Murdoch’s First Day

Posted in FNC on July 22, 2016 by icn2

The Hollywood Reporter’s Marisa Guthrie writes about Rupert Murdoch’s first day minding the FNC store…

Certainly Rupert Murdoch is no stranger to the business of Fox News, which is among the portfolio’s most valuable assets and contributes nearly 25 percent to the company’s bottom line. But his multiple weekly conversations with Ailes were about big-picture topics, not day-to-day operations. And so Murdoch’s task ahead is familiarizing himself with the running of the channel. In this effort, Rupert is said to be leaning heavily on current Fox News executives including Jay Wallace, who in April was promoted to executive vp news and editorial, CFO Mark Kranz, and especially Bill Shine, a longtime Fox News executive who runs primetime programming and also oversees Fox Business Network. Shine is said to be in the running for the permanent CEO job.

In addition, Fox News communications chief Irena Briganti will remain as executive vp of corporate communications of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, a move that might surprise some journalists because of Briganti’s years of hard-charging allegiance to Ailes. A spokesperson for 21st Century Fox confirmed that she will stay on and she was at work on Friday.

From Lawsuit Prep to Resignation

Posted in FNC on July 22, 2016 by icn2

The Washington Post’s Manuel Roig-Franzia, Scott Higham, Paul Farhi, and Krissah Thompson turn in a must read on the runup to Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit and how it brought down Roger Ailes.

One day in early June, an embattled but determined news anchor, a public relations man and a group of attorneys settled into chairs around the conference table on the 35th floor of a law office on Madison Avenue in Manhattan.

Gretchen Carlson’s tenure as an on-air host at Fox News was imperiled, and she knew it. For the previous nine months she’d been quietly meeting with attorneys to craft a sexual-harassment lawsuit against her boss, the all-powerful Fox News chairman, Roger Ailes. Now she was almost ready to go public with her allegation that Ailes had sabotaged her career because she wouldn’t have sex with him. But questions ricocheted around the room.

What would be the fallout? How would this be perceived? How would it play?

“We knew Fox was a high-powered, very potent machine that would go into full attack mode,” recalled Carlson’s public relations agent, Allan Ripp, who was meeting his client for the first time that day. “But she was resolved.”

Within weeks, Carlson would be out of a job, and a cascading series of events, unfolding with dizzying speed, would culminate in the public shaming and resignation this week of Ailes, one of the most influential executives in American television history, as well as a primary architect of the modern-day Republican Party and conservative movement. News of Carlson’s firing, and the lawsuit she filed shortly thereafter, have now prompted 25 women to come forward with what they describe as similar harassment claims against Ailes that stretch across five decades back to his days in the 1960s as a young television producer, according to Carlson’s attorney, Nancy Erika Smith.

Ailes: Tick Tock…

Posted in FNC on July 21, 2016 by icn2

The New York Times John Koblin, Emily Steele, and Jim Rutenberg have new details on what went down and how…including some very pointed commentary from one Kirsten Powers who made a statement after Ailes left that may be the start of something larger internally at FNC…

Mr. Ailes was not there. Mr. Murdoch had barred him from the building starting on Wednesday, according to one person briefed on the matter. The person said Fox News’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, had learned Mr. Ailes was trying to get some of his on-air stars to criticize those who cooperated with investigators looking into accusations of sexual harassment against him.

Murdoch himself barred him? That says a lot to me. An awful lot.

Among those who cooperated with investigators looking into the allegations against Mr. Ailes was one of his on-air stars, Megyn Kelly. She had been among a small group of employees who resisted a campaign to rally support for Mr. Ailes, which came to be viewed as a “loyalty test,” according to several staff members, who declined to be identified.

Ms. Kelly told investigators that she received repeated, unwanted advances from Mr. Ailes, which she rejected, according to two people briefed on her account. The entreaties, which happened in the early part of her career at Fox, bothered Ms. Kelly to the point that she retained a lawyer because she worried that her rejections would jeopardize her job, though they ultimately did not.


During the investigation, led by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, around 10 women have come forward with stories of inappropriate conduct from Mr. Ailes while at Fox News, according to a person briefed on the investigation.


