Roger Ailes: Fox News is making a “course correction”

This is a very interesting article based on an interview with Roger Ailes and I highly recommend reading the entire article, of which there is much, much more at the Daily Beast:

DAILY BEAST – …He calls it a “course correction,” quietly adopted at Fox over the last year. Glenn Beck’s inflammatory rhetoric—his ranting about Obama being a racist—“became a bit of a branding issue for us” before the hot-button host left in July, Ailes says. So too did Sarah Palin’s being widely promoted as the GOP’s potential savior—in large measure through her lucrative platform at Fox. Privately, Fox executives say the entire network took a hard right turn after Obama’s election, but, as the Tea Party’s popularity fades, is edging back toward the mainstream.

While Fox reporters ply their trade under Ailes’s much-mocked “fair and balanced” banner, the opinion arm of the operation has been told to lower the temperature. After the Gabrielle Giffords shooting triggered a debate about feverish rhetoric, Ailes ordered his troops to tone things down. It was, in his view, a chance to boost profits by grabbing a more moderate audience.

His outsider self-image is ironic, considering that he’s been an establishment power broker for decades, burnishing the images of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Rudy Giuliani before launching Fox 15 years ago. Now he earns as much as $23 million a year, and Rupert Murdoch calls him almost every day, often to gossip about politics. (Ailes picks his battles; he avoided offering advice about the phone-hacking scandal that engulfed Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid.)

Fox, of course, still has its share of Obama bashers. Hannity’s show uses a logo that asks, “Can You Afford Four More?” Ailes calls him “predictable,” but Hannity says he’s not a party man: “I’m a registered conservative; I’m not a registered Republican.” O’Reilly, who chatted up Obama during this year’s Super Bowl, occasionally defends the president against harsh attacks. Ailes says O’Reilly has “moderated” his views and that “Beck scared him”—meaning Beck was so popular on the right that O’Reilly had to find a different niche.

For his part, O’Reilly says he supported most of George W. Bush’s policies and gave Obama’s economic plans a chance for 18 months—before opposing them as unworkable. “I took flak from the far right all day long. They attacked me viciously,” he says. He waves off any talk of moderation and insists he never worried about the now-departed Beck: “He’s a performer, I’m a journalist.”

(Ailes seems to relish the feuding among his stars, saying, “O’Reilly hates Sean and he hates Rush because they did better in radio than he did.”)

Ailes keeps a wary eye on anchor Shepard Smith, who occasionally backs aspects of the Obama record: “Every once in a while Shep Smith gets out there where the buses don’t run and we have a friendly talk.” And Ailes likes to tease O’Reilly: “You gonna suck up to Obama so you can get another interview at the next football game?” Democrats have noticed the change. Says former Obama aide Anita Dunn: “You have the sense that they’re trying to at least appear less of the hyper-partisan political network they had been.”

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