Archive for the FNC Category

FNC Will Be Just Fine Without O’Reilly…

Posted in FNC on April 20, 2017 by icn2

If you’ve been reading all the “obituaries” on the O’Reilly era at FNC – and you would have to be living under a rock to avoid them – you’d think losing O’Reilly is a huge loss.

It might have been at one time but it hasn’t been the case for a while now.

The world (and by extension FNC) reached peak O’Reilly 11 years ago. His ratings now may be higher than 11 years ago but in terms of brand and perception, Bill O’Reilly was the top dog and the trailblazer at FNC in 2006, neither of which he was by the time of his ouster in 2017.

The world didn’t pass O’Reilly by but a series of things happened which made O’Reilly look almost mainstream and tame by comparison.

I first touched on this subject six years ago when I asked if Bill O’Reilly had become passe. In that article I noted that Glenn Beck’s arrival at FNC had made O’Reilly look a little tame by comparison.

But now looking back, it was more than that. Beck’s arrival signaled the beginning of the end of Bill O’Reilly as the barometer of FNC. He may have gotten the top ratings but he was no longer going to be the water cooler driver he had been prior to Beck’s arrival. Glenn Beck’s antics made O’Reilly look antiquated by comparison.

Similarly, another change that occurred around the same time as Beck’s arrival also contributed to the diversification of FNC’s brand from O’Reilly centric to diffuse across multiple talents; the breakup of Hannity and Colmes.

Dumping Colmes off the show made Hannity his own force of nature for the network. He already had some cachet but with Colmes hanging around the spotlight was never completely his. With Colmes gone Hannity was able to solidify his position and brand at FNC as the ultimate conservative base pandering homer.

Yes, that’s a derogatory way of putting it but that was and still is his function at FNC. You want consistency? You watch Hannity. You want your world reaffirmed? You watch Hannity. You don’t necessarily get that from O’Reilly because he can occasionally throw a maddening curve ball your way.

With Hannity holding down the base and Beck holding down the fringe, O’Reilly was no longer the perceived center of the FNC opinion universe…regardless of what his ratings did.

And then after Beck left there was The Five which broke up O’Reilly’s once upon a time iron grasp on FNC’s opinion center even further by providing a platform for more people to shoot there mouths off.

POV analysis which in 2006 centered chiefly on O’Reilly had, by 2017, dispersed itself to many fiefdoms. Hannity, The Five, Outnumbered, Tucker Carlson…it wasn’t just O’Reilly’s show any more.

This is why, though the ratings may dip a little from what O’Reilly had, Tucker Carlson’s takeover of 8pm should not hurt FNC financially to any significant degree. It’s why FNC can move The Five from 5pm to 9pm. It’s why slotting Eric Bolling in at 5 won’t do much if any ratings damage there either.

FNC diversified. It wasn’t just O’Reilly’s kingdom anymore. It’s why FNC will be just fine without O’Reilly.

Still More O’Reilly…

Posted in FNC on April 19, 2017 by icn2

Vanity Fair’s Sarah Ellison has a must read piece on the O’Reilly fallout…

The most unsettling feeling among some at Fox News, however, is that Wednesday’s events are only the beginning. “There’s more to come,” one Fox News insider told me, suggesting that there are more women with stories of harassment who have not come forward publicly. This estimation was affirmed by two people who heard such stories directly. Others are equally concerned about the attention that is being drawn to 21st Century Fox’s handling of the allegations by women inside the company.

Rupert Murdoch spent part of Wednesday trying to allay fears within his organization. In an internal memo, he told his colleagues, “Most importantly, we want to underscore our consistent commitment to fostering a work environment built on the values of trust and respect.” But not everyone in the Fox News orbit is prepared to move forward just yet. Nancy Erika Smith, who represented Gretchen Carlson and Julie Roginsky in their suits against Ailes, appears willing to fight on. “A couple of men close to retirement got pushed into retirement early with a whole lot of money,” she said in a statement. “Until Fox News releases every woman from confidentiality and arbitration agreements and until they get rid of the executives who enabled the harassment, the workplace will not be safe for women.”

FNC Slots New Post-O’Reilly Schedule…

Posted in FNC on April 19, 2017 by icn2

FNC was quick to clear up any schedule speculation about a post-O’Reilly era…

5pm New Eric Bolling show (starts May 1)
7pm The Story with Martha McCallum (starts May 1)
8pm Tucker Carlson Tonight (Live)
9pm The Five (Live)
10pm Hannity

This is probably the best possible outcome for FNC.

