A Memo from Rupert Murdoch to Fox News staffers. "There's no doubt this has been a challenging time." pic.twitter.com/wZxaDcgfx8
— Emily Steel (@emilysteel) July 26, 2016
Looks as if there’s some continuity amid the tumult at Fox News. As captured above, Rupert Murdoch, the interim chief of Fox News and executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, has taken a stab at elevating morale at Fox News by using the most readily available tool: good news on ratings, of course. As it turns out, Fox News viewers didn’t seem to care too much that Roger Ailes, the founding visionary of the category-leading network, resigned in the middle of a sexual harassment scandal.
“Congratulations to everyone at FOX News and FOX Business — the weekly ratings came in today and once again FOX News’ combination of hard hitting journalism and expert analysis remains the number one choice for millions of Americans,” Murdoch wrote about the GOP convention week. He even noted that FOX Business swept CNBC in total day and primetime for the first time since its 2007 launch.
As this blog has written before, superior ratings have served for a decade and a half at Fox News as justification for all kinds of programming inanity, spread across the Fox News schedule and concentrated in “opinion” shows such as “Fox & Friends,” “Outnumbered” and “Hannity.” Who knows —perhaps those killer ratings also served to protect Ailes’s buttocks-grabbing, kiss-seeking ways in his executive suite.
Whatever the case, the audience is Fox News’s to lose; it’s not surprising in the least that the network’s ratings held up just fine in a crisis week. As the 2015 scandal over Bill O’Reilly’s embellishments/falsehoods/lies demonstrated, this particular audience comes out in force when its broadcasters are under siege.
If he’s serious about accentuating Fox News’s “hard hitting journalism,” Murdoch in his next memo might consider providing an example or two or three. What great stories did Fox News dig up last week? Which analysts nailed it?
The coming weeks will say more about the direction in which Murdoch expects to take Fox News. Already the network has announced the departure of Michael Clemente, the former executive vice president for news and editorial. Nothing drastic here, considering that Clemente had sustained a demotion earlier this year, taking charge of a unit producing specials. A good bet is that Murdoch wants to keep the Ailes machine going, minus, of course, the sexual harassment allegations. We’ll see if his sons, James and Lachlan Murdoch, manage to impose a different vision.