Op-Ed: Bye, Bye, Bill By Fletcher Hall

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Bill O’Reilly is out of the building, So is Roger Ailes and Bill Shine. All Fox News’ executives. The primary reasons given for the exits are sexual harassment scandals; however, the reasons are more complex.
In addition to large settlement payments and buyouts of contracts, there are other reasons the network and their owner, 21st Century Fox, were forced to make these decisions. Primarily, it was just business.

The Fox Network simply could not afford the cash drain and potential loss of advertising revenue they are facing. In the 24-hour-news cycle, it is vital to secure and retain adequate income streams to cover costs and guarantee profits. Fox has long been profitable and maintained very favorable ratings among the various cable news channels.

The Fox News prime time offerings had a rather long run while continuing to yield high ratings. The new prime time lineup will have to prove that wise business decisions have been made in the corporate offices of Fox News.

Conservative leanings have been the forte of Fox. It is ironic that their preferred presidential candidate and their preferred congressional candidates (the Republican Party) control the executive and legislative offices of the national government. Should the ratings for Fox fall, will the President and congressional leaders be as inclined to grant exclusive interviews and use the bully pulpit for their views and philosophy?

This new reality now faces the Fox News Network and may have implications for advertising revenue and ratings. Both of these issues are corporate business decisions which will determine the future of the network.

It was difficult to determine if O’Reilly was a news broadcaster or a television showman. I suspect he was more of the latter, which was reflected by the high ratings of “The O’Reilly Factor” show. “The Sean Hannity Show” may well be in the same category. Regardless of their format, all of the Fox Network programs promote the conservative cause.

On the other hand, CNN exhibits the same programming tendency, promoting the liberal point of view. Watching both news channels is somewhat like watching a tennis match. Both can bore one to tears with the repetition of the same news item hour after hour during the 24-hour-news’ cycle. Thank goodness for weekends. Obviously, there are other outlets through which to find news programming, but many of these networks have lost both prestige and viewership.

Cable news and social news appear to dominate the national conversation. I am not sure whether this trend is healthy or destructive. In a republic, the dissemination of knowledge is essential. The question in 2017 is the truthfulness and value of how that knowledge is being disseminated. Too many newscasters appear to editorialize or provide innuendos that meet the outlook of that particular news channel.

As for the exit of Bill O’Reilly, the “king” of cable news, it was time for him to move on and explore new horizons. He can write more books, do more personal appearance shows, or perhaps consider the job of White House press secretary, should that job become available. Laugh all the way to the bank, Mr. O’Reilly, Mr. Ailes, and Mr. Shine. Parting is so financially remunerative.

O’Reilly was at Fox for almost 20 years and will be missed by many. Not so much by others. Some people can identify a blowhard when they see one. Now he can find other venues in which he can pontificate and bloviate.

The spin has stopped. Let’s hope there will be someone new and, perhaps, more humble to look out for us. Perhaps that will become the real mission of President Trump. Now that Bill is gone, there has to be someone to care. If Bill were still here, we could just ask him.

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