Bob Beckel Out At FNC…

Posted in FNC on June 25, 2015 by icn2

In an unusually caustic public display, TVNewser’s Mark Joyella writes about Bill Shine’s public statement on the departure of Bob Beckel from FNC…

In a statement to TVNewser, Bill Shine, executive vice president of programming for Fox News, said “We tried to work with Bob for months, but we couldn’t hold The Five hostage to one man’s personal issues. He took tremendous advantage of our generosity, empathy and goodwill and we simply came to the end of the road with him. Juan Williams and Geraldo Rivera will be among those rotating on the show for the near future.”

Ouch. For Shine to let that get put out says a lot about the situation and (probably) Beckel, particularly when you contrast that with what happened with Gregg Jarrett. FNC tends to bend over backwards for its employees so when things turn acrimonious I tend to side with the network.

Ailes: A Theory…

Posted in FNC on June 25, 2015 by icn2

The timing of the Ailes deal so soon after James and Lachlan Murdoch’s promotions, combined with the confusion over the reporting structure, raises many questions…chief of which is “How did this happen?”

What follows is a possible timeline of events based on a theory and a lack of contradictory evidence.

1. The impending news leaks out to CNBC to David Faber by a source not in Roger Ailes’ sphere of influence. At the time I said I thought Ailes had to have known this was coming because it would be playing with fire for Rupert Murdoch to not keep him in the loop. But subsequent events suggest that Ailes may not have been in the loop enough.

2. FBN puts out, by way of instructions from Ailes according to Gabriel Sherman, that Ailes would continue to report to Rupert Murdoch. The original Faber story made no mention of this so this was big news.

3. The actual announcement comes out and now it is revealed that Ailes is reporting to the Murdoch sons but will have a “special relationship” with Rupert. This isn’t a 100% repudiation of the FBN news but it’s damn close.

4. This is where we get to the speculation part of this blog post. Given what happened this morning, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Ailes started making noises about his displeasure with the current reporting structure. In steps Rupert who gives Roger a new deal, the news release for paints a new murky reporting structure where Ailes reports to all thee Murdochs…and therefore could circumvent both James and Lachlan if he wanted to. The alternate explanation would be the new murky reporting structure of the three headed monster is actually a PR ruse to create the illusion that James and Lachlan still have some oversight when the reality is Ailes really reports to Rupert.

If the idea of Rupert giving Ailes a new deal after a corporate tussle sounds familiar, that’s because it is. We have seen this before. It happened in the early 2000s after Ailes clashed with Lachlan.

What makes the reversal most remarkable is that, until now, Rupert always backed Ailes during his messy feuds with Murdoch’s children. Ailes’s tangles with Lachlan were legion. Not long after 9/11, Rupert gave Ailes a new contract after Ailes threatened to resign following a heated argument with Lachlan in the Fox newsroom. Four years later, Lachlan quit his job as deputy COO in charge of the Fox broadcast group after Rupert supported Ailes in a dispute over a TV show that Ailes wanted and Lachlan didn’t.

This is all just conecture. But it’s conjecture without any contradictory evidence…or at the very least conjecture based on historical precedent and the lack of a realistic alternative narrative being put forth by anyone else at the present. It walks like a duck and talks like a duck and until I see someone come out and credibly state it’s not a duck, I will continue to believe it is a duck.

Roger Ailes Signs New Deal With 21st Century Fox

Posted in FNC on June 25, 2015 by icn2

Well…so much for the kibitzing that Ailes might call it a day after the 2016 election. Roger Ailes just signed a new deal with 21st Century Fox. The timing of this is going to raise some eyebrows, coming so closely on the heels of of the changeover in management with Rupert Murdoch’s sons being installed in new positions. The obvious question to be raised will be “Did A beget B? Did Lachlan and James’ promotions force this deal into being consumated earlier than it would have been in order to calm the waters?”

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–21st Century Fox (NASDAQ: FOXA, FOX) today announced that Roger Ailes has signed a new multi-year contract with the Company to continue to serve as Chairman and CEO of Fox News and Fox Business Network, and Chairman of Fox Television Stations.

