Rupert Murdoch Spotlights Fox News Performance Amid Bill O’Reilly Controversy

rupert murdoch

Rupert Murdoch told staffers Thursday that he was pleased with performance at both Fox News Channel and its sister operation, Fox Business Network, even as a controversy continues to rage around one of the unit’s most recognizable anchors, Bill O’Reilly.

“As we enter this new spring season, I’d like to take the opportunity to wish those celebrating, a wonderful Passover and Easter holiday. The first few months of this year have already given us much to be thankful for,” said Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox and chairman of Fox News, said in a memo distributed Thursday. “Fox News just delivered its highest-rated quarter ever and remains number one in cable in both prime time and total day, while Fox Business has surpassed CNBC as the number one business channel on television. I am tremendously proud of our entire team and truly grateful for the hard work everyone has contributed to ensure our continued future success.”

Murdoch made no mention of O’Reilly or the contretemps surrounding the anchor. O’Reilly has taken a vacation from his venerable Fox News Channel program, “The O’Reilly Factor,” as the parent company awaits the results of an investigation into an accusation of sexual harassment that has been levied at the anchor. In the wake of an April 1 New York Times report revealing settlements by O’Reilly with five women who complained about sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior, dozens of advertisers have moved their commercials away from his program. A roster of substitute hosts are appearing in O’Reilly’s stead. Dana Perino anchored O’Reilly’s hour Wednesday night, which was largely sponsored by a handful of direct-response advertisers.


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In a previous statement, O’Reilly said he entered into settlements to protect his children, and suggested his fame made him a target. He is currently scheduled to return to Fox News’ air on April 24.

The executive’s memo puts a spotlight on the unique situation in which 21st Century Fox finds itself. Its Fox News unit has seen ratings growth in the months following the election of President Donald Trump. But the O’Reilly controversy, much like the one surrounding Roger Ailes, the former Fox News chief who was ousted last year in the wake of sexual-harassment allegations, suggests the news organization still has unsavory elements in its internal culture that need to be eliminated.

The network is also contending with a lawsuit alleging racist behavior by an executive that Fox News said has been fired, as well as a potential probe by U.S. government attorneys looking into payments made by the network and its parent to women who claimed to have been harassed by Ailes.  Ailes has denied all charges made against him. In February, 21st Century Fox acknowledged in a statement that it had “been in communication with the U.S. attorney’s office for months,” and also said at the time that it “will continue to cooperate on all inquiries with any interested authorities.”

And yet, Fox News viewership has spiked  – up 30% among adults 25-54, the demographic most coveted by advertisers, in the first quarter. Executives earlier this year navigated a crucial hand-off between former 9 p.m. anchor Megyn Kelly and her replacement, Tucker Carlson, who was accepted by viewers quickly after taking her seat. Sean Hannity’s presence in the news cycle as a die-hard follower of President Donald Trump has intensified. And news side figures like Chris Wallace, Shepard Smith and Bret Baier have gained recognition for calling balls and strikes on critical news events.

Murdoch made a similar pronouncement about Fox News in July, after Ailes had departed.   “There’s no doubt this has been a challenging time – amid the conventions and multitude of domestic and international breaking news stories, we had to face being the news last week as well,” he said in a memo to staff at the time. “Despite the extraordinary circumstances, we never compromised our dedication to the viewers and everyone’s professionalism was on display throughout.” The company also ran print ads touting ratings performance at both Fox News during pre-election coverage.


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  1. M Brady says:

    You have purposed to sell out Fox News, the Only conservative and well rounded “True News” media outlet! You are letting the owner of Media Matters get his wish, to shut you down, one great show at a time.
    You are badly mistaken and have made a HUGE mistake with O’Reilly and now they are attacking Hannity! What next? Tucker?? You’re idiots for listening to these fake robo calls the complain. It’s right out of the Saul Alinsky handbook!!
    Grow up! Get rid of your liberal influences and stick to what grew your company from the start!

    • Jlang says:

      I’m with you Brady…. Murdock is taking this too far leaving anchors like Liberal Shepherd Smith and allowing the take down of the true Trail blazers.

  2. George B. says:

    You have made a mistake. Ratings will go down. I, for one will not watch FOX any more, you caved. The first show with Tucker and he will have a person who has had a sex change, not of interest to me nor you audience. Bye Bye!!!

  3. j.r. sulser says:

    Mr. Murdoch, Bill O’reilly is the only reason to watch Fox news. Yes you do have Hannity, Tucker and Gutfeld ,on The five which is great.;. but you are caving in to media pressure with unstable woman’s reports of harassment. Next one on the list probably will be Hannity. Dont give in , work it out !!!! Lost sponsors….. so get new ones. we kept Bill Clinton didn’t
    we??? Where is Fox loyalty???? Please reconsider.

