Of course it's 10 billion times worse when the man behind the entire channel donates to partisan causes than when a partisan host does it. Why? Because a partisan host is known for being partisan, whereas a good portion of the Fox News Channel at least pretends to be non-partisan. I'd say that's also where Fox's success largely comes from.
Because Fox and MSNBC are selling prepacked points of view that are intended to cater to their audience, whoever does a better job of disguising this fact is obviously going to be more successful. Conservatives don't just love Fox because Fox tells them what they want to hear, they love Fox because Fox tells them what they want to hear while pretending that their unapologetic persistent bias isn't bias. If someone's going to lie to me in order to feed my delusional ideological superiority complex, who am I going to prefer, the good liar or the bad one? Pretending that they are "fair and balanced" is a key facet of their success, despite how utterly disingenuous it is to anyone with self-scrutiny and/or an intellectual pulse.
MSNBC's greatest failing is pretty obvious, they don't cover up their bias well enough. I mean, MSNBC's latest slogan is a nod towards progressiveness for god's sake. There are also a number of other factors against them: target demographics of cable news skew conservative, America is a center-right country when it comes to the economically represented middle class (and thus the TV consumer pool), and they're a bit late to the game as Fox got the jump on everyone else by being the first news outlet to transition into this model. I think if MSNBC wants to be successful they need to go more "moveon.org," work on their stonewalling skills, and adopt a slogan like "MSNBC: integrity, truth, just the facts ma'am."
Some better commentators that appeal to the personality of liberals wouldn't hurt either, I think that's why Hannity's so successful, the guy comes off as a pro-family values boyscout, the perfect conservative male mascot. That's another reason why Stewart's so successful with the liberal crowd, I think, it isn't just the way he expresses liberal ideas succinctly, it's that he does it in a fashion that liberals can respect. Whereas even when my liberal friends agree with Olbermann, they usually think he's a douche.
Personally, watching MSNBC or Fox is a quick recipe for rage for me. I've long thought what Koppel eloquently said about how the media has changed to sell justification for points of view and not information. This is extremely dangerous because MSNBC and Fox are echo chambers where certain portions of America are being radicalized. People are being fed twisted information in a way that makes their respective political party look guiltless on a grand scale, thus furthering their confidence in their own ideology. In reality both political parties have their failings which are rooted in their ideologies.
Today the GOP does a terrible job of dealing with abuses of corporations (Enron, Wall Street, etc.), favors the social status quo even when that means inequality (opposition to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Gay Marriage), and makes a point of regularly opposing scientific certitudes (evolution and global warming). Free market fundamentalism, traditionalism, and an unwillingness to accept that there are some things that government has to do are responsible for this.
Democrats err in polar-opposite ways: they put their faith in government to solve problems while proving why that's a bad idea unless it's necessary (supporting expansion of governmental responsibility while corruption, waste, fraud, and abuse run rampant in our bureaucratic processes and in their own party -- thank you Charlie Wrangle [not that I'm saying Republicans are less corrupt]), they seem to be practically incapable of cutting government programs (despite how much Obama talked this up before getting into office -- and lets face it, some things need to be cut), they pander to the majority of the country while not thinking too much about the rights of the outlying individual (health insurance mandate, tax the rich, et cetera), and their business policies largely make no sense (they want to tax them more, increase their regulatory burden, and impose harsher penalties for any untoward behavior, yet expect corporations not to move overseas -- yeah, that's totally consistent).
A middle of the road approach is the only way to moderate the extremes and actually get anything done which won't come back to bite us in the ass later (like deregulation has with the recent economic crisis and burgeoning social programs have with social security insolvency). This is something the majority of the country seems to be aware of, at least if you consider the public's supposed interest in bipartisanship. However, as long as the bases of the parties remain so radicalized (by Cable News, Talk Radio, etc.), this will probably never happen. No one seems willing to accept that our politicians are a reflection of our failings because we choose to put them in power. Washington's mess is our mess and our fault if you believe this country is still a Democracy.
If you don't, well... That's a gap of conspiratorial thinking that I don't know how to bridge.