Fox News should seize this moment to reinvent themselves

Fox News is rapidly becoming the network of racists and sexual predators. Every day new allegations of harassment, intimidation and abuse are coming to light. These are periodically followed by multi-million dollar court settlements and occasionally someone else gets fired.

The supposedly ‘fair and balanced’ Fox rose to prominence during the Rush Limbaugh right wing radio talk show days and, quite apart from its legal problems, is in danger of being killed by the monster they created. Through Fox’s one sided coverage that played fast and loose with facts, their audience drifted farther and farther right and now is losing part of its audience to organizations like Breitbart. Fox simply doesn’t seem capable of moving far enough to the right, or fast enough. They don’t seem willing to abandon reality altogether in favour of a paranoid, flat-Earth, what-if-the-South-had-won-the-Civil-War fantasy land.

At the moment though, the market is wide open for a new cable news network.

MSNBC is ok, if you agree with them ideologically. It’s not that they’re bad, it just that you have to remember to pack a few extra grains of salt if you’re going there. They don’t lie, but they are in the business of telling liberals what they want to hear.

CNN at this point is only really liked by people who love reality television but aren’t really into politics. The right hates them because Donald Trump says to and because they don’t spend enough time saying paranoid fantasies are true. The progressive left hates them because they’re corporate. At the moment, the middle / left-centre is displeased with them because they did a poor job of covering the election - treating it more like a reality TV show and less like something of profound national and international importance.



So, there is an opportunity here for Fox to steal a good chuck of the center from CNN, but to do it the network would have to reinvent itself. Between Trump, fake news, the March for Science and the many important issues facing the world there is a demand for something real and reliable. If Fox wants to reinvent itself this could be the moment to clean house and start something new; to get rid of their usual suspects and all of their baggage and start an intelligent, thoughtful, fact based cable news network.

They might even want to go off the air for awhile, build their new team and do it right, then come back with a solid team that combines respected veterans and talented newcomers; make sure the faces on the air reflect the diversity of America in terms of race, ethnicity, gender and age.

Cover news, politics and current events - with a eye to international affairs currently lacking on all of the cable news networks. Also, cover science, economics, business, sports, arts and entertainment but cover it all well. Thoroughly fact check everything you say, bring in recognized experts in their fields to talk about important issues and avoid rumour, gossip, pointless bickering and the rest of the traps that have diminished the credibility of CNN. Bring in intelligent liberals and conservatives to have rational, moderated discussions (complete with fact checking) on issues facing the nation and the world. Encourage respectful disagreement based on mutually accepted facts.

How likely is this? Not very, but not completely impossible either.

At the moment, Fox News is in a bad place. Its audience is shrinking and it is under a cloud of distrust because of the way women and minorities have been treated there - apparently for decades. Even prior to this though, there were signs that the news division was out of step with the overall strategy of 21st Century Fox.

This is, after all, the same company that brings you the Simpsons, the X-Files, In Living Color, Sons of Anarchy, Fargo, American Horror Story (and many others). It's the network that at one time aired Michael Moore's short lived TV Nation. It's the studio that made the Star Wars films, Alien, the Martian, the X-Men and Deadpool. It's the network that made Neil Degrasse Tyson's Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey and aired it across all of their networks. It's the group that bought National Geographic and gave Tyson a regular talk show as well.

There have also been reports, for many years, of disagreement within the Murdoch clan (Fox's owners) about the network, its future and how it fit into the overall Fox empire. According to the Hollywood Reporter:
"Forsaking establishment cred, the new network, in Ailes' aggressive bid for an under-served right-wing audience, went on to clobber CNN in ratings and profits. But 20 years later, CNN is again becoming the model for Murdoch's sons, Lachlan and James, as they envision a post-Ailes world. CNN's current chief, Jeff Zucker, is even said among industry insiders to be one of the sons' top choices to take over at Fox News. In part this reflects the Murdoch sons' view of the future of 21st Century Fox as a modern, multiplatform content and distribution company, one without their father's political stain."
While the sons' fascination with Zucker and CNN may not sound promising, CNN is also running into some credibility/trust issues of their own and there is hope. From the same Hollywood Reporter piece:
"James Murdoch ... has a lot of TV news experience. Sky News in the U.K., under his oversight as BSkyB CEO from 2003 to 2007, was an aggressive BBC competitor, a tad right of the BBC perhaps, but self-consciously objective and decidedly not Fox News — CNN in its Turner incarnation [old CNN, pre-OJ Simpson trial] was something of its model."
So it is possible that the Murdoch's could see the writing on the wall and the opportunity. They could make Fox News relevant again, and relevant to people for whom it never has been before. They could make Fox an integrated network with quality entertainment programming and high quality news and information and they could get something that marketers drool over: A good story; 'the disgraced right wing network that did the completely unexpected and restored quality and ethics to television journalism'.

I'm not saying that the will do this, but they can - if they want to.
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