Whether or not reports about the continuing collapse of Fox News Channel’s ratings are greatly exaggerated has yet to be determined. But a curtain was raised on election night, and what was behind it cannot be unseen. The issue becomes, can conservatives and Trump Nation continue to deliver ratings to the network after viewing the unmasked sausage factory witnessed on November 3rd?
For some time now, stalwart Fox viewers have noticed a change in the tenor of some daytime and weekend programming: a shift to the Left, an uncomfortable echo of the kind of news and opinion found at the despised CNN and MSNBC.
The rationalization was that while the network’s decision-makers had obviously opted to make a play for a younger, more politically moderate, and wider demographic, at least the dependable prime-timers like Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham—along with pro-Trump weekend hosts like Jessie Watters, Jeanine Pirro, and Greg Gutfeld—could be counted on to reflect the majority conservatism that has characterized the network’s viewership since its premiere in 1996.
The election night coverage was so bad that it threw all rationalizations under the proverbial Amtrak train, and tore the foundations of FNC loyalty asunder. The question then quickly became: could conservatives continue to deliver profits to the network by watching Carlson, Hannity, and Ingraham, knowing that those profits will be folded into a mix that includes, with ever-increasing influence, individuals like Chris Wallace, Chris Stirewalt, and FNC board member Paul Ryan?
For those with the stomach for it, the website Ace of Spades HQ has as good an analysis as you’ll find about what happened, and is happening.
The repeated appearance that night of one Arnon Mishkin, grinning like a Halloween jack-o-lantern placed beside the grave of Roger Ailes, dragged up from a subbasement to justify his Arizona call, was a tide-turner in terms of the sea change indicated by the Fox post-election ratings. Especially since the Mishkin Decision Desk had not called Ohio or Florida when it was obvious those states would go to President Trump. This, more than any other aspect of the horrible, slanted coverage, is what cannot be unremembered. Though Mishkin is not technically a Fox employee, his gleeful justification for the Arizona call seems emblematic of where the network is coming from now.
Yes, it was bad, and the import of how bad it was cannot be disregarded. But don’t deliver any last rites for the network yet. There are some pertinent realities that even the most offended (and in many cases AWOL) Fox viewers must factor into the overall analysis.
Ratings always drop after an election, and they are going to drop harder at networks whose ostensibly-aligned candidate “lost.” (Author’s Note: I believe it is clear that Trump won.) It makes sense that while Bret Baier and company won election night 2020’s ratings war, in the days that followed, CNN and MSNBC slaughtered Fox in the ratings.
We still live in America—though if the Harris/Biden Big Cheat stands that will be debatable. It must be stated that Fox News has every capitalist right to determine its path forward in terms of expanding demographics and the increased ad revenue that might come with such a wider demographic swath. They seem prepared to absorb and outlast any losses incurred by tonal changes in much of the programming.
An adverse spotlight has fallen on the Murdoch sons and their reportedly progressive wives. While such political leanings might be considered as part of an FNC corporate decision to become, as some have christened it, “CNN-lite,” it’s hard to believe that a decision based solely on such partisan whims would set the course with so many millions of dollars and so much potential viewer abandonment in play. Notwithstanding the Murdoch siblings’ fealty to Manhattan liberalism, the smartest guys in the room at Fox clearly believe that a shift to center-Left moderation is prudent.
Another hope expressed by disenchanted Fox viewers is that in light of the network’s awful election night coverage that somehow the best names at Fox will leave to find jobs at expanding and competing networks like the excellent Newsmax and One American News Network. The thing is, big-ticket names demand big-ticket compensation. A recent installment of Tucker Carlson Tonight attracted over 7 million viewers. With that kind of platform, you may opt to stay and fight as long as you are not irreparably hamstrung by management in terms of editorial content and ideological messaging.
The premiere of Fox Blue comes at a very bad time for conservatives, especially baby-boom conservatives. For over 30 years, Rush Limbaugh has provided comfort-listening for millions, and now we’re praying for him. For the past 24 years, the Fox News Channel has been the go-to for quality, balanced, and, yes, conservative-friendly news and opinion. And for the last five years, President Trump has shined a ray of hope upon a nation threatened by a dastardly, violent, unscrupulous Democrat Socialist mob that seeks to transform America.
Of late, this triumvirate of conservative strength has taken an undeniable hit. But there is much hope for the future, given the impotence of the projected Blue Wave, and apparent Republican retention of the Senate. Conservative media is alive and well.
The most hopeful sign of all is that even if the final tally shows, after the results of all the legal challenges are entered into the history books, that Trump did not get enough legal votes to triumph, his ascent and unqualified success has put the dark vision of progressivism on notice for at least a decade.
As old Hannity says (BTW you can still get him on the radio),
“Let not your heart be troubled.”
As far as the future of his network, ouch, that was ugly. Watching FNC is a decades-long conservative habit, especially for boomers who still sit in front of their television sets. It is astounding how easy the election night “brain room” made it to quit cold turkey.