Fox News executives often try to placate advertisers worried about the damage the network’s unhinged propagandists might do to their brands by telling them to simply place ads on its “news” programs rather than its “opinion” shows. This dramatically overestimates the credibility of the “news” side, which typically bolsters the same right-wing misinformation seen elsewhere on the network. The result, however, is that commercial blocks in prime time are dominated by a right-wing ideologue’s pillow company and other low-quality ads hawking as-seen-on-TV products, while those running during the network’s daytime and evening “news” programs are supported by blue-chip companies.
But what happens to those advertisers when Fox changes its lineup to prioritize even more explicit propaganda? The network leaves them twisting in the wind.
In January, the network switched the programming in its 7 p.m. block as part of an effort to win back recalcitrant viewers. The “news” show The Story, anchored by Martha MacCallum, whom Fox executives had heavily, though inaccurately, touted as a credible news source, moved to the afternoon. In its place debuted the new “opinion” show Fox News Primetime, helmed by a rotating group of B-list, explicitly right-wing commentators.
Three months later, ads for the same blue-chip companies that used to support a “news” program in that time slot are still running, alongside the new program’s unhinged vitriol, bigotry, and conspiracy theories.
Top advertisers underwriting Fox News Primetime since its January 18 start include pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline, Bayer, and Novartis; the restaurant chains Arby’s and IHOP; leading automobile companies including Ford.; the food and beverage company Kraft Heinz; the online travel company Priceline; and the telecommunications company T-Mobile.
Those companies have put their money behind some truly abominable content this month alone.
Tucker Carlson’s passionate, much-maligned defense of the white nationalist conspiracy theory that Democrats are trying to “replace the current electorate” with “more obedient voters from the Third World” came during a guest hit on the program.
Three different rotating hosts of the show interviewed COVID-19 conspiracy theorist Naomi Wolf, who used Monday’s appearance to argue that Dr. Anthony Fauci, Bill and Melinda Gates, the state of Israel, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were engaged in some sort of nebulous but sinister vaccine plot.
And one of the Fox News Primetime hosts, Rachel Campos-Duffy, suggested that Michelle Obama’s work with military spouses as first lady was part of a nefarious scheme to feminize the military.
Advertisers can expect more of the same in Fox’s reimagined 7 p.m. hour. The network is out to boost its audience, even if it needs to screw over its advertisers to do it.