Like rapidly vanishing sands in an hourglass, a piqued audience has forced Rupert Murdoch to make some fundamental changes at Fox News. Nielsen ratings for 2021 demonstrate that rearranging the deck chairs aboard the good ship Fox appears to be working. However, the cable news network is only in the embryonic stages of redemption with its viewers. And there remains a hardcore of former Fox viewers that is gone for good. So, what’s next for the folks that claim the mantle of “fair and balanced”?
Return of the Prodigal Son
Lachlan Murdoch’s recent interview with Claire Atkinson for Insider reveals the family dynamics and squabbles that lie just beneath the surface of the Fox rebuilding process. The 49-year-old eldest son of Rupert may be living in the land down under, but he is on top of – and behind – the Fox rehabilitation effort.
Like most families – and perhaps more so with those sporting great wealth – there is a fair amount of dysfunction in the Murdoch clan. Sometimes it isn’t merely about money but rather power. So why should we care about the power plays of the rich and famous? Because whosoever grabs hold of the brass ring at Fox will determine the direction of the only cable news outlet that some conservatives call home and others are cautiously giving a second chance.
Throughout the 21st century, leadership of the news corporation has been ping-ponging between brothers. In 2005 Lachlan resigned after “a power struggle with Roger Ailes,” according to Insider. Then in 2014, he came back into the fold, but his brother James was at the helm by this time. But in 2019, Rupert anointed Lachlan to take over. One can only guess the tension at the Murdoch family dinner table, though it’s likely those gatherings are few and far between these days.
Like most siblings, the Murdoch boys are different as day and night, and it would be a mistake to lump them together. James, who is one year younger than Lachlan, is an outspoken Democrat. He’s been openly critical of his brother, and in the summer of 2020, James finally removed himself from the board of Fox News Corporation due to “disagreements” regarding “editorial content.” This opened the door for Lachlan, and without hesitation, he stepped through it. In an exclusive interview with Atkinson, Lachlan said he was given a “rare opportunity to ‘start with a blank sheet of paper.'”
Sometimes it is not just about the opportunities that come your way in life but what you do with them. Lachlan presents as the adult in the room who refuses to air the dirty family laundry and call his brother out in public. Instead, he stands by his people, openly referring to the network’s most popular talent – Tucker Carlson – as “brave.” He is also deeply involved with the daily news lineup like a master chessman searching for the elusive checkmate.
For example, Shannon Bream was bumped for Greg Gutfeld. Martha MacCallum was removed from prime time and put in an afternoon slot. Bill Hemmer is back in the mornings and has been paired with Dana Perino. Dan Bongino – lauded by die-hard conservatives – has been hyped as the big new property for Fox Nation, the network’s video streaming platform. By shoring up a wobbling network after the election and restoring its conservative bona fides, Lachlan strengthens his position at Fox and, perhaps most notably, with his father.
According to his elder son, at 90, Rupert Murdoch is still very much “with it.” Lachlan also claims his father is his inspiration. So, at least for now, it appears that the former prodigal son is large and in charge, which may spell good news for viewers who want Fox to stop playing footsie with the left.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.