O’Reilly Gone…

Posted in FNC on April 19, 2017 by icn2

21st Century Fox issued a statement severing ties with O’Reilly…

After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the Company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel

The wording of this statement is important…not for today’s dismissal but for how it reflects badly on 21st Century Fox’s original statement to the New York Times 18 days ago…

“21st Century Fox takes matters of workplace behavior very seriously,” the statement said. “Notwithstanding the fact that no current or former Fox News employee ever took advantage of the 21st Century Fox hotline to raise a concern about Bill O’Reilly, even anonymously, we have looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr. O’Reilly. While he denies the merits of these claims, Mr. O’Reilly has resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility. Mr. O’Reilly is fully committed to supporting our efforts to improve the environment for all our employees at Fox News.”

The original statement implies that the company did its due diligence on O’Reilly already and was satisfied with where things stood.

That is a total 180 from today’s statement which implies that the company did its due diligence on O’Reilly and was not satisfied with where things stood.

The two statements are in direct conflict with one another.

Something does not add up. Either 21st Century Fox did not do its due diligence on O’Reilly already or somehow bungled it which incorrectly led them to think things were fine…or…they did do it and decided to stand by O’Reilly despite all the details of the investigation but later on as the heat was turned up reversed themselves under the guise of doing a new investigation (which presumably would not have turned up anything new had the earlier investigation been exacting).

If it’s the former…that’s on Bill Shine and Company.

If it’s the latter…that’s still on Bill Shine and Company.

Bill Shine and Company need to answer some questions.

More O’Reilly…

Posted in FNC on April 19, 2017 by icn2

New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman has new information on the apparently impending exit of Bill O’Reilly.

Wednesday morning, according to sources, executives are holding emergency meetings to discuss how they can sever the relationship with the country’s highest-rated cable-news host without causing collateral damage to the network. The board of Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, is scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss the matter.

Sources briefed on the discussions say O’Reilly’s exit negotiations are moving quickly. Right now, a key issue on the table is whether he would be allowed to say good-bye to his audience, perhaps the most loyal in all of cable (O’Reilly’s ratings have ticked up during the sexual-harassment allegations). Fox executives are leaning against allowing him to have a sign-off, sources say. The other main issue on the table is money. O’Reilly recently signed a new multiyear contract worth more than $20 million per year. When Roger Ailes left Fox News last summer, the Murdochs paid out $40 million, the remainder of his contract.

This amounts to a wholesale cave job by FNC. They knew what they had in O’Reilly and they chose to stand by him all these years. Now a little bit of advertiser pressure spurned on by the usual suspects who never liked O’Reilly to begin with…and poof! Their spines disappeared.

Look, I am NO fan of O’Reilly. He’s been bad for cable news (though good for ratings). But let’s be honest. He’s just become the latest convenient fall guy for what appears to be an institutional problem that goes straight to the top of the network…a problem that replacing Roger Ailes obviously has not fixed.

O’Reilly To Leave FNC?

Posted in FNC on April 18, 2017 by icn2

I have not written about the O’Reilly sexual harassment stories. Nor did I write about the advertiser boycotts. Nor did I write about the calls for O’Reilly to be fired. I didn’t write about any of it. I just didn’t believe anything would come of it.

When Roger Ailes got removed from FNC…things started out on simmer and then quickly moved into full boil in a matter of a week. The signs were against Ailes quickly and the outcome seemed almost preordained.

That isn’t how things played out with O’Reilly. For one thing he’s already survived sexual harassment lawsuits and remained at FNC. So any new allegations would appear to be “baked in” and not necessarily the the silver bullet capable of taking O’Reilly out. Even the New York Times’ piece on the payouts for previously undisclosed claims agains O’Reilly didn’t seem to move the needle.

And advertiser pressure? Yes, a lot of premium advertisers had pulled out. But not in my collective memory can I recall an advertiser boycott/pullout successfully result in forcing out a host. It just doesn’t happen.

For all these reasons I had never believed O’Reilly was a goner.

I believed then and still believe now that FNC can successfully ride this out without long term damage if it chooses to display the intestinal fortitude to do so.

