By: Ilana Siyance
Fox News has had plenty of its own news to battle since the 2020 ball dropped. Recently major advertisers boycotted the programming in response to Tucker Carlson’s “criminal mobs” comment, a star anchor was fired for sexual harassment, writer Blake Neff resigned when exposed as a racist internet troll, and the list goes on.
As reported by the NY Times, despite all this controversy, the pro-Trump news station is still leading its competition on Prime-Time television. In June and July, the average live Fox News viewership, between the hours 8 PM till 11 PM, beats all other cable rivals including CNN, MSNBC and ESPN as well as broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC, as per Nielsen. In fact, Fox News was the highest-rated US television channel for prime-time hours out of any television broadcast, including non-news channels.
It’s quite rare for a basic cable channel to outrank the big three broadcasters (namely ABC, CBS, and NBC), which are more widely available in most households and have a greater range of selections. The truth is regular sitcoms ran a lot of reruns with not a lot of new content during the coronavirus shutdown. Still, the return of sports in to the lineup, did not hamper Fox’s success. Even the baseball and basketball games on opening day were no match for the programming hosted by Carlson and Sean Hannity.
Fox News’ summer of success portrays an added interest in the news, particularly due to the pandemic, protesting and presidential election all at bay. The three-hour prime-time slot, however, is a significant indicator that conservative viewers may still be the silent majority, and they flee to Fox, one of the few right-wing political commentaries. It shows the size and resilience of America’s audience for pro-Donald Trump opinion. It proves the loyalty of Fox News viewers despite all the different controversies that have risen. “Massive news events that conservatives view through a highly partisan lens are driving the ratings, and none of the controversies really land with loyal Fox News viewers,” said Nicole Hemmer, a scholar at Columbia University and a historian of US conservative media.
Last week, Lachlan Murdoch, Executive Chair of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, took the opportunity to boast about Fox network’s “astronomical” ratings on an earnings call. He also noted that ad revenues are up from last year. Fox News vigorously and regularly needs to defend itself from the many critics who say its news coverage is biased, and who say Carlson is reckless in his language, and that the programs don’t care not enough for George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter momentum. Time will tell how the summer will end and if it will be Fox or frontrunner CBS which will end the summer with the bigger bang.