Fox News has doubled down on providing Americans with misinformation as it faces a post-Trump ratings dip, Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote on Sunday, arguing that companies must respond by taking away advertising dollars.
In recent days, Fox has taken a sharp turn toward a more extreme approach as it confronts a post-Trump ratings dip — the result of some of its furthest-right viewers moving to outlets such as Newsmax and One America News and some middle-of-the-roaders apparently finding CNN or MSNBC more to their liking.
With profit as the one true religion at Fox, something had to change. Eighty-nine-year-old Rupert Murdoch, according to a number of reports, has stepped in to call the shots directly. Most notably, the network has decided to add an hour of opinion programming to its prime-time offerings. The 7 p.m. hour will no longer be nominally news but straight-up outrage production.
Why? Because that’s where the ratings are.
Sullivan noted that primetime hosts Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson “have become even more outlandish as they try to gin up anti-Biden rage within their audiences.”
She also noted that even one of Murdoch’s sons, James Murdoch, has called out his father’s company for the damage it is doing to American democracy.
“The sacking of the Capitol is proof positive that what we thought was dangerous is indeed very much so,” he told the Financial Times. “Those outlets that propagate lies to their audience have unleashed insidious and uncontrollable forces that will be with us for years.”
Government intervention regarding what can and cannot be said on air is not the answer, Sullivan argued, calling that option “a cure worse than the disease.”
Instead, Fox News requires a hit where it hurts the most: “Ratings. Advertising dollars. Profit.”
Corporations that advertise on Fox News should walk away, and citizens who care about the truth should demand that they do so (in addition to trying to steer their friends and relatives away from the network).
Sullivan noted that “the 147 Republican lawmakers who opposed certification of the presidential election have lost the support of many of their largest corporate backers,” which suggests corporations are willing to take action.
This shows, at the very least, that there is a growing understanding that lying to the public matters, that it’s harmful — or “insidious,” in the words of James Murdoch. And that some corporations don’t want to be a part of that.
When you think about Fox News’s role in the 400,000 U.S. lives lost to the pandemic and in the disastrous attack of Jan. 6, it’s even fair to call it deadly.
So if reality-based America wants to communicate clearly with Fox News leadership, they’ll have to do it in a language they understand. The language of money.