Possibly the biggest story in the news this week is the departure of news icon Megyn Kelly from FOX. Perhaps even more tantalizing information, though, is who FOX is choosing to replace Kelly once she leaves. Their choice, Tucker Carlson, is certainly a big departure from the days of Megyn Kelly and says a few things about the new direction FOX is taking.
Kelly was more than just another anchor in FOX’s prime-time lineup. In fact, she was the one keeping the network diverse. She was the only woman, and the only person who was not a white male, with a show during prime-time. Not only that, but she was the only voice among the coveted time slots that was not heavily conservative; many political commentator outlets, such as Now The End Begins, call Kelly a “closet liberal.”
Megyn Kelly held her spot during FOX’s prime time programming for 12 years, and during that time, she became a shining beacon that let people know FOX makes sure to take different points of view into account when looking at the news.
“Star anchors like Kelly command premium fees from advertisers and they also have a halo effect on the shows surrounding them,” said Blair Westlake, former corporate vice president of media and entertainment at Microsoft Corp. and prior chairman at Universal Television and Networks Group.
“If you’re trying to reestablish the fact that you’re fair to women — and Fox needs women on the screen — plus you’re trying to build an organization that’s seen as fair and balanced, you don’t want to lose her.”
Tucker Carlson, on the other hand, is a 47-year old straight white man. In other words, he is practically the personification of mainstream America. Just how traditional a choice Kelly’s new replacement is, though, may actually be the single most noteworthy thing about his selection.
As Bloomberg points out, modern news networks love to hire “nontraditional” staff members, a philosophy that FOX seems to be shrugging off with Carlson’s appointment as Megyn Kelly’s replacement.
“The choice of Carlson runs counter to the notion that audiences want to see people on TV who reflect the nation’s diversity,” notes Bloomberg Technology. “CNN has two openly gay men, one of them black, on weekday evenings, and MSNBC’s biggest prime-time star is Rachel Maddow, a white woman who’s also gay.”
Again, FOX does not seem to be on board the same liberal train of thought as the other networks mentioned. And, on the surface, that would seem to make sense, considering that FOX’s ratings have skyrocketed since the ultra-conservative Donald Trump became president-elect in November. It looks like FOX is now abandoning any pretense of liberal consideration and is going all-in on the conservative bandwagon.
Others are not so sure the network’s decision to go full-on conservative after the loss of Megyn Kelly is smart. Politico reports that Brian Wieser, an experienced equities research analyst who spends a lot of time looking at FOX’s stock, warns choosing Tucker Carlson may be a very bad decision in the long term.
“We’re at the stage where the art of balancing the audience demographics matters more than the politics. Reality is demography.”
Wieser went on that FOX’s current audience tends to be on the older side. With Carlson, FOX is attempting to appeal to that aging, deeply conservative crowd, when in order to protect its own advertising futures, it should be attempting to appeal to a younger crowd. The fact that Megyn Kelly leaves FOX and they do not replace her with a similarly nontraditional anchor, Wieser concludes, is unlikely to help that cause.
The most pressing question now is whether FOX will hire someone new to assume Kelly’s former role as the network’s resident voice of liberalism. Of course, they will not get to take over Kelly’s cushy front-and-center time slot — Carlson has already been confirmed — and they would obviously not inherit Megyn Kelly’s status as a household name (unless FOX surprises the world and decides to go with someone like Oprah Winfrey).
What do you think? Is FOX being rash by going 100 percent white male? Make yourself heard in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by Victoria Will/Invision/AP Images]