Frank Rich: Fox News Is Dying

Jan 27, 2014 | Updated Jan 27, 2014

Fox News may be the dominant cable news channel by far. Its executives may be the subject of intense scrutiny whose every move is watched carefully and who inspire massive biographies. Its on-air talent may dominate headlines for days on end merely by discussing Santa Claus.

Despite all that, New York magazine columnist Frank Rich posited a provocative theory in the title's latest issue. Fox News, he wrote, is in terminal decline:

In truth, Fox News has been defeated on the media battlefield—and on the political battlefield as well. Even the 73-year-old wizard of Fox, Roger Ailes, now in full Lear-raging-on-the-heath mode as ­portrayed in my colleague Gabriel ­Sherman’s definitive new biography, "The Loudest Voice in the Room," seems to sense the waning of his power. The only people who seem not to know or accept Fox’s decline, besides its own audience, are ­liberals, including Barack Obama, whose White House mounted a short-lived, pointless freeze-out of Fox News in 2009, and who convinced himself that the network has shaved five points off his approval rating.

Fox News has certainly seemed attuned to some of its problems. Last year, the network underwent its biggest schedule overhaul in recent memory, with the centerpiece being the the replacement of the more doctrinaire conservative Sean Hannity with Megyn Kelly at 9 PM. Fox News has maintained its huge ratings lead over CNN and MSNBC; in one sense, it faces no mortal threat for the time being.

But Rich opined that the network's ratings mask more existential problems, including a rapidly aging, overwhelmingly white, politically cocooned audience, the rise of the Internet as a dominant form of communication, and what he called Fox News's "inability to navigate the conflict between the [Republican] party Establishment and the radical base that is dividing the conservative ranks." That theory becomes more persuasive if you accept the narrative that many, including Sherman and CNN chief Jeff Zucker, posit: that Fox News exists more as a political operation than a news channel.

Read the full piece here.