“I am grateful to Rupert Murdoch for taking the risk on Fox News to see it become the number one 24-hour news network in America. I look forward to working with Rupert, Lachlan and James to do my part to help bring 21st Century Fox well into the future.”

The announcement was made by Rupert Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch and James Murdoch, to whom Mr. Ailes will jointly report.

Rupert Murdoch, 21st Century Fox’s Executive Co-Chairman as of July 1, commented: “Nearly two decades ago, Roger took a bold idea rooted in the belief that there was room for more choice in cable news, and – much to all the naysayers’ surprise – through his development of vibrant programming and talent, created a behemoth of a business with one of the most passionate and engaged audiences in the history of television news. Roger and I have always had, and will continue to have, a special relationship. Lachlan, James and I are delighted that Roger will be leading key businesses for us and our shareholders for years to come, and he has our unwavering support.”

Lachlan and James Murdoch, 21st Century Fox’s designated Executive Co-Chairman and CEO, respectively, commented: “Roger is an incredibly talented executive and we’re pleased he has accepted our offer to continue his extraordinary record of success at 21st Century Fox. We look forward to witnessing his energy and entrepreneurial drive in leading the next wave of growth for Fox News, Fox Business Network and Fox Television Stations, as well as many years of continued success together.”

Roger Ailes said: “I am grateful to Rupert Murdoch for taking the risk on Fox News to see it become the number one 24-hour news network in America. I look forward to working with Rupert, Lachlan and James to do my part to help bring 21st Century Fox well into the future.”

All Hands On Deck…

Posted in CNN on June 22, 2015 by icn2

Politico’s Dylan Byers writes about how one tiny little GoPro camera sent CNN’s DC Bureau on full alert…

The intern, Walbert Castillo, had been assigned to serve as “a runner,” relaying the court’s opinions from the building to CNN correspondent Ariane de Vogue, who was waiting in the Supreme Court plaza. The process has become known as “the running of the interns,” given the speed and intensity of the running-shoe clad youth.

In addition to his runner duties, Castillo had been asked to wear a GoPro camera to record the event for an episode of CNN’s digital video series, “Being Moody,” hosted by reporter Chris Moody. Castillo kept the GoPro recording while he was in the press room, which was prohibited — the Supreme Court fears that a recording device may pick up audio of a court decision — and was forced to turn it off. Castillo and other interns were then briefly removed from the room.

Meanwhile, back at CNN, Washington bureau chief and SVP Sam Feist convened a meeting of top CNN editors and executives, including deputy bureau chief Virginia Moseley, managing editor Adam Levine, coverage director Laura Bernardini, politics executive editor Rachel Smolkin, politics managing editor Z. Byron Wolf and spokesperson Matt Dornic. The executives and editors called the Supreme Court to apologize, and also called to apologize to de Vogue. At some point, the legal team was also consulted as a cautionary measure, in the event that Castillo had gone rogue and intentionally tried to disobey court rules.

Castillo’s error was, in fact, an accident. At the Supreme Court, he agreed to turn off his GoPro while in the press room and was allowed re-entry. The Supreme Court’s Office of Public Information declined to comment on the matter.

Megyn Kelly Profile…

Posted in FNC on June 22, 2015 by icn2

In one of the best Megyn Kelly profiles I have seen in quite a while, Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh and Brian Steinberg do a deep dive on Kelly…and breaks some news in the process.

Just as TV news personalities are fast becoming an endangered species, Kelly has evolved into the fresh face of Fox News, and her influence in cable news just keeps growing. Although she’s been a staple at the network for a decade, and headlined her own nightly show since 2013, her current show, “The Kelly File” — featuring segments of news analysis, exclusive interviews and lighthearted cultural debates — is a primetime juggernaut.

And now coming on the heels of landing an exclusive interview this summer with TV’s now infamous Duggars family, a scoop that drew 3.1 million viewers in early June, Kelly is wading into Barbara Walters territory.

