proved to be a ratings bonanza that's beyond even the network's expectations. Beck, 45, who hosted his show on Headline News the last two years, has doubled the ratings for the time slot since joining Fox News in January. "I look at the ratings every day shocked," he told the L.A. Times.

The liberal-led lineup of MSNBC has also gained ground, getting a huge boost from Rachel Maddow in the 9 p.m. slot. Maddow, 35, is now regularly beating CNN's old war horse Larry King, whose show is now the lone CNN prime-time program in the top 20 in cable ratings.

Just how bad are things at CNN, the erstwhile industry leader and purported "centrist" in the cable news war? For two days last week, it was beaten by Headline News in prime-time. Yep, the little-sister network did it with Nancy Grace, whose coverage of the sensational Florida murder mystery of Caylee Anthony topped Anderson Cooper in the 10 p.m. slot.