Since shortly before Christmas, Fox News Channel has not been available on Dish Network. In a new ad released on Saturday, the network levels a charge clearly meant to resonate with its audience: Dish is "censoring your news."
The spot, which ran during NFL playoff games according to CNN, points viewers to KeepFoxNews.com at which they are encouraged to enter a ZIP code and find a replacement television provider. (The site also features a row of Fox's popular news shows, with a forlorn "And you have also lost" prefacing the substantially-less-popular Fox Business network.)
In its own standalone site, Dish claims that it "got close to having a new agreement to carry FOX News," when negotiations stalled. "When FOX refused to extend the contract," it says, "our only option was to stop carrying FOX News." That assessment is shared by most independent accounts of the debate: Fox is off the air on Dish because the two companies couldn't reach an agreement on a new contract. In December, Dish told the Wall Street Journal that Fox was trying to use the expiration of the Fox News contract to increase fees for other networks. At that point, Fox said that Dish "did not want to accept terms and commitments that have become customary in a Fox News renewal." This isn't the first time the two companies have been at odds. Several years ago, last minute negotiations managed to keep several other Fox stations on Dish.
Fox News consistently leads in cable news ratings, having beaten MSNBC and CNN among viewers aged 25-54 for 13 straight years. That's in part thanks to the loyalty of the viewers that are being asked to express their frustration with Dish. In 2013, Gallup found that one-fifth of Republicans listed Fox News as their main news source, more than twice the number of Democrats who called CNN theirs. Last year, Pew Research found that 47 percent of conservatives listed Fox News as their main source of political news -- and that Fox News was one of the few media outlets that they trust.
The ad's charge of censorship -- repeated at the website -- is clearly meant to play on that loyalty and that skepticism. The spot "mimics the often-outraged tone of commentary on Fox News," CNN's Brian Stelter writes. That's underselling it. There's no indication that the tone is being mimicked so much as it is being deployed.
But it's hard to tell if the change in tone is working. The first time Fox's Twitter account for the campaign used the "censorship" charge, it was in response to a user named @TXLady27.
On Facebook, users were often similarly skeptical.
These are anecdotal responses; Fox claims that 90,000 users have cancelled Dish subscriptions. Some Fox viewers, though, clearly feel more sympathy for FNC's talent than its corporate parent.
Which is why Dish's boldest move against Fox must sting. Fox News has been replaced by Glenn Beck's The Blaze -- the network Beck founded when he and Fox parted ways several years ago. The Blaze doesn't have the depth that Fox News does, but it is one of the few other networks trusted by conservatives, according to Pew. It just didn't have as big an audience.