Fox News announced earlier today that they will be making changes to their daytime lineup in the very near future, the biggest casualty of which seems to be the 7:00 pm show hosted by Martha McCallum.
“As we kick off a new year, we are excited to announce new changes to our schedule. We have the best-in-class anchors, interviewers, reporters and talent in all of news media. This new powerful lineup ensures Fox News Media will continue to deliver outstanding coverage for our viewers who depend on the most trusted names in the business,” Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott said in an email to staffers.
There was much consternation and anger on the right as viewers noticed during the runup to the November election a shift by Fox News personalities in their tone and reporting on the Trump Administration. While there has long been a divide between the manner in which Fox News shows reported on events, and the manner in which the better known Fox Opinion hosts handled their content, the cause of this growing divergence doesn’t seem to have been covered all that well.
Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson — three of the four most-watched shows nationwide — run as a block of primetime programming from 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm.
In 2020, Hannity’s 9:00 pm show averaged 4.4 million viewers each evening and finished No. 1 overall among cable news programs for the fourth year in a row.
Carlson’s 8:00 pm show finished a close second, averaging 4.37 million viewers each night. In third place was the 5:00 pm “The Five”, a roundtable program hosted by Greg Gutfield, with Ingraham’s 10:00 show coming in fourth.
Those shows drive the revenue at Fox News because of their time slots and their viewership. For those reasons, those shows continue on in the same manner and the same time slots.
But it is the balance of the network’s programming of “news” shows earlier in the day where the shift in editorial viewpoint has been most noticeable, and where the shift in programming is taking place.
Rupert Murdoch — never to be confused with a conservative — started Fox News when he recognized there was a void in the spectrum of news and opinion reporting. Rupert Murdoch recognized that as a business opportunity, and he was almost immediately rewarded from a financial perspective by turning editorial content over to GOP political operative Roger Ailes. “Conservative” media alternative Foxs News then flourished over the next 20+ years
But Roger Ailes has been gone from Fox News for a long time — he passed away in 2017 — and Rupert Murdoch turned over control of his media empire to two of his sons, Lachlan and James Murdoch.
Where their father once saw a business opportunity, Lachlan and James see only news content and an editorial point of view that they do not like. James resigned his last position with News Corp in July 2020, the holding company that owns the various Murdoch family media companies, severing his last connection with the empire his father build. His resignation left his older brother Lachlin firmly in control of all the media properties himself.
James is an outspoken advocate of “global climate change” orthodoxy, and has expressed unhappiness with Fox News giving coverage to what he views as “climate deniers”. In the last election cycle, James and his wife maxed out their ability to contribute to the Biden-Harris campaign — EACH donating a total of $615,000 through a variety of avenues to support the Democrat ticket.
Lachlan should not be confused with a conservative either. Lachlan’s advancement at News Corp mirrored the decline of Roger Ailes’ influence. The editorial changes at Fox News are a reflection of what Lachlan Murdoch wants to see.
So, what is taking place with the lineup? In some regards, it is little more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The overall ratings performance of Fox News — especially in the daytime hours — has declined significantly when compared to its liberal competitors CNN and MSNBC since the election. Fox executives seem to have made a calculated judgment that they would rather pursue a share of the audience loyal to the two liberal competitors, while at the same time allowing a more minor player in the daytime news game, Newsmax TV, to inherit the conservative viewers Fox is shedding.
Martha McCallum currently hosts a show between “Special Report” at 6:00 pm, and Tucker Carlson at 8:00. Her show is being replaced by a new show hosted by John Roberts.
Roberts, who was the White House correspondent during the Trump Administration, will also co-host a 2-hour program from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm with Sandra Smith.
McCallum is losing her 7:00 pm timeslot as a lead-in to Tucker Carlson, and is slated for a 3:00 pm afternoon show instead.
Neal Cavuto, The Five, and Special Report with Brett Baier will remain in their current timeslots.
From an editorial perspective, watch for a more pronounced shift in the editorial narrative covering the Biden Administration from John Roberts on his 3 hours of programming, as well as from McCallum now in her afternoon slot.
Newsmax jumped on the announcement, noting that Greg Kelly’s show at 7:00 pm, head-to-head with Kelly, is now drawing 800,000 viewers a night, with most of that viewership coming at McCallum’s expense as she slipped to third place behind MSNBC and CNN in that timeslot. This is a pretty direct causal relationship between the rise of a Newsmax program with a clear conservative viewpoint and a decrease in viewership at Fox.
As Newsmax acquires more well-known hosts and popular shows, it will make itself into a more inviting home for Hannity/Carlson/Ingraham.
If that day comes, Fox News will be able to look back at 2020 as where it all started to unravel.