From Gabriel Sherman, writing in New York Magazine:
For the past two decades, Rupert Murdoch allowed Fox News chief Roger Ailes to occupy one of the most unique — and powerful — perches in American politics and media: running a right-wing political operation under the guise of a 24-hour news network. As long as the profits rolled in, Murdoch virtually never meddled in Ailes’s world — even when his own family protested. “He lets me run it, he doesn’t bother me much,” Ailes boasted of Murdoch as recently as April 2015. But that laissez-faire era seems to be over.
According to four high-placed Fox sources, Murdoch is upping his presence at Fox while Ailes has become less visible to anchors and producers, signaling a shift that marks a new chapter in the network’s history. The most visible change is that, since June, Murdoch has been attending Ailes’s daily executive meeting held on the second floor of Fox headquarters. The secretive afternoon gathering in Ailes’s conference room is attended by about a half-dozen of the network’s most senior lieutenants. It’s where some of the most sensitive decisions about running the channel are discussed.
Now more than ever Fox needs a firm hand on the wheel. In many ways, the channel faces the same rebellion from the grassroots that’s cleaving the GOP. “I can tell you, my base is fed up with Fox,” conservative commentator Michelle Malkin told me. Malkin, who quit Fox as a contributor, actually goes after Murdoch for supporting immigration reform in her new book Sold Out (she calls him a “treacherous bedfellow”). Rush Limbaugh, whom Ailes first put on television in the early ’90s, has said he “no longer watches cable news.” A Limbaugh friend told me the dig was made explicitly about Fox.
Several other prominent conservatives I’ve spoken with grumble that Murdoch is pushing Fox to be openly hostile to Trump and Ted Cruz at the same time the channel boosts Establishment candidates, most prominently Marco Rubio. “I’ve joked to people that they’ll be doing a segment about kumquats in China and somehow they’ll mention Rubio,” one Cruz ally told me. Another conservative activist pointed out that Fox gave Rubio the first interview opportunity following Obama’s Oval Office address on ISIS last month. Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, it should also be noted, has been one of the most aggressive Trump and Cruz critics.
So far, the kvetching among conservatives has yet to become a business concern for Murdoch. But as he weighs Fox’s future — with or without Ailes — Murdoch must consider the risk that the backlash poses to his network. Fox revolutionized cable news by offering a conservative alternative to CNN and the broadcast networks, and the long-term danger is that Fox’s audience starts to watch it grudgingly, hoping for an alternative. “After the big brouhaha with Trump, there was all the apocalyptic talk of the ratings cratering. But there’s still nowhere else on TV to go,” Malkin says. “There’s a big opportunity. These people are sick and tired of seeing Lindsey Graham all over Fox.”
Read the full article here.