Bill Shine, the longtime Fox News executive who played a role in the rise of the channel and in shaping the careers of its biggest personalities, has been forced out as co-president of the 21st Century Fox-owned network as it contends with a slew of lawsuits alleging gender and racial discrimination.
In a memo to staffers issued Monday, 21st Century Fox co-executive chairman Rupert Murdoch said that Shine had resigned. He is expected to stay on for a few more weeks as part of a transition.
Suzanne Scott, another longtime Fox News executive, will take Shine’s place in steering programming at Fox News, in the role as president of programming. Jay Wallace, an up-and-coming news executive, will become president of news.Brian Jones, executive vice president of Fox Business Network. becomes president of that cable outlet, reporting to Scott and Wallace. Jack Abernethy remains as a co-president of Fox News and CEO of the Fox Television Stations group.
Shine’s departure comes amid intense scrutiny on Fox News following explosive revelations of sexual harassment settlements and allegations against former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes and the network’s biggest star Bill O’Reilly. Ailes was pushed out last July; O’Reilly made a hasty exit last month. Shine had been cited in at least four different lawsuits recently filed against Fox News, several suggesting he had failed to intervene and in some cases tried to shield Ailes and O’Reilly despite questionable behavior.
Murdoch, however, hailed Shine in a statement. “Bill Shine has played a huge role in building Fox News to its present position as the nation’s biggest and most important cable channel in the history of the industry,” Murdoch wrote. “His contribution to our channel and our country will resonate for many years.”
Two different parties currently enmeshed in efforts against Fox News Channel hailed Shine’s exit as the only maneuver 21st Century Fox could make, given that Fox News’ internal culture has been under a microscope for months. But they also called for more action.
“While long overdue, we are pleased that 21st Century Fox has taken a step in the right direction by permitting Bill Shine to resign and that our recent court filings apparently influenced that decision,” said Douglas Wigdor, a New York attorney overseeing a racial-discrimination lawsuit against the network. “Much more needs to be done, however, including holding Dianne Brandi accountable for permitting a known racist to prey upon our clients and acknowledging and accepting responsibility for the harm our clients have and continue to suffer.” Brandi is Fox News Channel’s executive vice president of legal and business affairs, and has also been named in some of the litigation currently set against the network.
“This doesn’t fix Fox News’ harassment problem. It’s just the most basic accountability the network could have delivered. All you need to do is watch 30 minutes of Fox News’ programming and you can see that harassment of women goes hand in hand with the right-wing ideology at the network’s core,” said Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog group. “To truly remedy its culture of harassment, Fox News also needs to change its attitude about women.”
Fox News’ culture has been the subject of intense scrutiny since last summer when former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit accusing Ailes of sexual harassment. Those allegations sparked an internal probe and more revelations of harassment of former employees. Ailes has denied all charges. But since that time, the network has been beset by inquiries into the way it does business. Several current and former employees have filed lawsuits alleging their complaints about harassment and unfair treatment were not considered. More concerning, possibly, is the fact that the U.S. Attorney’s Office is looking into whether Fox News may have made improper payments to former employees under Ailes’ tenure related to harassment. 21st Century Fox has said it is cooperating with authorities.
Internally, the network’s rank and file have focused on a herculean task: Launching a new schedule in the wake of anchor O’Reilly’s departure. Ratings have moderated slightly as Tucker Carlson moved to O’Reilly’s 8 p.m. slot while “The Five” filled 9 p.m, though both shows dominated their cable-news rivals in terms of overall viewers. This week, staffers are launching a new panel show, “The Specialists,” at 5 p.m., while Martha MacCallum starts a new news program at 7 p.m.
Shine’s influence at the network has been outsize. He first gained a foothold at Fox News when Sean Hannity helped get him a job. From there, he steered some of the network’s earliest mainstays, shows like “Hannity & Colmes” and “On The Record” with Greta van Susteren. But his public presence has been minuscule. Unlike other senior news executives, like CNN’s Jeff Zucker or NBCUniversal’s Andy Lack, Shine is not known for giving speeches or explaining his strategy to groups of journalists. Instead, his talent has been in devising topics and segments that please Fox News’ passionate viewers. Ratings will tell if viewers will miss his acumen.