New conservative news network in the works to challenge Fox from the right?
But … we’ve already got One America News.
The reason this is getting so much hype today is because the words “Roger Ailes” are swirling around the rumors.
A well-placed source close to the proposal tells Mediaite that serious discussions are underway to create an alternative conservative cable network on the belief that the Fox News Network is moving too far to the left. The source, who is engaged in the talks, says a meeting is planned for today with two prominent high-powered television executives, some underperforming conservative networks and people who have an interest and the ability to fund a new network.
The potential aim? Putting “the old band” back together. There are certainly plenty of (out-of-work?) conservative powerhouses to pick from that could star on a new network, and perhaps even some executives from within Fox News who might be lured by the new opportunity. Could the new channel include stars like the ousted Bill O’Reilly, who didn’t waste much time hitting the podcast waves after he was fired amid a sexual harassment scandal? Could Tomi Lahren, the conservative mega star, who was recently sidelined at The Blaze also take on a prominent role? The exact “who” won’t be clear until the deal is more defined but the source says the pitch is that the network could immediately reach at least 85 million homes.
The Mediaite piece doesn’t mention Ailes but Axios claims he’s one of the people meeting with “high-powered television executives and potential funders” to talk about a new network. Fox nemesis Gabriel Sherman noticed the Mediaite piece too:
Ailes will be 77 in two weeks, which seems old for a new day-to-day management role but maybe not so old for helping to put the pieces of a new network together and staff it up with his handpicked favorites. Question, though: In what way has Fox News moved “too far to the left,” as Mediaite alleges? That’s the sort of criticism that it’s easy to find isolated examples for (Shep’s still on the air!) but not as easy to make a systematic case for. The most centrist anchor in primetime, Megyn Kelly, left months ago and was replaced by populist conservative Tucker Carlson. The next most centrist anchor, center-right Bill O’Reilly, has now himself been ousted and replaced by Carlson. The new show at 9 p.m., “The Five,” has conservatives in Greg Gutfeld, Dana Perino, and Kim Guilfoyle matched up with liberal foils a la the old “Hannity & Colmes” dynamic that did well on Fox for years. And of course Hannity himself is still there at 10 p.m., as pro-Trump as ever. The accusation that Fox is moving “left” smells like a euphemism for the idea that the network isn’t moving as rapidly towards populism as Republican viewers might prefer in the age of Trump, but that criticism is shaky too:
For the 89 percent of Republican voters who cast ballots for Trump, their backing represented a departure from many of the principles that have animated the American conservative movement for six decades. Today, those voters remain broadly supportive of the president personally, and as a result, insiders say, the conservative media have been increasingly pulled by a tractor beam that demands positive coverage of the president regardless of how far he wanders from the ideas they once enforced. Producers and editors have been faced with a choice: Provide that coverage or lose your audience…
Over the course of the campaign and into the beginning of his presidency, anti-Trump voices slowly receded from Fox’s air, while those favorable to him began to appear more often. This has been most evident in the transformation of the panel segment on Baier’s 6 p.m. newscast, “Special Report,” once the premier venue for conservative thought on television. As the political reality on the right shifted, Baier made an effort to include more pro-Trump voices on the panel. Trump critic Jonah Goldberg of National Review and Weekly Standard editor Stephen Hayes, once fixtures on the panel, began to appear less frequently; the network also declined to renew the contract of George Will, another panelist and a reliable Trump critic. Trump-friendly pundits like Washington Times columnist Charles Hurt, American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp and his wife, Mercedes, and Republican strategist Lisa Boothe now appear in their stead. In late March, Fox announced it had signed the Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway, a reliably pro-Trump commentator, as a contributor.
Carlson is a Trump fan, enough so to have landed an interview with the president last month, and there’s no more dependable Trump defender on American television than Hannity. And the admiration society goes both ways: Six of the eight TV interviews Trump has granted have been to Fox, Politico notes in the piece excerpted above, and he regularly tweets about news items he’s seen on “Fox & Friends” when he has the channel on in the morning. If “moving too far to the left” is doublespeak for “not praising Trump quite as much as RT praises Putin,” then yeah, I guess there is a vacuum in the right-wing media landscape. The irony is, to the extent that Fox really is moving leftward, it’s because they’re so pro-Trump, to the point where they’d even be willing to defend some of his less conservative policy impulses. If Trump announces tomorrow that he wants to legalize DREAMers or drop a trillion bucks on infrastructure, would right-wing Fox News lambaste him or go into the tank and back him up? How would you wager? I doubt very seriously that Roger Ailes and pals are thinking of launching a more purist conservative network to attack Fox for having sold out its Hayekian principles, in which case what niche would it fill that Fox doesn’t already?
If there’s truth to the idea that Fox is moving left, I think it’s the fear that it will begin moving left if and when Rupert Murdoch’s sons choose to remake the network’s image more aggressively. There was chatter in the media about that when Megyn Kelly’s contract negotiations were going on: Supposedly the junior Murdochs wanted to turn Fox into something more like Britain’s Sky News, a hard-news-oriented down-the-middle Murdoch property, with Kelly as a centrist-y focal point. In other words, Fox would have moved left, leaving space on the populist right for … a new Fox News. But that plan seems gone now along with Kelly herself. Fox is more thoroughly “Trump TV” than ever, with Hannity as the network’s biggest personality and Trumpist populist Tucker Carlson the new 8 p.m. cornerstone. Another Trumper, Eric Bolling, just got the 5 p.m. slot, co-hosting with conservative Kat Timpf and liberal Eboni Williams. What else do they need to do to make a Trump fan with an insatiable appetite for more Trump apologias happy? Give Laura Ingraham a show too? Tomi Lahren at 11 after Hannity? Watch the clip below. What itch do viewers have that isn’t being scratched there?
Occam’s Razor: Maybe this is less about Fox moving left than Ailes wanting revenge on the kingdom that deposed him and angling to prove that he can build a winner all over again from scratch if he wanted to. Imagine O’Reilly and maybe Greta and maybe even Hannity (if current Fox prez Bill Shine gets fired) all decamping to the new Ailes TV and basically creating “Fox News Classic.” Is that all this is going to be?
Here’s Hannity and Lou Dobbs last night sounding not so much like they’re moving left.