Does Fox News’ Settlement Indicate a Shift in Conservative Media? Unlikely

by Joshua Brown
Fox News lawsuit settlement

Despite Fox News settling a lawsuit for nearly $800 million over its false reporting during the 2020 election, there is scant evidence to suggest any substantive changes in its programming strategy.

Last Thursday, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham focused their segments on topics such as Hunter Biden and critiques of leftist policies. Ingraham cautioned her viewers that “the left seeks to make the government your sole family unit,” while Hannity concentrated on familiar figures like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Vice President Kamala Harris. Carlson, on the other hand, derided a speech on racial equity, interpreting it as an attack on straight white men.

Analysts are skeptical that the lawsuit settlement will compel Fox News or other conservative media outlets to substantially change their course, other than perhaps reducing certain specific details to mitigate the risk of future legal repercussions.

A parallel can be drawn from a Connecticut jury’s verdict last year, which required Alex Jones to pay $965 million for spreading disinformation about the Sandy Hook shooting. Nicole Hemmer, a professor at Vanderbilt University, noted that although Jones has grown more circumspect in avoiding legally risky statements, his underlying conspiracy theories remain the same.

As the 2024 presidential election approaches, radio host Erick Erickson forecasts an increased wariness within conservative media to endorse claims from former President Donald Trump, or anyone promoting election denialism. Fox News’ subsequent actions will be closely monitored.

Contrary to expectations, Fox News remains as influential among conservative audiences as it was following the 2020 election, during which it falsely reported that Dominion Voting Systems rigged the election. Internal documents from the lawsuit revealed that Fox News feared losing its viewer base if it didn’t cater to the expectations of Trump supporters.

Bill O’Reilly, a former Fox News host, opined that prioritizing revenue over truthfulness has consequences, as evidenced by his own loss of over 1,000 premium subscribers when he contradicted popular conservative views on the election outcome.

Fox News seems to have faced little backlash from its audience concerning the lawsuit’s revelations, and there has been negligible impact on its viewership numbers. According to Howard Polskin, who monitors conservative media, other conservative platforms largely glossed over or ignored the lawsuit, signaling its inconsequential impact on the conservative landscape.

Fox News made no apologies even after the judge concluded that they had disseminated false information about Dominion. Megan Duncan, a Virginia Tech communications professor, observed that any critique of Fox News would have negligible impact on its core audience, unless it originated from ideologically aligned sources.

For Fox News, keeping its audience content remains paramount, given the network’s leading position in cable television. The network seems financially resilient enough to consider the $787 million settlement with Dominion as a business expense.

However, the network does face ongoing legal challenges, such as a defamation lawsuit from Smartmatic, another election technology firm. Meanwhile, Newsmax, Fox’s primary competitor for a conservative audience, contends that its legal position is more robust than Fox’s. Yet, Nicole Hemmer suggests that a financial judgment against Newsmax could significantly benefit Fox News by driving viewers its way.

Fox News is entering crucial negotiations over carriage fees with Comcast, Spectrum, and Cox. Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, emphasizes that Fox News has bolstered its carriage fees to the point where it would maintain a 35% profit margin even without advertising revenue.

The settlement could provide Fox News an opportunity to invest more in its journalism sector, which has recently lost key figures like Chris Wallace and Shepard Smith. Fox claims to have already increased its investment in journalism by over 50%.

Chris Stirewalt, a former executive at Fox News, pointed out the risks and benefits of sticking to a programming strategy that caters directly to viewers’ attitudes and emotions.

Erickson predicts a likely increase in managerial oversight over Fox News’ on-air talent, harkening back to the era of Roger Ailes, the late network leader who was ousted due to a sexual misconduct scandal.

In summary, the driving force behind Fox News remains its lineup of strong opinion-based journalists, and the network’s business model is deeply intertwined with a specific ideological viewership, as noted by Vanderbilt professor Nicole Hemmer. Thus, the settlement appears to have minimal impact on its core operations or viewership loyalty.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Fox News lawsuit settlement

What is the main focus of the article?

