After sexual harassment accusations came to light against Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, there has reportedly been a fight within the Murdoch family over whether or not to keep the long-time host on the air at the network.
Fox News infighting. The Hill reported:
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s sons are considering pulling Fox News host Bill O’Reilly off the air amid pressure over sexual harassment accusations, New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported Tuesday.
While James and Lachlan Murdoch have not made a definite decision, they are leaning toward booting O’Reilly, while their father opposes doing so, the report said, causing infighting.
O’Reilly’s show lost about 90 advertisers after The New York Times reported earlier this month that five women were paid $13 million to settle sexual harassment suits.
The ad revenue loss as well as protests outside Fox News headquarters have contributed to the momentum for removing O’Reilly, the report said.
Pending Sky News purchase. The Murdoch family has a $14 billion purchase of the European television network Sky News on the table, and they may not want the O’Reilly story over their head when Ofcom — a British media regulator — decides whether or not they are “fit and proper” to purchase the large network, the report speculated.
The climate at Fox News. The other major sexual harassment scandal involving former CEO Roger Ailes — who was out last summer amid allegations by women at the network that he sexually harassed them — has reportedly created a difficult environment at the cable news giant.
“Morale is awful,” a female Fox executive reportedly noted. She added that “there’s been no word from management to calm the masses.” The Hill reported that the previous comment was “referring to concerns by employees that budgets were slashed for sexual-harassment settlement payouts.”
What now? O’Reilly has long had the top-rated program at Fox News — and in the basic cable arena — and being seen as having been pushed to oust him in response to the Times article could cause them to lose viewers.
That perception is reportedly a concern of the elder Murdochs.
Report credibility. The story of Ailes’ firing by the Murdoch family in July was also broken by Sherman, lending more credibility to his report about O’Reilly’s potential ouster.
Why is this important? This would be an enormous firing and it would carry with it major repercussions. There still isn’t evidence, as far as I know, that O’Reilly did anything wrong — a settlement is not necessarily evidence of wrongdoing.
If Fox were to fire O’Reilly, they would need to have something behind their decision other than public pressure. If they don’t, it seems likely that many viewers would not respond kindly to the network caving in to what, at this point, looks like a witch-hunt.
Moreover, if O’Reilly did do what he has been accused of, it would be reasonable to fire him, although there would be further, reasonable questions about how long the network knew he was guilty, and if it was for very long, why didn’t they fire him then?
We’ll see how it all pans out.
Hopefully they base their decision on the truth and not on public pressure.