And yet, it appears FNC has other ideas.

CNN’s Brian Stelter writes

Fox News will no longer even respond to questions about whether Bill O’Reilly will return to his show.

A well-placed source said Tuesday afternoon that representatives for Fox and O’Reilly have begun talking about an exit. But this prompted a denial from sources in O’Reilly’s camp.

Even one person close to O’Reilly, however, said he will probably not be back on “The O’Reilly Factor.”

The original well-placed source said an announcement about O’Reilly’s fate was likely by the end of the week.

The fact that none of these sources were willing to go on the record speaks to the delicate maneuvering underway.

A Blast From The Past

Posted in FNC on April 18, 2017 by icn2

In your must read of the day, Salon’s Matthew Sheffield pours gasoline on a fire that’s been raging over at FNC for a while now…

That ultra-aggressive approach to promotion during the Ailes era also extended to the online world, where Fox News employees and contractors were dispatched to do battle against not just mainstream media reporters but also against small-time bloggers and even website commenters. Fox News even went so far as to create at least two anonymous websites that attacked the competition.

This strategy of online fakery — a practice known as creating “sockpuppet” accounts, in internet parlance — was an outgrowth of the corporate culture established by Ailes when he launched the channel at the behest of media mogul Rupert Murdoch in 1996. With a background in Republican politicking instead of news reporting, Ailes infused his fledgling operation with the ethos of a political campaign. Nearly eight months removed from Ailes’ leadership, executives at Fox News and its parent company 21st Century Fox are still discovering some of the arcane structures and methods he once employed.

Under Ailes, Fox News did not limit its promotion efforts to the realm of media criticism. The network also retained the services of a now-defunct public relations firm called New Media Strategies (NMS) to create and operate a series of homespun-looking websites designed to market women who worked as hosts or correspondents in a manner that can only be described as overtly sexist.

Creating and operating the websites was part of a larger series of marketing services that NMS provided to Fox News. Bill Shine, the current co-president of the network and former right-hand man to Ailes, was the primary point of contact on the NMS account, although there is no evidence he knew of the sockpuppet sites’ existence during the approximately 12 months that they were published.

A Fox News spokesperson said that New Media Strategies “did work solely for former CEO and chairman Roger Ailes,” and said that Shine was not aware of the websites until Salon began reporting this story.

NMS employees created several blogs dedicated to specific women, including former correspondent Laurie Dhue and former “Fox and Friends” co-host Kiran Chetry, all of which were linked into a larger portal website called Girls of Fox News which described itself this way:

Girls of Fox News is a fan site dedicated to the programming genius and casting abilities of Fox News. We think the unbelievable ladies of Fox News rock! They put the broad in broadcasting. We love watching them and we love when they guide us through the top news and hot issues of the day. Join our mission – start your own fan sites devoted to the girls of Fox News.

Normally this story would only be of major interest to my circle…media writers who like knowing about little details like this. The passing public and the media in general normally wouldn’t spend time on it.

But these are not normal times. With all the sexual harassment allegations against Roger Ailes combined with what’s been circling around Bill O’Reilly’s head for well over a month now, any story that comes out regarding FNC and the objectification of its female employees is going to get played up. This story qualifies.

It’s a little weird for me because I “grew up” in that world. So did Brian Stelter. Johnny Dollar too. Back before ICN, almost before CableNewser, you would find us hanging out on the fan boards like TVHeads.com (shout out to DT!) Wide World of Women and the MSNBC Yahoo Group. Those places were where we would learn and discuss things about the talent and the networks that employed them. There was no place else.

And then there’s this…

As Salon began reporting this story by interviewing Snyder and others familiar with the NMS and FNC relationship, the owner of girlsoffoxnews.com appears to have devised a method to remove the blog from the Wayback Machine. This required the use of a file called “robots.txt” which can be configured to block archiving software like that used by the Internet Archive. Salon did not tell Snyder about the Dhue and Chetry websites and as of this writing they remain publicly accessible. As might be expected, the operator of the domain did not respond to a request for comment.

Shortly after the Girls of Fox News site was removed from the Wayback Machine, this reporter was contacted by Stephanie Cutter, the former deputy campaign manager of Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign. Cutter’s connection to Snyder and NMS is unclear. In an email correspondence, she said she was acting on Snyder’s behalf only as “a long time friend.” She repeatedly asked this reporter to make clear that NMS had not engaged in online trolling operations on behalf of Fox News.