The article primarily investigates whether the recent $800 million lawsuit settlement involving Fox News will result in any significant changes in the network’s programming, audience loyalty, or overall strategy in conservative media.

Does the lawsuit settlement impact Fox News’ programming?

According to the article, there is little evidence to suggest that the lawsuit settlement has had a substantial impact on Fox News’ programming. The network’s key personalities like Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham have maintained their focus on topics that appeal to their core conservative audience.

Is Fox News expected to change its approach due to the lawsuit?

Analysts and experts cited in the article are skeptical that the lawsuit will compel Fox News to substantially alter its course, other than perhaps being more careful with specific details to avoid future legal repercussions.

How has the lawsuit affected Fox News’ audience loyalty?

The article suggests that Fox News’ audience loyalty has remained robust, and there has been negligible impact on its viewership numbers. The network’s core audience seems less concerned about the lawsuit’s revelations and more interested in the network catering to their ideological expectations.

Are there ongoing legal challenges for Fox News?

Yes, Fox News faces ongoing legal challenges, such as a defamation lawsuit from Smartmatic, another elections technology firm. However, it appears that the network is financially resilient enough to consider these as business expenses.

What is the financial impact of the lawsuit on Fox News?

The article suggests that Fox News is financially strong enough to absorb the $787 million settlement as a cost of doing business. The network has also successfully boosted its carriage fees, ensuring a robust profit margin even without advertising revenue.

Will Fox News invest more in its journalism sector?

According to the article, Fox News claims to have increased its investment in journalism by over 50%. However, it’s unclear whether this will result in any significant changes in the network’s programming strategy or approach to news reporting.

What could be the future direction for Fox News?

The article concludes that Fox News is likely to maintain its current programming strategy and focus on keeping its core audience engaged, given that this has been the business model that has made it the leading cable television network for several years.

More about Fox News lawsuit settlement

  • Fox News Settles Lawsuit Over 2020 Election Coverage
  • Legal Implications for Media Outlets: The Alex Jones Case
  • Analysis of Fox News’ Audience Loyalty
  • Conservative Media Landscape in America
  • The Business Model of Cable News Networks
  • Media Matters for America: Fox News’ Carriage Fees Strategy
  • Profile of Smartmatic’s Pending Lawsuit Against Fox News
  • Overview of Dominion Voting Systems Legal Cases
  • The State of American Political Polarization and Media
  • Virginia Tech Communications Study on News Audiences

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Karen Smith September 21, 2023 - 4:55 pm

This is a really comprehensive article. Would love to see a follow-up, especially with the 2024 election looming. What then?

Mike Thompson September 21, 2023 - 7:07 pm

Wow, this article really dug deep. So Fox pays 800 mil and still no change? Business as usual, huh.

Sandra Lee September 21, 2023 - 9:09 pm

I’m not surprised at all. Fox knows its audience and its audience knows Fox. Neither is gonna change anytime soon.

Emily Harris September 21, 2023 - 10:50 pm

So basically, Fox can afford to settle huge lawsuits and still maintain their programming and audience. that’s wild.

Dave Mitchell September 22, 2023 - 4:47 am

If Fox can take a near billion-dollar hit and still go on like nothings happened, it tells you a lot about the state of media today.

Brian O'Connell September 22, 2023 - 6:23 am

I found the part about Smartmatic really interesting. They could be the next headache for Fox, we’ll have to see.

Greg Williams September 22, 2023 - 7:39 am

seems like they’re too big to be affected much. Even with a lawsuit that big, it’s just another day at the office for them.

Tony Rodriguez September 22, 2023 - 9:09 am

Their loyalty numbers arent dipping at all, so why would they change? Plus those carriage fees are like a safety net for them.

Jen McKenzie September 22, 2023 - 10:17 am

Honestly, if you thought a lawsuit would change Fox, you don’t understand media. They got a formula, they stick to it. It’s all about the $$.


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