Fox News CEO Roger Ailes is in talks with 21st Century Fox that will likely lead to his departure following allegations of sexual harassment.I don't know what will happen then. Fox News is a moneymaker for Rupert Murdoch -- and it's still going strong:
However, contrary to some news reports on Tuesday, "there is no deal," Ailes' attorney Susan Estrich said.
"When there is an agreement, if there is an agreement, 21st Century Fox will make an announcement," Estrich said.
According to a source with direct knowledge of the conversations, the negotiations could conclude as early as Tuesday night, but may take longer.
On night one of the Republican National Convention, Fox News Channel was the clear ratings winner on TV, drawing substantially more viewers than any other TV network, including NBC, CBS and ABC.Ailes is a smart TV guy. He knows what his audience wants and knows how to build brand loyalty. His channel's programming is raw sewage, but he keeps just enough of a check on it that the political and media elite regard it as a within-the pale property (whose success his competitors envy). It's not clear whether anyone else can maintain that toxic balance.
The biggest problem Fox News faces is that Ailes has no heir apparent. The television executives CNNMoney spoke with speculate that 21st Century Fox will bring in someone from Sky, its British broadcaster. But while Brits may be able to run American news organizations, these executives said, it is much more difficult for a Brit to manage an American political organization -- which is what Fox News is, these sources said....Yes -- Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren have clauses in their contracts that say they can leave if Ailes does. So does Bill O'Reilly, who's talking about retiring. And Megyn Kelly's contract expires next year, though she might be happier to stay if Ailes leaves (she now says he sexually harassed her).
It's hard to see how any replacement, even an American replacement, could fill those shoes. Within Fox News, one name that has come up as a possible replacement is Bill Shine, the Senior Executive Vice President of Programming, who oversees primetime. But while Shine has strong relationships with the network's top talent, industry insiders say 21st Century Fox doesn't believe he's up to the task of replacing Ailes.
Without strong and certain leadership, media executives believe, the network could lose its most high-profile talent.
Rupert Murdoch has clearly given more control over Fox to his sons Lachlan and James. They're not conservative like their father. They might not want an Ailesian Fox News.
And yet the ratings are good, and rabid conservatism -- of a Trumpian variety, at least -- inspires a large chunk of the American public.
So what will happen?
I think Fox will gradually become less right-wing. I think Kelly will get the show she wants, and it won't look like anything on Fox now:
Kelly has also expressed ambitions for a more high-profile gig, something she's likened to a blend between Charlie Rose and Oprah.And I suspect the old Fox audience will drift away, while a new audience might be slow to tune in.
Where will the hardcore Foxites go? I wonder if Donald Trump will really try to construct his own cable news channel, a plan Vanity Fair recently said he's been hatching.
Trump's pal Ailes might be free to run the channel. (My favorite part of this story: In dealing with Gretchen Carlson's harassment lawsuit and with Fox, "Ailes has ... received advice on strategy from Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, sources say.")
But I can't imagine a TV channel run by Trump being anything but a hot mess, even if some people watch it. It will be sleazy and ridiculous and low-rent. And if Ailes wants to make it professional in ways Trump doesn't like, he'll be out of a job again. Also, Ailes is aging and frail -- he might not want the gig, assuming the channel ever materializes. And he might be constrained by a non-compete clause in any case.
So what will America be like if nothing with the poisonousness and reach of Fox is on the air?
I just can't imagine. But I can't wait to find out.