Fox News Channel CEO Lachlan Murdoch is pledging that the network will be Biden’s “loyal opposition”. He candidly admitted that the focus of opposition to the new administration will boost the cable news network’s ratings.
Murdoch addressed a Morgan Stanley conference on Thursday and said the network will hold President Biden accountable. Murdoch hopes that by using the model of MSNBC and its non-stop opposition to everything during the Trump administration, Fox will lure back viewers who have left for more conservative news outlets. He describes it as the network’s “job”.
“The main beneficiary of the Trump administration from a ratings point of view was MSNBC … and that’s because they were the loyal opposition,” Murdoch said of the rival cable network. “That’s what our job is now with the Biden administration, and you’ll see our ratings really improve from here.”
Fox took a hit in the rating war between competing news networks after the November presidential election. Many Trump loyalists criticized the move by Fox’s political team to put Arizona results in the Biden column as premature. Almost immediately, the call went out for the loyalists to switch over to either Newsmax or OAN, both very Trump-friendly cable news networks. Trump himself suggested that his supporters make the switch in their news viewing habits.
Needless to say, NBC got a little snippy about being called out as liberal partisans and issued a statement.
A spokesperson for NBCUniversal News Group, which includes NBC News and MSNBC, said in response that “our role, and the role of any legitimate news organization — whether it includes an ‘opinion section’ or not — is to hold power to account, regardless of party.” Comcast NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC News and MSNBC.
Riiight. I guess I missed all that holding of the Obama-Biden administration to account. I clearly remember eight long years of slumber from the media and its watchdogs. Then the tables were completely turned as Trump came into office and MSNBC (and to a lesser extent, CNN) cashed in on their off-the-charts level of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Murdoch was asked about ratings and said ratings have already stabilized and are returning to normal.
Murdoch was asked about the network’s ratings, which took a hit after the election. “Our audience was disappointed with the election results,” he acknowledged, adding that the ratings had already started to normalize and would continue to go up.
“Seventy-five million people voted for a Republican president, sometimes in spite of his personality at times,” Murdoch said. “That’s what we represent. We’re going to stick to the center-right. That’s where our audience is.”
FNC was developed as an alternative to other news outlets because of the lack of conservative voices and viewpoints. Fox was the only place for conservatives, Independents, and moderate Democrats since it first went on the air in 1996. Lachlan Murdoch is the oldest son of FNC’s founder, Rupert Murdoch. He took over as CEO in March 2019. Until 2017, the network used the slogan “Fair and Balanced”. It made a distinction between the delivery of the news during daytime hours and that of the primetime opinion shows. During the four years of the Trump administration, FNC was clearly in Trump’s camp.
Newsmax and OAN insisted that the election had been stolen from Trump, while only a few Fox hosts did so. Some of those hosts now find themselves the subjects of lawsuits. Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs, and Jeanine Pirro have been named in a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit brought by the voting technology company Smartmatic. The company accuses them of false statements casting doubt on the integrity of the 2020 election. All have filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit.
In January 2021, Fox fell behind CNN and MSNBC in ratings for the first time in almost two decades.
In primetime, Fox News first became the top-rated cable news network in January 2002, just months following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. For nearly two decades, regardless of the news cycle, Fox News remained the top-rated cable news for each and every month. Often times, doubling or tripling the audience of rival news networks CNN and MSNBC. In January 2021 that streak came to an end.
The ratings strength of Fox News came from their politically conservative opinion shows and personality of their primetime hosts. Whereas, on CNN, the ratings can fluctuate daily, based on late breaking news (i.e., earthquakes, plane crashes, hurricanes, etc.), that generate higher ratings, the ratings would drop on the (more often) slower news days. On the other hand, Fox News created personality driven appointment viewing. Each night, millions of viewers tuned in to The Factor with Bill O’Reilly and The Kelly File with Megyn Kelly among others, regardless of the news cycle. The programming strategy was similar to the personality driven and opinionated radio talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, who generated millions of listeners each day.
Even more impressive, with many entertainment programs on hiatus and live sports shut down, Fox News between Memorial Day and Labor Day was the top-rated cable and broadcast network averaging 3.5 million viewers. A first for any cable network.
The spikes in ratings for both CNN and MSNBC are leveling off and returning back to more normal numbers. Fox is on the rise since January. The problems for Newsmax and OAN is that their reach is much smaller than other cable news networks and many people are unable to view them with their cable providers. They have plenty of room to grow, eventually, but for now they can’t compete with FNC. Newsmax primetime ratings peaked in November and began slipping back in December. OAN saw its highest ratings ever in 2020. Charles Herring, OAN’s president, says viewership surged by more than 40% in the fourth quarter of 2020.
FNC’s White House correspondent Peter Doocy, son of Fox and Friends co-host Steve Doocy, is off to a strong start in holding the Biden administration accountable. He was assigned to cover Biden during the campaign. During the White House briefings with press secretary Jen Psaki, Doocy asks the tough questions on which other reporters give the administration a pass.