Fox News is described as being in a state of crisis as the potential release of audio tapes of former boss Roger Ailes sexually harassing women is threatening to consume the network.
Vanity Fair reported:
One staffer expressed to me an even greater fear: that, without Ailes, Fox News’s future is in an existential crisis. Under Ailes, the network had operated rather independently from its parent company, 21st Century Fox. Now, many staffers worry that they will be monitored more closely by “the Boys,” as James Murdoch, the C.E.O. of 21st Century Fox, and his brother, Lachlan, its executive chairman, are still known within the company. Indeed, many have feared for years that James Murdoch has little interest in his father’s core media assets—television, print, and movies—and remains more focused on a technological future.
Meanwhile, 21st Century Fox has begun discussing a settlement in the Gretchen Carlson lawsuit against Ailes, according to two people familiar with the negotiations. The company is requesting that Ailes, who has denied all Carlson’s allegations, fund at least a portion of the settlement, which is expected to reach eight figures, these people said. At issue in the settlement talks is the existence of audio tapes recorded by multiple women in conversation with Ailes, two people familiar with the tapes said. Ailes’ lawyers have argued that any negotiation with Carlson should take place in private arbitration, but the specter of a public trial looms. “If they litigate the case, all the tapes will become public, directly and through others,” this person said. “Then you will have a parade of women come in. Nobody wants that.” (Ailes, through his lawyer, denied all allegations.)
Fox News will continue in the short-term to lead the cable news ratings race because they have cornered the market on conservative cable news consumers. CNN can hire every Trump campaign employee and surrogate on the planet, but the reality is that they aren’t going to make a dent in the loyalty that many viewers feel towards Fox News.
The internal problems that the Ailes sexual harassment case exposes could lead to the downfall of Fox News. There is a crisis at Fox News. Outside of Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier, there are no youngish talents on the horizon at the network (Kelly and Baier aren’t exactly young. They are in their mid-40s). Bill O’Reilly is a senior citizen. Sean Hannity is decade younger. Greta Van Susteren is 62. Three-quarters of the Fox News primetime lineup is old enough to join the AARP.
Fox News continues to have the oldest audience on television. The network is facing the same demographic challenges that are hurting the Republican Party. Fox News was facing a real demographic crisis on the horizon. The Ailes scandal moved up the timetable to today.
Things are bad at Fox News, and the direction they choose going forward will determine if the man who built the network’s success will also be responsible for its demise.