Her boss, Roger Ailes, reveals that he’s giving his star a series of primetime specials to air on Fox News starting early next year. These one-hour interviews with high-profile subjects in the news, including celebrities and sports figures, will look like her Duggars scoop with TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” reality stars Jim Bob and Michelle, who broke their silence about reports that their son Josh molested their daughters as a teenager. Kelly believes there’s an opening for this kind of long-form journalism on TV. “Barbara Walters has retired,” Kelly observes. “Diane Sawyer left her anchor role. Oprah has moved to the OWN network and is doing a different thing now. So why not me?” Ailes, CEO of Fox News Channel, is confident that Kelly can handle both breaking news and these more in-depth gets. “Listen, Megyn is so good today that there is no interview I would not want her to do,” Ailes says.

About That Williams News…

Posted in MSNBC on June 18, 2015 by icn2

The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove has alleged insider reaction to today’s Williams news…

“People in the newsroom are furious,” said an NBC News veteran who, like others who reacted to the personnel shuffle, spoke on condition of anonymity. “Everyone in the hallways is very, very upset and depressed about it.”

A second NBC veteran told The Daily Beast: “I have yet to speak to anyone in the news organization who wants Brian back and thinks Brian deserves to be back. He has zero support among the rank and file. I shouldn’t say ‘zero.’ There’s almost no support for him in the newsroom.”

A few more stories like these come out and NBC has a PR crisis on its hands again. And then there’s this…

It wasn’t a deal breaker that he isn’t being named managing editor of Nightly News; according to an NBC source, it was decided, based on the experience with Williams, that the managing editor title—bestowing final authority on the newscast’s content—gives an anchor too much power.

Baloney. How did Williams’ tall tales have anything to do with his Managing Editor role? I suppose you could make the argument that Williams felt omnipotent enough that he could skate by with his tall tales but he was going to feel that way because he was the face of NBC News, regardless of whether he was Managing Editor or not.

CYA At 30 Rock…

Posted in MSNBC on June 18, 2015 by icn2

Well, it happened. Lester Holt was named permanent Nightly News anchor and Brian Williams was named MSNBC breaking news floater. No, I don’t know what that means for MSNBC…and neither probably does NBC at this stage. FTVLive posted NBC’s full release which I will quote and comment liberally from…

“Lester has done outstanding work for NBC News over the last ten years, and he’s performed remarkably well over the last few months under very tough circumstances,” Lack said. “He’s an exceptional anchor who goes straight to the heart of every story and is always able to find its most direct connection to the everyday lives of our audience. In many ways, television news stands at a crossroads, and Lester is the perfect person to meet the moment.”

But unlike David Muir and Scott Pelley (not to mention a bunch of anchors who came before them) Holt will not be Managing Editor. This is not a trivial matter. Managing Editor controls the content and shapes the focus of the newscast. Most anchors want that title because they know instinctively it’s their ass on the firing line. The newscast, rightly or wrongly, is viewed as their show by the public. If something goes wrong on it, they catch the flak…they have to apologize. So if you are going to be the face of the network on its flagship newscast you tend to want to own it since you’ll be the first to catch heat if there’s a problem and be the first one everyone looks to for an explanation.

NBC didn’t give Holt that. Maybe he didn’t want it (and if he didn’t I want to hear that he didn’t). Instead NBC gave Holt all the responsibility of keeping the newscast on top but without giving him the responsibility of making sure it does. If something goes wrong now, Holt will catch the flak but it won’t necessarily be his fault. That depends of course on what the nature of the flak is. But if the flak is due to a poorly handled story or some other gaffe that would traditionally be laid at the Managing Editor’s doorstep, will NBC step up and say “It’s not his fault, it’s someone else’s” and say it loud enough, convincing enough, and long enough that the flak dies down? I would tend to doubt it.

If Holt did want it but NBC wouldn’t give it to him, it needs to explain itself. Why did it not feel Holt should be Managing Editor? Why should the first ever full time nightly solo African American broadcast news anchor not be given something his non African American peers have? You just know someone is going to point that out and make a racial argument. I don’t subscribe to that line of scrutiny but that doesn’t mean it won’t be raised. And it was something NBC should have anticipated and tried to avoid. The optics just do not play well there.

