Twenty (20) years ago (on October 1996), the Australian born Rupert Murdoch, a media mogul, founded Fox News to counter CNN. So he said. After immediately appointing Roger Ailes as permanent CEO of the network, the focus immediately turned to making Fox the most profitable news networks. There lies the number one problem in the news industry.
It’s a business first. So, everything in the industry must be framed to that end. The news business is a for profit industry. Rupert Murdoch understood that from the very beginning, and he hired the RIGHT person to do what businesses are in existence for, to make money, to be profitable.
Who is Roger Ailes?
Besides majoring in radio and television broadcasting, Mr. Ailes has been working almost exclusively in management position from the very beginning. Even at the Ohio University he attended, he served as the student station manager, not as a broadcaster, according to the Associated Press. In 1967, after a great discussion with Richard Nixon on television about the role of television in politics, Mr. Ailes was called by, drum roll, Richard Nixon to remake the image of his administration. The rest is history.
Naturally, with Roger Ailes as Fox CEO, the network has one major objective: to make money, something which came rather easy for Mr. Ailes. He’s been in the company of management since college; he was part of the discussions on budget, resources, strategy, etc. At the helm, it was not difficult for Mr. Ailes to implement most of what he had learned from the others – including how to effectively avoid making their mistakes or similar ones – and rejected what he thinks did not or could not work.
Roger is not one to seek for guidance on what’s going on in the world; to him, it’s inevitable one would learn about it, eventually. He is most interested in what sells. From his early work as Richard Nixon’s executive producer, Mr. Ailes learned that “news” doesn’t sell; who cares that two cars collided, all passengers on both cars die. Of course, it’s sad but hey, life goes on. Surely, their families care but…
Intrigue sells; gossips sell. Did you hear that Barack Obama may not be a US citizen? How could the country make such a big mistake and elect a non US citizen? Isn’t a Muslim? That particular topic was on Fox “NEWS” on a regular basis for eight years. Intrigue and gossips sell; they keep the audience engaged. Translation: advertisers pay big money for large audience. Luckily for Rogers, he targets the Republican Party which comprises individuals who believe anything (Obama is not a US citizen; Ronald Reagan was a great president, and so on). If you ever wonder who was the Fake News pioneer, now you know.
If you work at Fox as a broadcaster, the job is simple: a) use a topic of the day b) spin it to intrigue or c) gossip it. It wasn’t a risky bet, because Roger already studied the group he targeted. Whether they have a doctorate degree or can’t even spell their names, they have one thing in common: they are gullible, stubborn and they love gossips. Anyone who watches Fox for just a couple of hours would walk away shaking his head in disbelief that Fox would be considered a “News” network. To the “Foxies”, it doesn’t matter what you think; to Roger, your disbelief translates to the “sound of money”, and that’s all that matters. Read my series Lie to Me, Lie to Me – Part 2 & Lie to Me – It’s Just Business here, here and here to understand the brilliance of packaging lies (fake news) as news.
In the meantime, CNN and all other networks were hard at work trying to differentiate themselves from “fake news” Fox. As I pointed out earlier, “real” news doesn’t sell. Roger got that; he shifts the network away from the “nonsense”. It paid off. All the other networks watch their rating going down over the years while Fox’s continues to go up. For the past decade, Fox has been the most watched network in the nation. Translation: the business is profitable.
The other “NEWS” network wake up to the reality that “real news” doesn’t sell. In the next column, we’ll take you to the transformation inside the “real news” world and analyze what it all means for the future generations and the fate of the nation when it becomes impossible to differentiate between “fake news” and “real news”.
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