Fox News ups Hinton to top post

Les Hinton, recently named to the expanded seven-member board of Fox Inc., has been given the new position of chairman-CEO of Fox News, placing him over both news president Van Gordon Sauter and Fox TV Stations group exec VP Mitchell Stern.

Hinton most recently was president of News America Publishing, which oversees Fox owner Rupert Murdoch’s U.S. magazines.

The promotion shuffles away some direct reporting responsibility from Fox Inc. exec VP-chief operating officer Chase Carey, who assumed station oversight last spring after the abrupt firing of Stephen Chao and recently added direct supervision of all Twentieth TV divisions with the naming of Lucie Salhany as chair of Fox Broadcasting Co.

Salhany and Hinton recently were added to the Fox board of directors, along with former FBC prez Jamie Kellner and 20th Century Fox chairman Peter Chernin. The three continuing members are Murdoch, Carey and News Corp. chief financial officer David Devoe.

Hinton’s appointment wasn’t mentioned at a Q&A session Friday with Sauter at the TV critics tour, during which the exec said he was “pissed about local news” and outlined the news division’s priorities.

Sauter also confirmed at the event that David Browning, the former exec producer of NBC’s “Real Life With Jane Pauley,” would be joining exec producer David Corvo as a senior producer on the Clearasil weblet’s upcoming prime time news magazine.

A second senior producer is set to be announced later this week, and the Fox News chief said the untitled show would have a staff of about two dozen full-time producers.

Sauter began his presentation by re-stating the goals of his division — bringing a news capability to more stations than the 33 Fox affiliates who currently carry news, launching the magazine show by summer and growing the Fox News Service into an international news feed.

Before launching into a tirade about the state of local news in the U.S., the CBS News veteran and fabled raconteur expressed hope that a foundation or publisher might be willing to underwrite his musingsin book form.

Sauter suggested most of the problems in local news stem from “sameness” and “timidity” on the part of news consultants, news directors and general managers. Sauter felt his book wouldn’t be written to “hector” the news establishment but said, “Local news is a great resource, and the way it is functioning is a disgrace.”

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