Gabriel Sherman | Media Matters for America

Gabriel Sherman

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  • Fox News reportedly having difficulty selling ads for Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham’s shows: “The pro-Trump thing isn’t working"

    Fox News’ business model is not sustainable

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    We now have further confirmation that Fox News’ role as a mouthpiece for Donald Trump is affecting the network’s bottom line.

    According to a report by Gabriel Sherman in Vanity Fair, the network is struggling to sell ad space on their 9 and 10 PM respective programs.

    While Fox News dominated the ratings in May—a fact Trump bragged about on Saturday—the network is having new difficulties monetizing its most pro-Trump programming. According to three sources briefed on the numbers, advertising revenues for Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham are down in recent months. “The pro-Trump thing isn’t working. We can’t monetize DACA and the wall and that right-wing shit,” one staffer said. “Despite all the hype on Hannity, they can’t sell it,” another insider told me. (Tucker Carlson’s show is faring better, sources said).
     

    This follows an October 2017 report that Fox News’ ad revenue had dropped 17% year over year, at the same time that ad revenue at other cable news networks was relatively stable.

    Advertisers have fled Sean Hannity’s toxic program because of his promotion of conspiracy theories, pro-Trump propaganda and willingness to take extreme measure to deflect and defend anything that comes out of the White House. Media Matters launched a campaign to focus on advertiser education when it became clear that there were no rules for Sean Hannity at Fox News. Recent events have only vindicated that. There is no pretense that Hannity abides by any standards, as Hannity has built an entire universe separate from the rest of Fox News based solely on absolute and undying loyalty to Donald Trump. Reports indicate that Hannity advises the president on a consistent basis, who in turn promotes Hannity’s show on his Twitter account. Many advertisers have left the show. At this point, the sole purpose of Hannity’s show is not profit, or education, or even entertainment: It is to lay the groundwork for an authoritarian response to the Russia probe led by Robert Mueller.

    Meanwhile, Laura Ingraham has built her show around racism, sexism and fear mongering about immigrants. She has attacked asylum seekers and refugees, told athletes to “shut up and dribble” after Lebron James criticized President Trump, and said that transgender people don’t belong in the military. Ingraham received massive blowback for these remarks.

    This backlash spilled over to financial consequences following Ingraham’s attacks on Parkland school shooting survivor David Hogg and his sister Lauren. The duo led an advertiser boycott against Ingraham, forcing her to apologize and take a “vacation.” On her radio show, Ingraham doubled down, attacking companies that left her show as having “gave into the mob.”

    But until some management imposes real standards and consequences at Fox News, it’s up to activists and advertisers to shoulder the burden. As Media Matters president Angelo Carusone wrote in October:

    Mostly driven by concerns around digital advertising, companies are becoming increasingly mindful about brand safety and intentionality in that advertising. And that mindfulness is starting to influence other advertising decisions as well, like television sponsorships.

    Companies do not want their advertising to be associated with rank partisanship, bigotry, or deceit. They recognize that it’s bad for business. But Fox News continues to offer all three in spades, and as a result, I suspect it is beginning to have a downward effect on the network’s commercial viability as a whole.

    Bottom line is this: Fox News’ ad revenue plummeted. It’s likely largely attributable to Hannity’s growing advertiser losses. And it also appears to reflect a deeper vulnerability in Fox News’ business model of bigotry, deceit, and partisanship.

  • How Bill Shine Has Been Implicated In Fox News' Ongoing Legal Disasters

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    The Murdoch family might be looking to replace Bill Shine as co-president of Fox News after multiple reports named Shine as being complicit in burying sexual harassment complaints by helping to coordinate smear campaigns against women who reported harassment, or pushing them to settle and sign nondisclosure agreements. Shine has also been tied to a racial discrimination and harassment lawsuit against the network, and has been named in a more recent lawsuit for surveilling the private communications of a former Fox host who sued the network for harassment.

  • Lawsuit: Former Fox Host Had Digital Devices “Spied On” By Fox After Reporting Sexual Harassment  

    Andrea Tantaros Has Sued Fox News For Spying On Her Private Communications “As Part Of A Campaign Of Intimidation”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    According to NPR’s David Folkenflik, Andrea Tantaros, former Fox News host and plaintiff in a sexual harassment lawsuit against the network and its former CEO Roger Ailes, has presented a new lawsuit against the network. The new lawsuit, according to Folkenflik, says the network arranged “to have her private communications spied on as part of a campaign of intimidation” that involved Twitter “sock puppet” accounts tweeting the contents of her private conversations after she reported sexual harassment incidents at Fox News.

    As reported by NPR, Tantaros’ lawsuit says that “Fox News executives including co-President Bill Shine orchestrated the use of material gathered by electronic eavesdropping that was fed to Twitter accounts acting on the network's behalf.” According to multiple articles, Shine has reportedly participated in retaliation campaigns against women who have reported sexual harassment within the network and has “pushed women into confidential mediation, signing nondisclosure agreements in exchange for their contracts to be paid.”

    This is not the first time Fox has been accused of spying on the women who report sexual harassment: in 2004, the network paid private investigator and former network contributor Bo Dietl “to dig up information” about former producer Andrea Mackris, who reported sexual harassment from now-ousted Fox host Bill O’Reilly. Other claims in the lawsuit seem to corroborate previous reporting, such as Folkenflik’s reporting on Fox’s past use of online “sock-puppet accounts” to spread misinformation and attack perceived rivals, as well as New York magazine’s reporting by Gabriel Sherman detailing the use of a “black room” used to “conduct PR and surveillance campaigns against people [Roger Ailes] targeted, both inside and outside the company." 