The campaign to rally support for Mr. Ailes ultimately became a problem for him. It included declarations casting doubt on Ms. Carlson’s charges from hosts including Greta Van Susteren, Jeanine Pirro and Neil Cavuto, who in an op-ed described the accusations as “sick.”

Several female staff members had said on Wednesday that they feared that campaign was making younger female staff members with their own stories to tell too frightened to speak with investigators — something the investigators feared as well, people briefed on their inquiry said this week.

A friend of Ms. Kelly, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Ms. Kelly resisted pressure to support Mr. Ailes, and cooperated with the investigation so that those other staff members would “feel more comfortable coming forward to tell the truth.”

And then we get to Powers…

On Thursday night, Kirsten Powers, a Fox contributor for 11 years, said: “While I understand loyalty, I was disappointed that so many senior members of Fox’s on-air team rushed to defend Roger in a way that seemed to prejudge an investigation into sexual harassment. I would hope that in 2016 people would know that just because you weren’t harassed, or didn’t witness harassment by a certain man, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”

Rupert Murdoch Displays His Business Smarts…

Posted in FNC on July 21, 2016 by icn2

The news that Rupert Murdoch will take over for Roger Ailes, at least for the time being, is just the latest example of how smart a businessman he is. There were so many ways he could have screwed this up. But he took the smart route. By taking charge it immediately sends a signal of continuity and assurance for the staff of a “steady as she goes” outlook. At least for the near term.

Immediately promoting from within was a risky proposition. As far as Murdoch was concerned FNC has been essentially a black box with one contact point, Ailes. Unlike most of his other media properties, Murdoch has taken an essentially “hands off” attitude to interfering with FNC (one notable outlier would be the force fed O’Reilly/Olbermann truce which only blew up when it was publicly revealed by Brian Stelter).

Because FNC was a black box to Murdoch he needed to understand how things functioned inside before making any seismic decisions…like appointing a permanent replacement. Taking over gives Murdoch that opportunity to see how things work and who does it best. It affords him the time to look and see if there are any internal candidates worthy of the job.

There is a saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. This saying is both applicable and no longer applicable in FNC’s case. It’s applicable because Murdoch wants to preserve the cash cow FNC has become.

But it is no longer applicable because with Ailes gone FNC is indeed “broke” in one very critical aspect. FNC was Ailes and Ailes was FNC. Everything that made FNC what it is came directly from the man. Nobody else on the planet is qualified to replicate that vision. Not Murdoch. Not Shine. Nobody. Only Ailes could run FNC that way. So, by removing Ailes, Murdoch did break FNC in as much as the way it was run cannot be continued without Ailes.

So the task at hand is to thread the needle; to try and retain as much of what made FNC the network it is knowing full well it can’t be fully retained. It is going to change to some extent. Because of that and because of the great responsibility such a task requires, Rupert Murdoch was the best and only choice to take it on.

Ailes Fallout: Winners and Losers

Posted in FNC on July 21, 2016 by icn2

Winner: Gabe Sherman – Derided for years as an opportunist and a liar, Sherman showed once and for all that his cadre of sources inside FNC and 21st Century FOX are undeniably real. Nobody else came close to chronicling this story. It doesn’t excuse some of the stuff he wrote in the past which for me took on too much of a “personal vandetta” feel to some stories…but it does make his fiercest detractors have to swallow hard and re-examine their stance. Which leads me to…

Loser: Joe Concha – If Sherman can be accused of going over the top in his Ailes/FNC obsession…not an implausible accusation in my mind…Concha can be accused of having just as bad an over the top obsession with knocking Sherman down. It’s one thing to fact check someone. It’s another to come after someone like Sherman with that much hostility. While I could stand with Concha on the periphery of some of the things he had to say about Sherman, the totality of his aggression just didn’t add up for me. Even this week when writing up Sherman being out in front of the story Concha not only said that this story would make or break Sherman, something I also wrote, he had to go back and blast him again over issues which some aren’t the slam dunk he makes them out to be.

Well Sherman wound up being right and right with the sources Concha used to ridicule.

Winner: Gretchen Carlson – This is both conditional and temporary. Even though everyone knows Ailes resigned because of what her lawsuit triggered, the victory for her here is mostly superficial and short term.

