Fox News Drops Claim to Be Fair and Balanced

The rise of Donald Trump has been almost as disruptive to Fox News as it has been for the country and the world. Add in the disgrace and death of Roger Ailes, the firing of Bill O’Reilly, and the departure of Fox staples Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Susteren, and the faux news network hardly resembles its old self. The latest development drives home the contrast.

As Fox News moves further into the post–Roger Ailes era, the network is shedding one of its most iconic elements. According to network executives, Fox News has abandoned the marketing slogan “Fair & Balanced.” The decision was made last August after Ailes’s ouster by Fox News co-president Jack Abernethy, because the phrase had “been mocked,” one insider said.

Of course, the “Fair and Balanced” motto has been mocked from the beginning. What’s changed is some kind of self-consciousness about being ridiculous. The network will remain far right, at least for now, but it’s not going to go to such absurd lengths to pretend otherwise. What they’re going to do is stick with “Most Watched. Most Trusted.”

We could ask “most trusted by whom?” but a better challenge might be to examine if they remain the most watched.

The last time that MSNBC was No. 1 in prime-time cable news, Bill Clinton was president, Madonna led the Billboard charts and “Friends” still ran new episodes on TV.

Seventeen years and a few rebrandings later, the network is back on top — buoyed by a surge of interest in news and the channel’s stable of reliably liberal anchors, like Rachel Maddow, who have found their groove amid a time of intense anxiety for the political left.

The MSNBC resurgence — in May, it beat its rivals for the highest prime-time viewership on weeknights in the critical 25-to-54 age demographic, up an astounding 118 percent from a year earlier — is part of a newly shifting landscape in television news, and within the channel itself.

It’s still too early to mock Fox‘s “Most Watched” claim:

Fox News executives pointed out that their network won in weekday prime-time viewers over all — a less crucial statistic for advertisers, but a testament to the network’s continued influence. Fox was also No. 1 in May when weekends and all parts of the 24-hour broadcast day were measured.

But I won’t be surprised if they keep claiming to have the most viewers for years and years after it is no longer true.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.