I've always been suspicious of the FOX "News" claim of being #1 in cable news. First of all, they're not--strictly speaking--news, but I'll drop that for now. There are whole websites devoted to debunking the fairness and balance of FOX (Newshounds.us being my favorite). So I'm automatically suspicious of anything I see there.
I stumbled upon this report--outdated, sure--but explaining how the ratings work, and what they really mean. It is quite illuminating. Basically, FOX "News" viewers seem to tune in to the channel, and just leave it there. CNN viewers stop in to get the news, and then go elsewhere. Like normal people. Hee.
If I happen upon a newer version of this data, I'll bring it here. It is possible that the ratings race has changed since 2004. In any event, the article will explain things you may not have known.
The Ratings Mirage
Why Fox has higher ratings--when CNN has more viewers
Reporting on the ratings rivalry between the Fox News Channel (FNC) and CNN is often misleading--and almost always over-hyped.
"Fox Tops CNN as Choice for Cable News," declared one typical headline (Chicago Tribune , 3/24/03). "Fox News Channel Continues to Crush CNN ," reported Knight Ridder (Dallas Morning News , 2/3/04) in a column comparing the rivalry to a party primary: "Fox News Channel is winning the Nielsen caucuses." Last summer (8/17/03), the New York Times Magazine declared, looking back at the period of the Iraq invasion, "Fox was--and still is--trouncing CNN in the ratings."
After exposure to countless similar stories published since January 2002, when Fox was reported to have surpassed CNN in the Nielsen ratings, one might naturally conclude that Fox has more viewers than CNN.
But it's not true. On any given day, more people typically tune to CNN than to Fox .
Read on at: FAIR.org