Balanced entertainment: motivations behind watching cable news
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[EMBARGOED UNTIL 6/1/2023] Cable news networks have a peculiar dynamic with their audiences compared to other television news mediums, as their privatized, highly competitive nature means they are especially dependent on attracting audiences and catering to viewer whims to maintain ratings. The nature of this dynamic has made it fertile ground for studies that examine it through a Uses and Gratifications Theory lens. Prior scholarly perspectives have focused largely on the partisan, ideological ways that cable news networks have catered to audiences, such as by decrying bias in competing networks or making vocal, performative gestures of their professed ideology. The Fox News Network is the most visible representation of this pattern of behavior, having over the decades cultivated a loyal, predominantly conservative audience, and a sizable amount of research on cable news networks has focused on Fox News and its audiences. This study sought to examine both Fox News and other cable news networks using Uses and Gratifications Theory, surveying cable news network audiences to get a sense of what uses and gratifications they tended to value and what areas they felt both their network of choice and other networks could improve in, so as to get a sense of what non-partisan factors may be serving as potential uses and gratifications for American cable news network viewers. The results of this study were mixed, and overall seemed to suggest that the independent variable that was aspects of one's personal identity and background such as age and political self-identity had a stronger influence on the dependent variable that was what uses and gratifications one prioritized instead of cable news network affiliation, which is true to the spirit of uses and gratifications theory.