Fox News Moves Left - What's the Reason Behind the Shift?

On Saturday around noon Fox News anchor Brett Baier posted an innocuous tweet, urging people to tune in and watch him, and longtime on-air partner Martha MacCallum, as they provided coverage of the ongoing election developments. Baier was met with almost universal contempt for this post. The thousands of comments were filled almost exclusively with those declaring how they were done with Fox News, a rather notable shift in tone from the audience.


Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy may finally be getting their wish. Fox News appears to be working on making themselves into just another irrelevant media entity…exactly like Tater’s and Ollie’s CNN. Over the past week or so Fox News has made some brash decisions that not only have gone noticed but literally repelled their own audience. These moves reflect a desire on the corporate side to alter the thrust of the #1 news network, which is not only foolhardy but is already affecting their audience share.

Many are already aware of the actions. On the election, many viewers were dismayed with how quickly Fox called states for Joe Biden, notably the case with Arizona, as well as claiming the Democrats will pick up seats. (As it stands, the GOP has gained at least 10 House seats, with some races still outstanding.) There was a hot-mic moment when one anchor was heard bemusing the comments by a guest, Judge Jeanine Pirro was suspended from her Saturday program for questioning the network, and then there was the case of Neil Cavuto cutting off the White House Press Secretary conference because they were disapproving of some of the comments she had made. You can also toss in the combative nature of the once balanced Chris Wallace for added measure.

All of these have led to noticeable audience flight. As Bonchie previously noted, the Network that has dominated the ratings for years has abruptly seen itself slip below MSNBC and even CNN, a network that has often lagged behind Spongebob Squarepants in the ratings. On Friday Fox News saw its performance nearly doubled by the once-anemic CNN, as it drew 2.2 million viewers while CNN enjoyed over 4 million. Bonchie showed Saturday’s numbers were in line with this return, and our report on this evidence was taken to task by the network, which I will address soon. But the first question to ask here is — what is leading to this behavior? We need to start at the top.


Former media titan Rupert Murdoch ceded control of operations in 2015 to his two boys, James and Lachlan, both of whom did not share the same conservative positions. James Murdoch was installed as his replacement as CEO of 21st Century Fox Media, but the past year became tumultuous. When Disney bought 20th Century Fox studios the TV and news divisions became a separate entity of their own. Lachlan took over the news division and James became upset with the direction of Fox News, leading to his departure this summer. 

This shift seemed to play into the plans of former House Speaker Paul Ryan. When he retired from Congress Ryan joined the board of Fox News in March, 2019. It was just over a year ago when reports were made that Ryan was pushing for the network to distance itself from Trump. This past spring the President called out Ryan by name when he felt he had been wrongly criticized by the network. 

Now it appears the moves at the top are starting to be seen on the broadcast side. One possible addition to the shifting tide is revealed in the call for Arizona to Biden. The Fox News Decision Desk is run by longtime pollster and election statistician, Arnon Mishkin. There has been much focus on his early call, ahead of many other outlets, and this only becomes more curious as Mishkin is a registered Democrat. Even as he defends his decision it has created a huge pushback from the viewership.


Which brings us to those viewers — or specifically, the former viewers. Following Bonchie’s column about the weekend performance, we received an email from the Fox News PR division. They gave us the rating from the past few nights, and then asked that we run a follow-up, ‘’to correct the record.’’ This was wrongheaded on two counts.

First, there is nothing to correct, since we had given the figures from Saturday which showed Fox News dropping from its former perch atop the ratings. Providing numbers from days later in no way alters or invalidates the clear shift in the viewers. The second issue is with the press release they provided to supposedly show we were incorrect. In it the copy touts Monday’s glorious ratings, stating how “Tucker Carlson Tonight” Tops all of Cable News. This was itself an accurate boast, but it also shows the misguided mindset going on at the network.

On that Monday program, Tucker lambasted the network over the list of decisions they had enacted, provided above. Basically what the PR office is proclaiming here is that we should praise their primetime talent who had been deeply critical of the network, during that highly-rated program.

To say there is a growing issue at Fox News is becoming more evident. While the individual personalities may still draw a crowd in primetime it is clear there is a mounting problem with the network in general. We will be watching to see how things progress, both with their on-air content and the audience response.


(EDITOR’S NOTE, 12/7/20: The headline has been edited to remove any reference to a new Public Relations firm. We apologize for the error.)


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