Nothing in today’s announcement from 21st Century FOX of Ailes’ resignation references sexual harassment, save for those vague words the Murdoch brothers said about “we continue our commitment to maintaining a work environment based on trust and respect” in their statement that was part of the release.

That’s it. If Sherman was correct that haggling over an admission of guilt or acknowledgement of wrongdoing of some sort is partly what held up Ailes’ resignation, I would score this as a big victory for Ailes. There’s nothing in this statement that Carlson could use in a courtroom to help her case. So, while her actions wound up getting Ailes ousted…the long term goal is the lawsuit and this doesn’t help that.

Loser: Neil Cavuto – Plenty of people came out supporting Ailes; that in itself is not a problem. Just because someone allegedly was a sexual harasser doesn’t mean everyone knows about it or had first hand experienced it. So it’s entirely plausible for people to have divergently alternate experiences with someone.

What sets Cavuto’s response apart from the rest is his position in the company. He’s an executive. His visceral reaction (“sick”) to this story carries different weight if he’s an executive than if he’s just talent. I’ll give Cavuto the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t consider the ramifications because of his role as an executive (though he really should have because any executive worth their salt needs to). But, optically, it nevertheless is a very bad look for Cavuto…

Winner: The Murdoch brothers – Ailes has been their nemesis for decades. They finally got him out.

Loser: The Murdoch brothers – If a now Ailes-less FNC starts dropping in the ratings or talent and/or exec staff starts leaving, they’ll be blamed for pushing Ailes out.

Loser: Trusted Ailes advisers and staff – Ailes staffed his network not only with staffers you would call loyalists but people who could be charitably characterized as “toadies”. With him gone, they lose their protection. Many of them could be gone within a year. If not sooner.

Loser: FNC contributors who appeared on the air solely because they had connections to Ailes. There are a few who could be seeing their last days on the air now.

Loser: Media writers – FNC just got a little duller. A little less interesting to write about. As did cable news as a whole. Jeff Zucker now takes over as the most polarizing cable news network President but he has nothing on Roger. Media writers will miss having Ailes around because Ailes always made things interesting.

Winner: Media writers – Potentially. Depends on what happens to FNC’s PR department now that Ailes isn’t around. If I created a drinking game where you had to take a drink if you found a media writer who didn’t have a worst ever most caustic experience with FNC PR over the most insignificant thing…well…you may not be opening that bottle for a while. Losing Ailes could translate into a company wide culture change as it potentially sheds that paranoid bunker mentality stance Roger Ailes actively drove.

Loser: Rupert Murdoch – It must make him sick no end to see Ailes have to go out and go out like this. So much of 21st Century FOX’s performance is now based on that cable news monolith Roger Ailes built…and built without Murdoch needing to meddle the way he would routinely meddle in his newspapers in decades gone by. Ailes was trustworthy. Ailes was dependable. Losing Ailes, like handing the controls over the James and Lachlan, is just another sign that it’s really not his ship anymore.

Winner: Corporate sexual harassment responsibility – Even if there’s nothing to Carlson’s suit, the exposure of this story and Ailes’ resignation has put sexual harassment in the forefront of HR departments country-wide.

Loser: Megyn Kelly – Potentially, depending on how things play out internally at FNC. It is clear that there is a sizeable contingent inside FNC who never experienced the alleged side of Roger Ailes that Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit over. As I said earlier, I find this outcome to be entirely plausible. But Carlson is an ex-FNC employee. Megyn Kelly isn’t.

If it’s true that Kelly came forward to talk about incidents of harassment with Ailes (I’ll ignore the stories that she allegedly also counseled others), this could create quite a rift between those who experienced Ailes alleged harassment and those who did not. Kelly, being the highest profile female talent for the network, will automatically be a figurehead for that. It’s hard to predict how corporate culture reacts to news it had no idea existed as a possibility.

Say what you will but the fact that 21st Century FOX forced Ailes out with Rupert’s blessing in just a few days screams volumes about what Paul, Weiss may have turned up in its investigation. Ailes doesn’t just fall on his sword for the greater good as is being made out here in his letter. He’s too much a fighter.

