Roger Ailes has signed a new four-year contract to serve as chairman and chief executive of Fox News and chairman of Fox Television Stations, properties of News Corp. A quick primer on what the news means:
Four more years of fun: Upon Fox News’s 15th anniversary last year, Ailes was asked by the Associated Press why the channel always drubs its cable rivals. Ailes responded:
“The consistency of our product,” Ailes sums up matter-of-factly. “I think we do better television than the other guys, and no matter how we do it, they don’t seem to catch up. We seem to out-invent them and think ahead of them, and have better story ideas, better graphics, better on-air talent. We just are better television producers.”
Put aside for a moment the experience of “Fox & Friends,” the morning show whose reliable graphics failures would seem to contradict Ailes’s boast. And put aside for a moment the recent experience of Shepard Smith, the afternoon anchor whose production failure with a tragic car chase would also seem to contradict Ailes’s boast.
With those caveats caveatted, Ailes has a point. Fox News is fun to watch. It’s often wrong, it’s nearly always slanted and it’s occasionally irresponsible. But it’s fun television. Anchors have a great batting average when it comes to dragging very good-looking guests onto the air and igniting arguments over the issues of the day. The discussions tend not to inform; in fact, they’re commonly teed up by tendentious talking points that set the conversation on a moronic course. Still, they’re fun — there’s entertainment in watching liberal guest after liberal guest trying to dig themselves out of the polemical holes excavated by Fox hosts.
Four more years of amnesia: Ailes is great about touting the Fox News product, less great about acknowledging its pitfalls. In the spring, he claimed to an audience in North Carolina that Fox over 15 years never had to take “a story down because it was wrong. You can’t say that about CNN, CBS or the New York Times.” He was forgetting, of course, about the Washington Monument “tilting,” among other classic Fox mistakes. And since then, Fox has misreported a Supreme Court decision, claimed that the Environmental Protection Agency was “using aerial spy drones for years to spy on cattle ranchers,” aired misleading employment statistics and so on. But Ailes isn’t paid in the tens of millions of dollars per year to remember about that kind of stuff.
Four more years of lockdown: The Fox Mole, a Fox News employee who posted some insidery company gossip on Gawkerthis year, didn’t expose anything particularly scandalous at the cable channel. Except the fact that Fox is a place that brutally punishes anyone who dares talk about the company without authorization and in less than glowing terms.
Four more years of illusions: Under Ailes’s brilliant management, Fox has pushed the notion that its daytime programming is “objective,” right down the middle of the country’s political divide. Watch it for a few days and decide for yourself.
Four more years of car chases? After the outrage over the Arizona debacle diminishes, will Fox return to the highways?
Four more years of Libya: Will Fox continue running the footage of the flaming U.S. compound in Benghazi through the end of Ailes’s term in 2016?