The former Obama staffer also suggested that Fox News itself might well be the current owner of the girlsoffoxnews.com domain. “If NMS registered the URL for aggregation purposes, at most they would have registered it for a year before turning it over to Fox,” Cutter wrote in an email.

A representative for Fox News denied that the network was the current operator or owner of the Chetry, Dhue, or Girls of Fox News blogs.

The one point I would argue over is this non-sequitur…

Fox News staffers also tried other methods to mold the opinions of bloggers and commentators who were popular within the media industry. According to a knowledgeable source, the network’s publicity staff regularly provided proprietary ratings data to Brian Stelter, now a host for CNN, when he was operating an anonymous, independent blog called Cable Newser in the early 2000s. (Stelter did not respond to a request for comment.)

This sounds way more ominous than it really was and I have to defend Brian here. While there is no doubt in my mind that FNC did try to spin Stelter and me at various times in those early days…that’s PR’s job. They aren’t doing their job if they aren’t trying to influence you.

And the leaking of ratings data? Ok…maybe from Nielsen’s standpoint that’s technically a no-no but it happened all the time back then and it would happen from all the networks. As far as I know it still does.

Though, as an opinion molder leaking ratings data is damn weak sauce. Sure it helped to create the daily horse race ratings phenomenon but the utility of that is limited as long term trends started manifesting themselves. At that point who really cares if some show had a really great day or a really bad day if they stayed consistent to their long term trendline?

But the Salon article makes the mistake of trying to pad the account. Salon makes a pretty wild claim …that Johnny Dollar’s Place was being subsidized by FNC at one time…

In addition to operating the Cable Game, the Fox News black ops team also began subsidizing the work of a Michigan lawyer-turned-blogger named Mark Koldys, known online as Johnny Dollar, according to a source.

Koldys, who did not respond to an interview request, has defended Fox and attacked its left-leaning critics online for many years. He began in July of 2004 with a blog called “Johnny Dollar’s Place: Cable News Truth,” whose first posts were dedicated to attacking an anti-Fox News documentary called “Outfoxed.” The site was frequently promoted on The Cable Game.

Besides writing for his own site (which still exists but is apparently no longer subsidized by Fox), Koldys also frequently wrote for a now-defunct blog called OlbermannWatch, a site set up in late 2004 to criticize and parody former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann. The creator of that site, Robert Cox, told Salon in an interview that Koldys denied being paid by Fox News at the time. Cox further added that he had not been paid by Fox.

First of all OlbermannWatch and Robert Cox were never on the FNC payroll. Cox just disliked Olbermann. So did Dollar. Not everything that existed on the internet back then which could be considered FNC friendly or “in alignment with FNC thinking” was an FNC backed operation.

As to the anonymous and unsupported claim that Dollar’s site was subsidized by FNC…how you answer that question depends on what you mean by “subsidized”? If we’re talking about subsidizing financially…then I don’t believe it. I know Dollar. I’ve talked with him on the phone. Can I prove he never got paid off? Of course not. But there’s nothing about him (and what I know of him goes back at least thirteen years) to suggest he would take money for this.

Plus if you’ve followed Dollar’s site at all for any significant period of time you’d realize his site isn’t one you would pay off because of the poor return on investment you’d get. He rarely blogs on his site (even rarer than me these days)…his daily updates consist primarily of aggregated links. That’s not a site you need to send money to or invest in financially. It wouldn’t make sense.

On the other hand if by “subsidized” this anonymous accuser meant that FNC was providing information to Dollar via back channels in the form of exclusives or little details he’d get before others…I could see that as plausible.

But more than plausible, it was run of the mill back then. That’s the way things were done in those days and still are done today. Exclusives get doled out like candy to friendly or perceived to not be hostile sites. It doesn’t happen to the degree it did 11 years ago but it still happens.

Salon needs to come out and define what it means by subsidized. I’m just not buying that there was some kind of financial thing going on between FNC and Dollar. It doesn’t pass the smell test.

It’s the sockpuppet angle in this story that’s the problem. It existed. I have a nice big 11 year old 35 page PDF I’ve never released publicly that meticulously documented some of that activity. It’s more historical relic than anything else now; a window into a period when cable news media writing was more like the Wild West and the game was played by different rules than exist today.