  4. Dyanna Jordan says:

    First you get rid of Megyn Kelly, now Bill O’Reilly, two of the best at this station! If it wasn’t for Hannity & (Tucker Carlson)..whom I started watching because you got rid of Megyn & Bill. Soon, I will no longer have a reason to watch Fox News!! Get these people back! The reason these people are the best is because they bring us the “Real News” unlike the” fake news” at the alphabet stations! Question: Why in the world would you choose to lose ALL your viewers??

  5. Patricia Hutchison says:

    I’m in shock!
    Bill O Reilly is Fox News
    Without him you tank
    We watch all day …
    If you fire Mr O’Reilly you lose my husband and myself for good
    And will not watch CNN or MSNBC because of their fake news and eagarness to believe the worse in our President …
    Although we enjoy Neil Cavuto The 5
    Bret Bauer, and Love Tucker Carlson and
    Sean Hannity…. are you sure you want your most beloved and most watched anchor go because of what may or may not be the truth?
    Seems .. he is guilty before being proven innocent….
    Bottom line Bill O Reilly is Fox News!!!!
    And if you needed to let him go…. there was s more respectful way to do it!!!!
    He is your channel sir!
    More than a moderator ….
    Must say if He is not on April 24 th and is true … you will lose your ratings
    Inspite of the other wonderful people you have on
    Best move was getting rid of Meghan Kelly!
    But Bill O Reilly???!!!! No
    Respectfully ,
    Soon to be no longer a former fan of fox.
    We will boycott…..
    Was a more respectful way to do it

    Jim Thorpe PA

  6. Craig Falkenham says:

    It always seems to come down to spiritual warfare, it doesn’t matter how or even why it just matters to destroy a man’s reputation , And to silence him. This man should have the network behind him and not for financial reasons. I believe he is the voice of FOXNews and without him and his knowledge of history The future insight will not be the same of the nightly news lineup. I may not agree with all things he says or the inside this man has, but he will speak the truth no matter what the consequences. It’s just a shame that FOXNews apparently is more concerned about the financial benefits , But by being shortsighted I’m sure without him it will be a much bigger loss all the way around.

  7. EmZee says:

    Bill O’Reilley and Fox News “Decision Makers”
    I’ll try to make this as short as I can, but I am so very, very upset! I am a WOMAN, a thinking, intelligent woman. I can’t believe, and HOPE it’s not true that Fox is even CONSIDERING getting rid of Bill. The democrats and left radicals have been trying ruthlesslessly, continuously,and predictably to get rid of all the sane voices on TV , RADIO, the Internet, etc.

    Bill is the most intelligent,effective and fair-minded commentator on Fox.His input is informed, and very much appreciated. I love MOST of the hosts and commentators on Fox, but he is by far the most effective at getting points across, and his knowledge of history make him an almost unbeatable voice against those who want to suppress SANE, informed speech.

    I am sick of these accusations by some women of “sexual harassment”, etc. It is so predictable, that it’s becoming ineffective and troubling. I don’t doubt that Bill admires intelligent, beautiful women. Don’t all STRAIGHT men feel that way??? I also don’t doubt that he has tried to date some of them, or to get to know them better on a personal level. What’s wrong with that?

    As a woman myself, who was once more attractive in my younger years, it is naïve to even think that men don’t try to make a pass. So what? It was up to ME, to each individual woman, to set the TONE and the outcome of an approach by a man. Nowadays, any type of comment or “pass” by a man is considered sexual harassment.

    It’s stupid, and unfair. And in this social and political climate, Bill O’Reilly is just the most perfect, convenient target, with his fame, fortune AND influence.

    Who cares about the few advertisers that leave? That’s a form of suppression, and intimidation to make another succumb to their will. Political correctness on STEROIDS, to FORCE their will upon others, especially by hitting in the pocketbook! (insert here: Shannon Coulter’s “Grab Your Wallet”, relentless anti-Trump campaign).

    Please, and respectfully, do NOT take Bill off your network. After ALL THESE YEARS OF LOYALTY TO FOX, HE DESERVES TO BE BELIEVED AND SUPPORTED!

  8. Dave J says:

    And sexual harassment is condoned as long as Fox News continue to bring in the ratings.

  9. Jonas Grumby says:

    We abuse women but how ’bout those ratings!!!!

  10. heyitsron says:

    In one graduate psychology class we learned that a male is the best thing that can happen to a female in terms of establishing and fixing her identity. Well, Joel has passed and it appears that idea also went to the grave with him. That Joel is former Chairman of the Psychology Department at the University of North Texas. Now if any of you folks saw that huge upset on SURVIVOR last night you know there’s a lot of fuming and scowling over something that’s not all that stress worthy. But to the people there it was a huge deal. And the man who caused it went home without so much as a vote from others. So no one was sent home. Except him., By Jeff. Thinking on behalf of others. And probably by himself, as well. And yes, the grown man left crying. Sobbing while holding his hands up over his eyes to cover them. He said he was sorry. Over and over. But it was too late. You North Carolina viewers see this?

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