Howard Kurtz talks to Roger Ailes for this week’s issue of Newsweek, in which the Fox News chairman talks of repositioning the top-rated cable news channel as more centrist. Writes Kurtz:
“He calls it a ‘course correction,’ quietly adopted at Fox over the last year. Glenn Beck’s inflammatory rhetoric—his ranting about Obama being a racist—“became a bit of a branding issue for us” before the hot-button host left in July, Ailes says. So too did Sarah Palin’s being widely promoted as the GOP’s potential savior—in large measure through her lucrative platform at Fox. Privately, Fox executives say the entire network took a hard right turn after Obama’s election, but, as the Tea Party’s popularity fades, is edging back toward the mainstream.”
Ailes was quoted last January as telling his anchors to dial down the heated rhetoric after backlash in the wake of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting. And with the early focus of the 2012 election on the Republican primary candidates, Kurtz notes that Fox News, lamented by mainstream media for preaching a conservative agenda, is actually seeking to elicit tension from GOP debaters.
Kurtz says “Fox has created a reality-TV show, with the built-in combat needed to win viewers” – though in the process alienating some on the right for encouraging to GOP candidates to tear each other apart.
But it makes for good television (and ratings). With Ailes’ contract up in 2013, this may be the election cycle that shows whether his true goal is political or business, Kurtz notes.
Read the full Newsweek story here.