Oh, Cruel! Comcast Breaks up with Fox News?

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EXCLUSIVE: Post Alley has managed to get its hands on a fake confidential memo from the CEO of Comcast to the leadership of Fox News:

January 28,2021

MEMO TO: Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and President Jay Wallace

CC: Lachlan Murdoch

BCC: Rupert Murdoch

FROM: David N. Watson, President & Chief Executive Officer, Comcast Cable

It is with great regret that I write today to inform you of Comcast Corporation’s decision to suspend carriage of The Fox News Channel on our nationwide cable systems, effective immediately. We have enjoyed a long and mutually profitable relationship, and Fox News has been the top-rated cable news channel since 2002. Your success has been our success.

But as you are aware, media platforms have recently begun suspending and removing the accounts of content producers who have violated their terms of service by spreading misinformation and inciting violence and insurrection. Regrettably, despite years of repeated violations, such suspensions did not take place until after the US Capitol Building was attacked January 6 by mobs of Trump supporters. Twitter alone has suspended 70,000 accounts, including, most prominently,  that of former-President Donald J Trump. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitch, Snapchat, Reddit, Shopify, Amazon and LiquidWeb have followed in suspending accounts used to incite violence.  

Fox News hosts have for years stoked nationalist and racist fears, and it was good for ratings and good for business. Fox’s slogan “Fair and balanced” is genius marketing, validating the grievances of those older white viewers who feel their power slipping away. And how inspired of you to style your channel as a “news” operation rather than a TV version of conservative talk radio, and to hire veteran journalists such as Chris Wallace in the role of the Fig Leaf. It gave you cover to argue that a line exists between your “news” division and the incendiary opinion shows which air primarily in the evening and morning (when most people are watching), and which are the foundation of your ratings dominance.

Few bought the distinction of course, and your “Fair and Balanced” slogan was a big fat wink at the real truth. So we were, frankly, somewhat surprised and encouraged when your election decision desk called Arizona for Joe Biden on election night even though it angered Trump and his campaign. Perhaps there really was a line Fox News wouldn’t cross.

But it was clear immediately that your “news” hosts were uncomfortable at having to hew to the reporting while your opinion powerhouses continued to contradict and mislead on the facts. It made us squirm. It made your viewers, whose expectations and anger you had stoked, furious.

In subsequent weeks, your hosts Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity night after night helped perpetuate the lie that the election was fraudulent and that President Joe Biden is not legitimately the winner of the presidency. Worse, your response to their continued misinformation has not been to insist on facts but to double down on such attacks on the legitimacy of the American government by adding an additional hour of opinion in your prime time slots and auditioning discredited Trump partisans such as Maria Bartiromo as host.

We note in the most recent ratings that this hour has lost viewers compared to the news programming that was in the slot. However, we fear that your recent purge of election desk personnel who made the Arizona call as well as a number of your news reporters who evidently weren’t pro-Trump enough, makes us despair that you have learned the wrong lessons from the recent violence at the Capitol.

We understand it must sting to lose your crown after 18 years at the top. For the period between election day and the inauguration, not only were you not first in cable news, you had slipped to third, behind CNN and the ascendant MSNBC, and down 25 percent from the same period last year. While you have lost a large share of your most aggrieved base to OAN and NewsMax, it should probably tell you something that these are viewers who aren’t interested in truth and facts (even at the low bar you set), but are looking to nurse their dopamine-fueled outrage. The irony is that there likely is a real case for a legitimate conservative-slanted news channel; it just can’t compete with the more-profitable outrage stokers.

So it is with heavy hearts that we must part ways. Just as Big Tech has figured out that regulation of social media platforms will be the first step in cracking down on mis- and dis-information and that they will be newly liable for incitements carried on their platforms, so also we cable operators have an obligation to our shareholders to look ahead and see that the same regulatory reform could befall us next. We cannot allow lies and incitements (no matter how profitable they are to your bottom line) to be carried on our systems if we, as your platform, are to be held liable for your content. We wish you the best of luck finding other distribution, though we suspect that our fellow cable operators will have come to the same conclusions as we have. Our attorneys will be in touch to iron out the details.

Sincerely,

Dave

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Doug is a longtime arts journalist, and the founder and editor of ArtsJournal.com, he's frequent keynoter on arts and digital issues, and works with a number of arts organizations nationally.

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