Fox News boss Roger Ailes made news last week with the announcement that he’d be staying atop the cable-news behemoth for another four years. His total compensation for the fiscal year that ended in June, according to the New York Times, was $21 million.
With Ailes set to spend another presidential-length term at Fox News, perhaps it’s time to settle another multimillion-dollar contract: The one that Fox and other News Corp. properties maintain with the Associated Press.
Viewers of Fox News may well get the sense that the cable-news outlet doesn’t like the ubiquitous wire service. Earlier this month, for instance, Fox eminence Bill O’Reilly complained about the AP after one of its photographers snapped a controversial photo of Mitt Romney crouching in front of a child with a gaping expression on her face. The photo, argued O’Reilly, wasn’t just an aberrational lapse in judgment by the AP:
The AP is one of the largest newswire services in the world. And it’s biased against Mitt Romney. I think that’s true, beyond a reasonable doubt.
That O’Reilly segment likely polled well in the office of the Fox chief executive. In May, Ailes said of the AP in an interview at Ohio University, his alma mater, “It tips left all the time now.”
In a separate interview with WOUB, the university’s public broadcasting service, Ailes remarked that 50 years ago, the AP was a “neutral” news source that has now shifted into some non-neutral gear.
In that chat, Ailes also let slip some proprietary data about the wire service’s business with Fox News and related properties: “It’s funny — I’m in a negotiation with AP now for about $24 million, which is what News Corp., that I work for, pays them to give us sort of non-neutral news.”
No telling how far that “negotiation” has progressed. AP spokesman Paul Colford refused to comment when asked about the discussions; Fox News didn’t respond to an e-mail about the AP contract nor did News Corp. It’s not unusual for negotiations between a news giant like News Corp. and a wire service like AP to drag on for a spell, in light of all the platform complexities — multimedia and so on. Ailes’s attitude could slow things down as well. “I may not sign the contract,” Ailes said in May.
Whatever the fate of the contract, Fox appears committed to treating AP content with maximum opportunism. When it feels the wire service overreaches with alleged liberal bias, it’ll hammer away. And when AP comes up with a scoop that cuts in the opposite direction, Fox will simply tout the news. That’s what happened last Friday, after the AP reported that the CIA’s Libya station chief had reported within 24 hours of Benghazi that the attack was the work of “militants, not a spontaneous mob upset about an American-made video ridiculing Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.” That story, which provided ammo for opponents of the Obama administration, appealed to Fox. It called the piece a “small bombshell” and whipped up this chyron:
RPT: CIA Libya Station Chief Reported Attack Was the Work of Militants within 24 Hours