In fact the optics of Holt not being Managing Editor don’t play well under any scenario that doesn’t involve Holt not wanting the role. It undercuts NBC’s praise of him. Yeah, we think he’s great but we don’t think he should be Managing Editor, even though his predecessors were.

Lack and Steve Burke, CEO of NBCU, have decided that Williams will not be the anchor of Nightly News. Williams, who was an anchor at MSNBC from 1996 to 2004, will now join MSNBC as anchor of breaking news and special reports. He will work with Mark Lukasiewicz, SVP of Special Reports for NBCU News Group, who will help lead a team to strengthen MSNBC’s daytime coverage by further leveraging NBC News’ expertise in breaking news. In addition, Williams will serve as a breaking news anchor for NBC News live special reports when Holt is not available. He will begin the new role in mid-August.

I already said yesterday that the optics of Williams being put on MSNBC are bad. I noted that it raises the very uncomfortable question of why Williams was too toxic for NBC Nightly News but not too toxic for MSNBC. Politico’s Jack Shafer agrees

The shift of Williams from NBC News to MSNBC, which everyone will regard as a demotion, presents this question: How can Williams be too damaged to work as NBC News’ anchor but not so damaged that he can’t work at MSNBC? This move reveals a never before articulated but often implied contempt that NBC News has for its cable outlet: Its journalistic standards tower over MSNBC’s. Williams can’t really hurt MSNBC, the thinking must go at the corporate level, because MSNBC is only a talk-radio station made visual. A teller of tall tales like Williams will fit right in.

So does Jay Rosen

More challenging: NBC has to explain how he’s lost the credibility to anchor the nightly news but still has the cred to do news at MSNBC.

NBC does not want to answer that question. Nor, apparently, does it want to release the findings of its internal investigation.

What it does want to do is have Williams explain himself in an interview with Matt Lauer that was shot over two days. Two days? Why two days? For NBC’s sake they better post the entire interview, unedited, online. If they don’t, they leave themselves wide open for credible charges of “managing” the interview to put Williams in the best light possible. Or, put another way, to limit the damage as much as possible.

And then NBC wants to clam up and move on. How do we know this? Because of this statement from Steve Burke which was in the release…

This matter has been extensively analyzed and deliberated on by NBC. We are moving forward.

If this approach sounds familiar, it should

“We continue to have complete confidence in Fareed,” Zucker told POLITICO after a luncheon with reporters on Tuesday.

When pressed further if that meant Zakaria would continue appearing on CNN, Zucker repeated that they have complete confidence in the host.

The parallels between Williams and NBC and Zakaria and CNN are frighteningly similar. Consider…

– Star talent gets into big time trouble over matters that strike at the heart of their network’s journalism.
– Network does an investigation, doesn’t release the results, and decides to retain them.
– Whenever pressed, network retreats to boilerplate statement that says nothing other than it’s moved on.

We have yet to reach that last point with Williams and NBC but Burke’s statement strongly signals that’s the direction the network intends to go. Whether they’ll be as successful as CNN was in riding out the storm is not clear. But odds are they will because the bar for screwups has been lowered repeatedly over the years.

Lastly, I want to touch on the fact that Williams will be handling breaking news on NBC when Holt isn’t available. Two thoughts immediately come to mind.

1) This curb stomps Savannah Guthrie and others (but mostly Guthrie) who used to be the one(s) with that role. It doesn’t rule out the possibility that one day she’ll eventually be Nightly News anchor. But it does slow down her trajectory to some extent because it relegates her to just Today and whatever special assignments she gets.

2) This undermines Holt. Yeah, Holt isn’t there at that moment in time which is why Williams is on the air. But it reminds everyone that Williams was once the face of NBC News…and could be again if things go south for Holt. Williams will in effect be the equivalent of the mosquito buzzing around Holt’s face. Holt doesn’t need that.

Between that and the fact he wasn’t named Managing Editor, I have to say that NBC’s embrace of Holt as the new face of NBC News has all the appearances of the most half hearted attempt by a network since ABC couldn’t make up its mind and put two anchors on World News after Peter Jennings died. Holt deserved better.


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