Mornings and prime time are generally the most lucrative dayparts for a cable news network. And with the recent addition of Laura Ingraham to the network’s 10 p.m. hour, Fox News has ensured that those two dayparts represent a “remaking of Fox News in Trump’s image,” writes Politico’s Jason Schwartz.
Chris Ruddy, CEO of the conservative Newsmax TV and Trump ally, told Politico that he has been taken aback by the unwillingness for Fox News’s hosts to criticize the president.
“Newsmax is very supportive of the president, but we also will publish things that are critical of him time to time. Fox seems to have decided to become very closely aligned, which seems unnatural, and it doesn’t seem consistent. It’s just bizarre and I think they lose their credibility as a news organization.”Advertisement
Schwartz wonders in the story that perhaps going all in on Pres. Trump is a signal that Fox fears increasing competition on its right flank, from TV and digital outlets alike.
The conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group is working to complete a $3.9 billion takeover of Tribune Broadcasting, which would allow its free broadcasts to reach 72 percent of U.S. households. Chris Ruddy’s Newsmax TV currently has nowhere near Fox’s reach, but it is also looking to grow. POLITICO has reported that it recently signed a deal with DISH Network to increase its distribution.
That is, in part, because the network faces a far different media ecosystem today. In the old days, Fox was free to set the agenda. But the explosion in popularity of both social media and conservative sites like Breitbart, Infowars and The Gateway Pundit have now forced the network to make sure it doesn’t get left behind by whatever is bubbling up online.
Conservative radio host, MSNBC contributor and noted Trump critic Charlie Sykes seemed to echo Ruddy’s sentiment about what he feels Fox News has become.
“I’ve read the stories about how the Murdochs have soured on Donald Trump, but you would not know it from their programming decisions. It certainly reflects the business model of conservative media right now. Pro-Trump viewers want a safe space. They want a reliable outlet that will defend the president and attack his critics and Fox has apparently decided that it’s going to give them that.”
“It’s quite a significant pivot,” Sykes continued. “For people who believe Fox has always been pro-Trump, they miss the significance of how hard the shift has been in the last 18 months. Fox is really turning itself very self-consciously into virtually a house organ of the Trump administration.”
The network’s news anchors, including Shep Smith, Chris Wallace and Bret Baier, have been critical of the president on occasion. Smith most notably so. But they obviously aren’t prime time-ers.
Fox News has been the most-watched cable news network for 63 consecutive quarters, 21CF executive co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch reminded investors on the Q1 ’18 Fox earnings call yesterday. It would obviously take a ton of resources and time for another TV network to pose a legitimate threat to Fox in the ratings race. But Ruddy feels that there is room for outlets like his.
“My view is we’re not challenging Fox, we’re just adding to the diversity of the marketplace,” Ruddy said. “Tucker, Laura and Hannity, that’s going to be a very predictable lineup largely. My view would be more independent voices. I think in the long run this is better for conservatives, it’s better for President Trump.”