Rupert Murdoch buying Sky News is the real reason why Bill O’Rilley was let go

(TFC)– To many, Bill O’Rilley represented the status quo, the long-standing traditional conservative commentator with his unabashed racist epithets, combined with the misogynistic splendor of a John Wayne classic film. O’Rilley was the quintessential right-wing ideologue, and one of cable TV’s most successful personalities. Most people are most familiar with his show on Fox The O’Reilly Factor, but before that, he was a local broadcaster and a top 10 radio talk show host.

Upon hearing the news that 21st Century Fox decided to let O’Rilley go, like many I was I curious. We are well aware that the mainstream media’s reach is already in decay, and that audience decline for Evening News viewing has been steady falling and long term It’s been a long way down from 50 million. At first, this signaled to me to be the beginning of the end for the conservative mainstream news narrative.

The total prime-time audience for the top three cable news channels combined, hovering at around 2.8 million viewers, this amounts to just a fraction of the more than 20 million people who tune into one of the three commercial news broadcasts airing on NBC, ABC, and CBS each night.

And yet, business is still good. Profit margins continue to be staggeringly high, between 30% and 55%, thanks to the cable system’s business model. The news channels generate revenue from both advertising and license fees, which they receive from cable companies in exchange for carriage in households. Individual channels regularly renegotiate those fee rates upward, resulting in business growth even if advertising falters.

That being said, Bill O’Rilley was not costing Fox News any money. According to one estimate, the show generated $446m in advertising revenue between 2014 and 2016.His show was still fairly popular with it’s intended audience, and controversy has long been an issue with O’Rilley.  So what changed? Fox’s official claim is that Bill’s ongoing sexual misconduct was ultimately the reason they chose to let him go. He was accused of sexual harassment by at least seven women who appeared on his show or worked for him in some way. As of April 2017, Fox News and O’Reilly had paid out more than $13 million dollars to settle lawsuits brought on by five of these women. When Bill lost custody of his children last year after a New York appeals court ruled that his kids should reside exclusively with their mother. According to court records, O’Reilly’s daughter “witnessed him abusing her mother by grabbing her neck and dragging her down the stairs in a fit of rage”, Fox did not choose to fire him over that incident. The former long-standing president and CEO of Fox broadcasting Roger Ailes has had several ‘sexual harassment claims filed against him, to the point he was forced to resign in 2016, but he will continue to advise Murdoch and 21st Century Fox through 2018.

New York magazine reported that an internal review of harassment claims expanded into a broader review of Ailes’ stewardship. It revealed that Rupert Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, had seen enough to conclude that Ailes had to go. On July 19, 2016, they reported that Megyn Kelly told investigators that Ailes made “unwanted sexual advances toward her” at the start of her career and that the Murdochs had given Ailes an ultimatum—resign by August 1 or be fired. Other reports suggested that Rupert Murdoch, now 86, had wanted to stand by O’Reilly but had been talked out of it by his sons. Looking deeper we can find an upcoming merger being planned from the inside.

Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox has been given the green light to take over European broadcaster Sky, paving the way for the creation of a media empire that will span two continents and take on major emerging rivals in a now global news market.

According to Claire Enders, the founder of Enders Analysis, Rupert Murdoch’s attempted takeover of Sky News is one of the reasons why Fox News star Bill O’Reilly was fired, “the decision to dump the right-wing presenter was influenced by UK regulator Ofcom being about to rule on whether Mr. Murdoch and his sons James and Lachlan would be suitable to run both Fox and Sky news.”

The purchase of Sky News by 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, which already owns 39% of Sky shares, has already come under fire in the UK. It has generated fears that by wholly owning Sky, Britain’s dominant pay-TV operator, as well as controlling the Times, Sunday Times, and Sun newspapers, the Murdoch empire would be able to wield too much influence over British media.

Despite the British media regulator Ofcom insisting on strict impartiality rules, there have also been fears of a ‘foxification’ of Sky, with some suggesting the UK broadcaster might emulate the US news channel’s right-wing stance. With the rise of right nationalism currently taking place in the UK, this concept might not be far fetched.

Image Source: DonkeyHotey, Flickr, Creative Commons

In March, Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said she had concerns relating to media plurality and the combined company’s commitment to broadcasting standards. Originally the regulator had until May 16th to investigate and report on whether the transaction is, or may be, against the public interest of “ensuring a sufficient number of people are in control of media enterprises”. Now the Inquiry into Murdoch’s Sky deal has now been delayed until after the English general election. “Given the proximity of this decision to the forthcoming general election and following discussions with the parties, Ofcom, the Competition and Markets Authority and the Cabinet Office propriety and ethics team I wrote to Ofcom and the CMA on Friday 21 April to extend the period by which these reports should be submitted to Tuesday 20 June,” said Bradley in a recent interview. 

Critics are worried about the increasing consolidation of western media conglomerates. The parliament knows the Murdoch brand is politically toxic,” said Bert Wander, director at campaigning group Avaaz. “Ofcom should use the extra time to consider new evidence of why the Murdochs are not fit to own Sky.”

James Murdoch said that he does not believe that the company will need to make “any more” meaningful concessions to complete the takeover, signifying to some that 44-year-old heir is preparing to take over the media empire and is willing to make the important decisions like letting go of people like Rodger Ailes, and Bill O’Rilley in order to appease today’s liberal advertisers and appeal to an ever younger and more progressive audience.