Fox News Stumbles In The Right Direction

Fox News finally broke with its news segment star of 20 years, Bill O’Reilly Wednesday, April 18, 2017. 21st Century Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch told employees in a tersely worded memo that while “O'Reilly was one of the most accomplished TV personalities in the history of cable news," his dismissal was a signal that Fox was committed to "fostering a work environment built on values of trust and respect." On April 1, we discussed the New York Time’s Investigative Report in our “All Votes Matter” blog. The internal memo released by Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, was much more critical of O’Reily’s conduct than the statement Fox issued to its viewing audience during the network's 6 p.m. program, "Special Report." Howard Kurtz, Fox’s media analyst, stated, O'Reilly was "the biggest star in the 20 year history at Fox News," and went on to say that some female staffers at the network had grown "uncomfortable" with the idea of him staying on board (in light of the recent sexual harassment allegations). The announcement, Kurtz told viewers, came in a "terse statement" made via memo earlier in the afternoon by Rupert Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, the owners of Fox News's.

The news was also addressed during O'Reilly's old 8 p.m. news hour, which on-screen graphics called "The Factor" as opposed to its former name, “The O’Reilly Factor”.  In failing to make a clear and strong connection between O’Reilly’s sexual harassment of women at the network Fox failed to clearly condemn the behavior and under score for all its employees that sexual harassment is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the Fox network.  To be clear this was not purely a moral change of heart on the part of 21st Century Fox.

The tipping point was the mass exodus of commercial sponsors (60) who pulled their advertising spots from the Fox News 8pm O’Reilly Factor prime-time slot.  The 8pm segment was estimated to have generated $150 million of the Network’s total $7 billion in ad revenue (2%) which may not seem like much in comparison, but it is significant considering that it’s the highest share of any hour-long segment.  This is more than just a moral victory extolled Judy Muller, journalism professor at the University of Southern California; “the departures of O'Reilly and Ailes will in fact send a clear message to other people in the workplace that this just won't fly anymore. It's really empowering for women in the newsroom." Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc. stock was up $.73 on 2.45% volume of trading at 1:40 pm April 20, 2017, signs that investors are responding positively to O’Reilly’s removal.

Lessons from O’Reilly’s Departure:

    • Money talks, $H!* walks!- The withdrawal of 60 adverting sponsors tipped Murdoch's hand after covering O’Reilly’s behavior for years to the tune of $13 million
    • Ongoing pending litigation probably also played a decision in Fox’s decision to show contrition and a genuine change, not to mention the entertainment giant has eyes on British Cable giant, Sky, who has a reputation for running a tight ship
    • It’s not enough to protest, protest needs to have organization and mobilization to achieve objectives. In this case numerous brave women coming forth at the risk of ending their career to file law suits, finally saying enough!
    • And they would’ve gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling media!- free press essential to American Democracy, in this case the New York Times investigative article uncovering the decades-long cover up.