It’s fascinating to see stories work their way up from the fringes of conservatives on Twitter and Reddit, to the core of right-wing blogs, out of the mouths of talk radio hosts, eventually on Fox News, and, last, from Republican politicians themselves.
Perhaps the last step hasn’t happened (yet?), but The Wall Street Journal actually published an article on Thursday dubiously claiming ESPN’s alleged left-wing bias has cost it viewers. There’s no evidence to support this whatsoever, but it’s been a constant story within the right-wing blogosphere for awhile now.
I don’t watch sports and, thus, I don’t watch ESPN. Save for when it’s on in restaurants or a handful of Keith Olbermann clips, I haven’t really sat down and watched ESPN ever. But regardless of my ambivalence toward the network, this story caught my attention as yet another bogus claim about “political correctness” run amok.
Here’s the reality:
ESPN is quite different from its [sports network competitors]: its monthly carriage fee of nearly $8.00 is absurdly high compared to that of, say, NFL Network (which bills subscribers $1.40 a month) or NBC Sports Network ($0.32). Given that we can clearly see that basic cable subscribers are cutting the cord in favor cheaper, online alternatives, it seems a much more rational projection to assume that people seeking to reduce their cable bills would start with the programming that constitutes such a large percentage of it.
That choice has only become possible through more recent diversifications of cable package options. Until quite recently, ESPN was essentially included in even the most basic of basic-cable packages; now, at least with my providers, it is part of a number of “tiers” subscribers can choose from—meaning that for the first time, you can subscribe to TNT, CNN, and the national broadcast networks without buying the “basic sports tier” of ESPN and its more-expensive associates.
Conservatives feel driven to connect ESPN’s ratings tumble to its (alleged) political bias because they are desperate to find real examples to justify their conspiratorial views about so-called “political correctness.” While a handful of out-of-context Tumblr postings might work on Breitbart, normal people need something more concrete than that.