Tuesday, May 22, 2012

SOURCE: Fox News Baltimore Launches Slanted "Robo Push Poll" on Gov. Martin O'Malley, Dream Act & Marriage Equality

UPDATE: Tonight, The Baltimore Sun published a response from Fox Baltimore and Gov. O'Malley's spokesperson about the strange robo push poll (excerpt below):
BALTIMORE SUN: As if robocalls didn't have a bad enough reputation in the world of Baltimore media and politics thanks to consultant Julius Henson's activity in the last gubernatorial election, along comes WBFF (Channel 45) Monday night with its own questionable computer-generated calls into hundreds of thousands on Maryland homes.

And the calls continued Tuesday. I received one at my home in Baltimore City both days. Racquel Guillory, director of communications for Gov. Martin O'Malley, also received one at home in Howard County Monday night around dinnertime....

The questions were about the Dream Act, The Civil Marriage Protection Act, Maryland income taxes being raised, O'Malley's "legislative agenda" and whether the governor backed the Civil Marriage Protection Act and the Dream Act to "further his political career"? In the call, Barnd describes the The Civil Marriage Protection Act as the "focus of his (O'Malley's) legislative agenda...."

WBFF general manager Bill Fanshawe said he and Scott Livingston, the VP of news operations for Sinclair, hired an "outside advertising company" to conduct the poll. He declined to name the firm or say where it was headquartered, but the phone number that respondents were asked to call Monday night was the 202 Washington exchange....

He said the calls were made to "hundreds of thousands" of Maryland homes, and that the station has received 60,000 responses....

Guillory, who said she was speaking from her "perspective as the communications director who received a phone call, rather than for the governor's office," has a very different take on the calls....

In Guillory's professional opinion, "The average person could have clearly been swayed by the way the questions were worded. Being in the thick of it here, I'm know what's going on, but the average person could have clearly been swayed by the questions...."

When pressed for an explanation of that, she added, "I'm not surpised because of where the call came from...."

A reliable Maryland Juice source who is a resident of Baltimore City reports that yesterday Fox News Baltimore (WBFF 45) conducted what they call a "robo push poll." If their description is accurate, this smells an awful lot like rightwing news activism against Gov. O'Malley and some of his legislative priorities. See their report below:
ANONYMOUS SOURCE: The call was a recorded message, and was read by Jeff Barnes (who is one of their evening news anchors).  The call stated that it was being offered by FOX45 News in Baltimore.
After talking about an evening news story on ticks and Lyme disease in MD, the call went on to explain that FOX45 will be covering topics of interest to MD'ers during the upcoming election season and will be doing phone surveys on those issue. Then it asked if I wished to participate (and I said yes).
In addition to q's below it asked, Will you vote in November election ? (y/n)
Explains that the MD legislature passed the DREAM Act last year, and that it HAS been petitioned to referendum and will be on the ballot in Nov.  Will you vote to keep the DREAM Act (y/n)
Explains that MD legislature has passed the Civil Marriage Protection Act, and that it MAY be petitioned to referendum -- will you vote to keep the law ? (y/n)
Do you think that Gov O'Malley promoted these two issues to further his own political career (y/n)
That's about all I can remember.

PATTERN OF RIGHTWING NEWS ACTIVISM: You may recall that last February, Maryland Juice reported that the very same FOX television station put links on their website to try and steer readers to petitions against marriage equality and a proposed gas tax. A link labeled "same-sex marriage petition" steered people directly to the petition to ban marriage equality in Maryland. Notably, both the marriage and gas tax proposals were priorities for Gov. O'Malley in this year's legislative session. After numerous complaints, FOX 45 eventually created a more "fair and balanced" landing page that had links to both a pro and con side. See the original screencap below (ie: before they fixed the problem):

QUICK NOTE OF CAUTION: Now I know some folks will say that this isn't a story because it is FOX News and we should expect bias. But let's be clear here -- the local FOX affiliates are not the same as the national FOX news (ie: the one on cable with idiots like Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, etc.). In the D.C. metro area, I would be surprised to see FOX 5 engaging in such blatant political advocacy. Notably, Baltimore's FOX 45 is owned by the rightwing Sinclair Broadcast Group - a Maryland based corporation.

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