All of this has the potential…and I said potential mind you…to create some resentment toward Kelly. Ailes’ dismissal isn’t the end of this story. It’s just the beginning as HR has to manage this situation very carefully to keep the newsroom from tearing itself in two.

Update: I spent some time thinking about this and I don’t think I was clear enough on a couple of points regarding Kelly. I think I didn’t make it clear enough that Kelly should not be the victim of any blowback for co-operating with Paul, Weiss regardless of what her testimony was. I was exploring the possibility of a schism that could develop between those who experienced one side of Ailes and those who allegedly experienced another side of Ailes not seen by the former. As such Kelly, with her stature as FNC’s most high profile female talent, would automatically rise to the top as the leader whether she truly lead or not. It’s not fair to her but it is what it is. I don’t think I parsed this very well earlier.

This is a very delicate phase FNC now enters in to. A cable news network isn’t your typical corporate structure. You have ego driven talent, territorial EPs, and domineering high strung executives thrown into a 24/7 pressure cooker environment. There are leaks, agendas, vendettas, grudges, alliances, and cliques galore with too many people looking to preserve their public persona and the stature it carries. As such, a cable news network seems to me to be a more susceptible environment for developing that kind of schism than your typical corporate structure…especially if the alleged perp is the guy who has been the only authority figure they’ve ever known while working there and everyone owes their position to him to in one way or another.

Roger Ailes Resigns…

Posted in FNC, Miscellaneous Subjects on July 21, 2016 by icn2

Here’s 21st Century FOX’s statement

Roger Ailes Resigns as Chairman and CEO of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, and Chairman Fox Television Stations

Rupert Murdoch to Assume Role of Chairman and Acting CEO of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network

New York, NY – July 21, 2016 – 21st Century Fox today announced that Roger Ailes, Chairman and CEO of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, and Chairman of Fox Television Stations, has resigned from his role effective immediately.

Rupert Murdoch will assume the role of Chairman and acting CEO of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network.

Rupert Murdoch, Executive Chairman, 21st Century Fox, said:

“Roger Ailes has made a remarkable contribution to our company and our country. Roger shared my vision of a great and independent television organization and executed it brilliantly over 20 great years.

Fox News has given voice to those who were ignored by the traditional networks and has been one of the great commercial success stories of modern media.

It is always difficult to create a channel or a publication from the ground up and against seemingly entrenched monopolies. To lead a flourishing news channel, and to build Fox Business, Roger has defied the odds.

His grasp of policy and his ability to make profoundly important issues accessible to a broader audience stand in stark contrast to the self-serving elitism that characterizes far too much of the media.

I am personally committed to ensuring that Fox News remains a distinctive, powerful voice. Our nation needs a robust Fox News to resonate from every corner of the country.

To ensure continuity of all that is best about Fox News and what it stands for, I will take over as Chairman and acting CEO, with the support of our existing management team under Bill Shine, Jay Wallace and Mark Kranz.”

Lachlan Murdoch and James Murdoch, 21st Century Fox’s Executive Chairman, and CEO, respectively, said:

“We join our father in recognizing Roger’s remarkable contributions to our company. Our talented Fox News and Fox Business colleagues, up and down the organization and on both sides of the camera, have built something that continues to redefine the cable news experience for millions of viewers. We are enormously proud of their accomplishments. For them, as well as for our colleagues across our entire organization, we continue our commitment to maintaining a work environment based on trust and respect. We take seriously our responsibility to uphold these traditional, long-standing values of our company.”

Ailes Departure Collateral Damage…

Posted in FNC on July 21, 2016 by icn2

New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman writes about an ancillary issue in the Roger Ailes separation story…

As Roger Ailes battles the Murdochs over the terms of his exit from Fox News, he’s doing so without a key weapon in his arsenal: Fox spokesperson Irena Briganti.

Briganti — who is feared both inside and outside Fox as Ailes’s public-relations enforcer — has been told by 21st Century Fox executives that she is not allowed to communicate with Ailes or the press about his status at the network. Her sidelining comes after New York reported that she has been criticizing Megyn Kelly to reporters.

Briganti’s silencing by the Murdochs is leading to speculation inside Fox News that she will be forced out along with Ailes. “When Roger leaves, she’s gone,” one executive briefed on the talks said.


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