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Fox News Is Trying To Sell Itself To Advertisers as “Center-Right” Feel-Good Reporting

Tucker Carlson's face

The television industry is currently in the middle of the upfronts, where networks present their upcoming slate of new and renewed programs to advertisers. In addition to announcing specific shows, the upfronts also give networks a chance to illustrate the kind of overall tone they want to set for the year. And based on Fox News’ upfronts presentation, they’re working on a bit of a rebranding, though they remain as committed to lying to their audience as ever.

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Last year, Fox News scrapped their planned upfronts event and chose instead to do a virtual roundtable discussion with some of its on-air news talent weighing in on the then fairly new COVID-19 pandemic and how it might affect the economy and the 2020 election. The mission was clear: to present Fox News talent as reliable journalists in a time of crisis.

This year, the network has taken the opposite approach, focusing heavily on its “lighter fare” and “feel-good reporting,” according to AdWeek. It presented itself as “center-right” (LOL) and focused heavily on its daytime programming.

Except that kind of “lighter” content just doesn’t exist on Fox News. “Media Matters has watched Fox News’ daytime programming for years, and it’s as full of grievance-mongering as ever,” Media Matters’ News Director John Whitehouse writes. Additionally, the daytime programs have been showing an increasing number of clips from their primetime counterparts known for their hateful, racist rhetoric—specifically Tucker Carlson but also others including Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity.

The network is trying to bring in younger viewers with its cool-hip-fun new anchors Kayleigh McEnany (an accomplished liar if ever there was one) and Peter Doocy (yay nepotism!). The network is also apparently going all-in on Gutfeld!, the network’s late-night “comedy” show, which is the same standard hateful, fear-mongering propaganda you can see on any other show on the network, just told in the structure of something akin to jokes.

Fox News is also selling itself as a home for “feature documentaries, travel series and other lifestyle programming.” I cannot even imagine what a “travel series” on the country’s #1 xenophobic, anti-immigration network would look like. They’re also introducing the idea of a Fox Weather product, which sounds innocuous until you remember the network’s aggressive anti-science, climate change-denying agenda.

In the end, the upfronts are all about getting those sweet advertising dollars. Over the years, there have been many campaigns to get advertisers to drop Fox News shows but those seem to only be successful in extreme cases, like when Tucker Carlson says something exceptionally, unequivocally anti-Semitic. And even then, those advertisers don’t drop the network entirely, they just move their money around to other shows.

That means Fox News gets to have it both ways: They get to present extreme hatemongering in the form of Carlson and others to bring in and rile up viewers, while simultaneously giving advertisers a more friendly-faced “center-right” landing pad for advertisers’ money.

(via Media Matters, image: Fox News)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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