    It’s also not the first time a company owned by Murdoch has been accused of hacking or spying. Fox News allegedly sought through “legally questionable means” the private communications of Media Matters senior reporter Joe Strupp, who had written articles citing “anonymous Fox sources.” 

    The incidents are also consistent with the Murdochs’ -- whose company 21st Century Fox controls Fox News -- shoddy journalistic practices involving hacking. In 2011, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp was involved in a phone hacking scandal that had them face legal consequences. As explained by NPR’s Folkenflik, “a bribery and hacking scandal at their London tabloids led to the closing of a newspaper, the criminal conviction of a former editor in chief, millions of dollars in settlements and the loss of a potential $11 billion takeover of a big British broadcaster called Sky.” In yet another example, News America Marketing, a division of News Corp., “illicitly accessed its competitor’s password-protected website,” while the two companies were reportedly “at war.” Tantaros’ lawsuit is just the latest allegation of misdeeds against Fox News. From David Folkenflik’s April 24 NPR article:

    A new lawsuit filed Monday by a suspended Fox News host accuses the network and senior executives of arranging to have her private communications spied on as part of a campaign of intimidation.

    The host, Andrea Tantaros, alleged in a previous lawsuit that she had been sexually harassed by former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes and former top-rated Fox News host Bill O'Reilly. That suit has been stayed while her complaints against the network are being heard in binding private arbitration. All defendants, through their own representatives or through Fox's parent company, 21st Century Fox, vehemently denied Tantaros' initial allegations.

    In Monday's federal lawsuit, Tantaros alleges that Fox News executives including co-President Bill Shine orchestrated the use of material gathered by electronic eavesdropping that was fed to Twitter accounts acting on the network's behalf. Ensuing tweets, she says, reflected knowledge of details of intimate conversations and exchanges with family members and friends. Tantaros alleges this was done to try to undermine her resolve in challenging the network on sexual harassment.

    [...]

    The case appears to build on a recent report by Salon's Matthew Sheffield. He reported that Fox News under Ailes allegedly paid for "sock puppet" accounts online to promote his private agendas, and also covertly supported the development of blogs that sexualized the network's female hosts and anchors. Tantaros' new suit names, among others, the head of a digital media consulting company who had a prominent role in Sheffield's account.

    [...]

    The suit alleges a rise in offensive material on social media accounts directed toward Tantaros in early 2015, when she says she first notified Shine and other Fox News executives that Ailes had harassed her. Then in May 2016, according to the complaint, several Twitter accounts started to post material suggesting direct knowledge of her conversations.

    [...]

    The phrase "hacking" carries particular resonance for the Murdoch family, which controls Fox News. In 2011, a bribery and hacking scandal at their London tabloids led to the closing of a newspaper, the criminal conviction of a former editor in chief, millions of dollars in settlements and the loss of a potential $11 billion takeover of a big British broadcaster called Sky. The Murdochs are now back in front of a British regulator, once again attempting to take over the 60 percent of Sky they do not already control.

  • James Murdoch, CEO Of Fox News’ Parent Company, Reportedly Wants Bill O’Reilly Off The Air Permanently

    New York Magazine's Gabriel Sherman: "There's Talk Inside Fox News That Tonight's Show Could Be His Last"

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman is reporting that multiple Fox News sources are saying Fox News host Bill O’Reilly could be off the air permanently.

    Under pressure from advertisers and the network, O’Reilly announced on the April 4 edition of his show that he was taking a “vacation.” According to Sherman, James Murdoch the CEO of Fox News’ parent company 21st Century Fox, “would like O’Reilly to be permanently off the air.” James’ father Rupert, older brother Lachlan, and Fox News co-president Bill Shine are pushing for O’Reilly to remain on air:

    Embattled Fox News host Bill O’Reilly announced tonight that he is taking a vacation. O’Reilly’s decision to go off the air in the midst of a sexual harassment scandal and advertiser boycott arguably has the appearance of a suspension, but O’Reilly worked to dispel that notion. He announced that he’d scheduled his trip “last fall” — well before the New York Times reported he paid $13 million to settle harassment claims. A Fox News source told me O’Reilly plans to return to his show on April 24.

    But according to four network sources, there’s talk inside Fox News that tonight’s show could be his last. Lawyers for the law firm Paul, Weiss, hired last summer by 21st Century Fox to investigate Roger Ailes, are currently doing a “deep dive” investigation into O’Reilly’s behavior. They’re focused now on sexual harassment claims by O’Reilly guest Wendy Walsh after she reported her claims via the company’s anonymous hotline.

    Shine remaining in O’Reilly’s corner comes as no surprise. Shine was previously accused of coordinating a campaign to silence women who have reported sexual harassment at the network. In a complaint filed last year, former Fox host Andrea Tantaros claimed she met with Shine seeking “relief from” sexual harassment at Fox News, but he told her she “needed to let this one go.” Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky alleged that Shine retaliated against her after she refused to publicly attack an accuser of former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes and Sherman previously reported that Shine played a key role in “smearing” Rudi Bakhtiar, who claimed she was fired from Fox News after complaining about sexual harassment.

    The report of O’Reilly’s possible departure comes as Fox News continues to lose advertisers following a New York Times report that five women received payments totaling nearly $13 million from either O’Reilly or 21st Century Fox “in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their” accounts of sexual harassment involving O’Reilly.

    Until it’s actually official, those participating in @StopOReilly effort as well as participants in groups like Sleeping Giants, should not take anything for granted and continue their work and effort.