The twilight of Fox News

The Atlantic reports: October 7, 2016, will be the 20th birthday of the Fox News Channel, and at the moment, the network is experiencing the soap-operatic highs and lows typical of any teenager on television. In many ways, the summer of 2016 may go down in Fox News history as the company’s nadir. Its founder and leader Roger Ailes has been dishonorably dispatched, the remaining executives are dealing with a flurry of sexual harassment lawsuits, and one of its most public faces, Sean Hannity, has ignominiously remodeled himself as a gutless Trump whisperer.

And yet Fox News’ fortunes are ascendant, at least in the most quantifiable sense. The network’s annual profit in 2015 soared by about 20 percent. For the first time ever, Fox News has been the most-watched cable network among both primetime and daytime viewers for several months, with a larger audience than its nominal rivals, CNN and MSNBC, combined. Led by “The O’Reilly Factor,” Fox News doesn’t just have the best-rated news show on cable television; according to The Wrap, it has the 13 best-rated news shows on cable television.

With Ailes out, the future of the network is in the hands of the younger Murdochs, who take the helm of a network that seems to be both drowning and soaring, at a time when television audiences are fleeing the big screen of the living room for other devices. The dilemma: Does Fox change course to attract a broader audience in a period of fragmented viewership, or rededicate itself to the formula of hyperpartisan infotainment that made it the reigning emperor of cable? [Continue reading…]

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