Why is Fox News Parting Ways with Trump?

Why is Fox News Parting Ways with Trump?

With an audience hungry for Biden controversies, Fox News knows it will have four very profitable years as the standard-bearer of the anti-Left resistance under a Democratic administration. 

Many were left incredulous when Fox News was the first major TV network to project a Biden victory for Arizona. Democrat and Republican voters alike were even more surprised when most of Fox’s primetime pundits warned viewers there is no evidence for Trump’s allegations of widespread election irregularities.

Fox host Neil Cavuto went as far as to stop broadcasting the briefing of White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on voter fraud, saying:

Whoa, whoa, whoa – I just think we have to be very clear. She’s charging the other side as welcoming fraud and welcoming illegal voting. Unless she has more details to back that up, I can’t in good countenance continue to show you this.”

Even famous night-time host Tucker Carlson, one of Trump’s staunchest allies in the right-wing media universe, conceded there isn’t enough proof to alter the election result.

Why is the conservative, multi-billionaire Murdoch family – who owns the Fox conglomerate and has indulged Trump’s previous statements and  theories for the last five years – now choosing to take a step back from the incumbent’s rhetoric? 

It turns out a Biden victory is very good for business. The question now is, will Fox viewers feel betrayed and switch to another channel? 

The Outrage Business Works Better When You’re Not in Power

The decision to concede a Democratic victory – and to delegitimize Trump’s voter fraud charges – was a pragmatic business decision aligned with the Fox brand.

The network is preparing to return to its Obama-era position as the voice of the anti-Left resistance, because “being in the opposition is good for business”. Rupert Murdoch, the patriarch of the family, has indeed always valued Fox’s underdog status as its biggest political – and financial – strength.

Former President of CNN USA Jon Klein put it best when he said that “Fox thrives when it is in the opposition because they have a real-time bad guy to beat up on”. 

With Trump out of the picture, the media conglomerate can finally resume its leading position within the GOP that it had before Trump co-opted the party.

Ultimately, Fox knows Biden will be sworn into office on 20 January. It also knows that any investigations between now and December 8th will fail to find sufficient voter fraud to change the election results. Moreover, Fox is aware that its broadcasts have to be factual if it wants to safeguard its longevity and its business deals with advertisers and cable operators. After all, they may face nationwide backlash if they’re seen striking deals with a network that repudiates the American electoral process.

As such, the Fox brand had no other option but to concede Biden’s victory, albeit with less gusto than other TV networks.

Are Staunch Trump Loyalists Going to Stop Watching Fox?

Unsurprisingly, Fox’s rejection of Trump’s voter fraud claims has caused a fracture in their long-standing relationship. 

The President has indeed spoken against the right-wing TV giant since the election results of 7 November, urging his base to switch to Fox’s lower-rated rivals, Newsmax TV and One America News. These cable channels are known for indulging conspiracy theories and, most recently, for humoring Trump’s allegations of corruption in the electoral system.

It is true that since Fox pundits have claimed no evidence for these allegations Newsmax TV has reported a rating increase from 25,000 views at any given time over the summer to 437,000 this week alone, with some nighttime shows averaging 700,000 to 800,000 viewers.

However, very few envision a US right-wing TV ecosystem without Fox News at its center. 

After all, Fox’s viewership ratings have not suffered since the media giant changed its tenor on the election outcome, and though Newsmax may be temporarily capitalizing on some of Trump’s loyalists and their dissent from Fox, they are not available in nearly as many homes.

Crucially, there are also few chances of their channel being added to people’s cable plans:

Cable and satellite operators are not in the business of adding channels right now. They’re in the business of subtracting channels.

says CNN’s Brian Stelter.

As such, it appears unlikely that these small, relatively peripheral news channels will suddenly become the tone-setters of  the Right.

Trump’s America May Be Licking Its Wounds, but Fox’s America is Alive and Well

The near-monopoly position Fox News boasts in the conservative media ecosystem and the influence it exerts on US political discourse cannot be overstated.

Since the dawn of the Tea Party Movement, Fox News has indeed shaped Republican policies as well as President Trump’s own narrative, tweets and speeches. 

Crucially, though the credits may be rolling on the Trump show, Americans’ disillusionment that granted Trump’s rise in 2016 continues to provide fertile ground for polarization, anti-Democrat sentiments, and Fox’s success today. Therefore, even with Trump out of the picture, the Murdoch family business will continue to back conservative rhetoric and the GOP in order to maintain high viewership and readership ratings.

For his part, some speculate that Trump may start his own “Trump TV” network to counter Fox and retain his media presence. However, the challenges to successfully launching a cable news channel in the year 2020 could be too daunting even for someone like President Trump who has decades of media experience.

Categories: North America, Politics

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