Things are not going so well for the Fox Business Network. The network, which mostly seemed to function during primetime as the Fox News Channel's cover band, announced the cancelation of its entire primetime lineup yesterday: Power and Money with David Asman, Freedom Watch with Andrew Napolitano, and Follow The Money with Eric Bolling. For anyone that has been paying attention to the network's recent struggles, the news is not surprising.
Last October, Reuters reported on a memo sent by Fox Business Network executive vice president Kevin Magee to Fox Business staff imploring everyone at the network to stop trying to emulate Fox News Channel. In the memo, which Magee sent after meeting with Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, Magee told his staff that he had "been asked to remind you all again that they are separate channels and the more we make FBN look like FNC the more of a disservice we do to ourselves."
Indeed, at that point it was difficult to differentiate between FBN and FNC. The channels featured the same rotating cast of contributors and hosts, and FBN, though it did report on business news, seemed far more interested in the Fox News routine of tearing down Obama and Democrats. It was not uncommon to turn on the channel and see David Asman or Eric Bolling covering stories not even tangentially connected to business, like conspiracies about President Obama's birth certificate.
In the intervening months since Magee sent his memo, the frequent primetime focus on partisan politics at the expense of actual business reporting has continued. Andrew Napolitano used his show to promote Ron Paul's presidential bid, and Eric Bolling devoted time to explaining why The Muppets are anti-capitalism.
In a statement released yesterday, Magee announced that starting later this month, rather than airing Asman's, Napolitano's, and Bolling's shows, the network will instead re-air their 5-8 p.m. programming (Neil Cavuto, Gerri Willis, and Lou Dobbs) from 8-11p.m.
As The New York Times' Brian Stelter explained in his write-up of the move, FBN's primetime ratings have been anemic, with the channel averaging only 54,000 total viewers each night, which places it in "the bottom tier of all cable channels rated by Nielsen."
Aside from clearly needing to shake things up to fix their terrible ratings, Fox Business Network may have another motivation to soften the tone of their evening programming. The Wall Street Journal's current arrangement with CNBC -- wherein CNBC reportedly receives advanced access to certain original financial reporting from WSJ and all Dow Jones business outlets as well as other perks -- expires in 2012, and there has been talk that the paper might form a similar relationship with Fox Business.
One potential sticking point, however, is the hyperpartisanship of Fox Business' programming. The president of the Independent Association of Publishers' Employees, which represents several employees at the Journal told Media Matters last year that, "by and large, reporters at the Journal do not like being associated in the minds of news sources or news subjects with Fox News."
Brian Stelter wrote in his piece that Willis, Cavuto and Dobbs host "three programs [that] have a high concentration of Republican politicians and conservative commentators as guests, [but] they are not as overtly political as the shows they are replacing." The fact that Lou Dobbs (whose birtherism hastened his exit from CNN) is considered less polarizing than Fox Business Network's current slate of primetime hosts is as sure a sign as any that the network had gone completely off the rails.