Warming-Up for Women’s History Month: A Guide by Bill O’Reilly

Fox News Channel has a history of unethical behaviour and the reputation of promoting the conservative political position, leading to the tendency of biased reporting. Just last month Bill O’Reilly, a political commentator, managed to offend whole generations of women in his program “The O’Reilly Factor” in a mater of minutes.

Bill O'Reilly with Kristen Powers and Kate Obenshain

Bill O’Reilly with Kristen Powers and Kate Obenshain

Posing the question whether or not there may be downsides to having a women president, is one of the many cases of ethical malpractice Fox News and O’Reilly have been accused of.

Gender discrimination, either in print or broadcasting journalism, is a strict violation of the code of ethics provided by National Union of Journalists (NUJ). Code 9 states that no material shall be produced which will likely lead to hatred or discrimination on the grounds of gender. O’Reilly stereotypes women as a sensitive being and works with prejudice, hinting that woman are inferior beings (“They think that women are like sub-species”).

Journalistic profession and their regulations depend from one country to another.  According to Ofcom, the communications regulator for media broadcasting providing ethical rules for the UK, Bill O’Reilly committed several offences. Section Five, concerning impartiality and accuracy and undue prominence of views and opinions in the broadcasting media, will serve as the basis of the argument that O’Reilly violated this section. Journalism is there to serve the public, giving them the information needed in order to make a rational decision (Frost, 2010*). O’Reilly’s interview is based on allegations and blinded prejudice, whose aim is to discredit potential female presidential candidates, such as Hillary Clinton. Through his misleading and distorted interpretation of the issue, disguising his impartial motives, he gives them off as actual facts (“There haven’t been that many strong women leaders throughout history.”). How is the audience supposed to make sense of reality? The way O’Reilly questions the interviewees, stirs the conversation to his views (“Let’s keep [the conversation] on women.”), in order to get the answer he strives for.  By using hypothetical examples and by promoting them as accurate (“Cause I know that this is going to happen.”), contributes to the on-going impartiality, inaccuracy and, in this case, gender discrimination. Inviting two women, representing the voices of two different political parties and the thoughts and concerns of women, is supposed to give the notion of objectivity. By never letting them come to word, belittling and twisting their words, it rather creates an imbalance of views and also misinterpretation. O’Reilly evokes prejudice to his audience, with no academic and balanced arguments. He is an opinion-maker, rather than a journalist whose first principle is to provide society with information needed in order to be free and self-governing.

Journalistic professionalization in the UK, with help of NUJ and Ofcom, has helped palliate cases of unethical malpractice, such as discrimination of gender, to an extent. With policies and codes of conducts it furthers to help improve and promote the professional standards to foremost serve society through ethical and impartial ways. It can further establish a bigger platform for the audience to make its own judgment on the basis of the argument brought up by media, which is the first priority of journalism to begin with.

* Frost, Chris (2010). Journalism Ethics and Regulation. 3rd Edition. Harlow: Longman.

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