Fox News executives are touting Fox Corp.’s lifestyle, weather, and entertainment brands in an effort to detoxify the company’s image, suggesting these projects “expand beyond” the news and are ”transcending” traditional Fox programming – while actually using them as a tool to distract advertisers from the network’s conspiracy theories, white supremacy, and violent rhetoric.
Fox executives are using quotes given to the mainstream media to promote ancillary products, like its subscription-based streaming service Fox Nation and the Fox Weather network, over Fox News, in an attempt to downplay the network’s extremism and whitewash its damaged brand.
The most recent example comes in an April 13 Los Angeles Times article. Jason Klarman, the president of Fox Nation and executive vice president of marketing for Fox News Media, claimed the streaming service is about “transcending news.” (Fox Nation’s lifestyle content includes a Bible study show with Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt, the 2004 Mel Gibson-directed film The Passion of the Christ, the television series Duck Dynasty, and the rebooted series Cops, which was removed from the Paramount Network in 2020 following the police murder of George Floyd.)
“Our audience is looking for us to curate other things for them besides the news and opinion of the day,” Klarman added. “We’re using Fox Nation and this imprint to explore that.”
Fox News executives have previously used similar talking points to downplay the network’s toxic image:
- In a Variety story covering the launch of Fox Weather last October, the executive vice president of ad sales at Fox News Media, Jeff Collins, said the project is “‘brand safe’ and not likely to align advertisers with controversial content.”
- In a Variety story published in March 2021, Klarman asserted that Fox Nation “is an opportunity for us to expand beyond opinion and news on the service” and reach people who “could be Fox News viewers or not be Fox News viewers. They could just be fans of Nancy Grace or ‘America’s Most Wanted.’”
- In an October 7 article from The Hollywood Reporter, Klarman said Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott “wanted to position the company as a multiplatform, multigenre brand and move beyond the limits of [Fox News Channel].”
Fox Corp. and the entire cable and streaming industry is currently in the midst of upfronts season, a critical period when television networks pitch major potential advertisers based on the strength of their ratings and quality of their content.
Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch previewed the company’s upfronts strategy during a February earnings call, saying Fox will be “selling the entertainment network, news, sports and Tubi in a very integrated fashion.” Fox stopped holding individual upfront presentations for each of its properties in 2021, after its 2019 Fox News event was met with boycotts and protests and the in-person event was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A single integrated pitch positions Fox executives to downplay the extremism and volatility of their flagship platform, Fox News, and obscure the risk its brand poses to major advertisers. In reality, Fox News is the biggest revenue driver at Fox Corp. by far, “accounting for 95 percent of the company’s total pretax profit.”
Fox Nation and Fox Weather are also a poor fig leaf for the extremism of the network’s biggest star: Tucker Carlson, Fox News’ white supremacist-in-chief. His prime-time show, Tucker Carlson Tonight, has driven away nearly every advertiser it once had. But instead of reining in Carlson’s volatility, Murdoch has consistently promoted and defended him.
Now, Carlson has two shows as the face of Fox Nation. Both the documentary series Tucker Carlson Originals and his team — including writer Scooter Downey, who previously directed documentaries for white nationalists — have repeatedly pushed conspiracy theories and overt antisemitism. Carlson’s January 6 revisionist history, titled Patriot Purge, was condemned by the Anti-Defamation League and caused two longtime Fox News contributors to resign in protest. His other series on Fox Nation, Tucker Carlson Today, is a thrice-weekly long-form interview program that has featured Carlson attacking “hysterical children” protesting climate change, claiming to hold the same “racial views” as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., promoting race science, and casting white nationalist insurrectionists as victims — all on the same platform that is supposed to be Fox Corp.’s more palatable alternative to Fox News’ toxicity.
Similarly, while Fox executives attempt to paint Fox Weather as “brand safe,” the network has proved not to be a trustworthy source for accurate reporting on weather events. According to a Media Matters analysis, Fox Weather “has largely failed to make any connection to climate change's role” in extreme weather events. For example, when a nor’easter storm ”slammed into the East Coast after fueling tornados across the Midwest” in October, Fox Weather did not bother to educate its audience about the role climate change played in creating the destructive storm. Climate silence is akin to climate denial which is still the position of Fox News which has historically been quick to dismiss the links of extreme weather tragedies to our overheating climate -- and equally as quick to attack those who do make those connections. Shortly after the extreme weather events reported by Fox Weather in October, Fox News attacked those questioning whether a wave of deadly and unseasonal tornadoes that devastated six states was linked to our changing climate.
Fox News Books is another ancillary product Fox executives are attempting to use to launder their brand. A recent Los Angeles Times article highlighted the HarperCollins imprint’s publication of Fox News anchor Shannon Bream’s books about women in the Bible as an example of “a companywide effort to expand Fox News beyond the realm of news and political talk, which can be a turnoff to some advertisers.” Fox Corp.’s decision to dive into the publishing world is another sordid attempt to downplay the network’s extremism and rehabilitate its image in the eyes of potential advertisers.