Monday, May 22, 2017

MSNBC #1, FOX "News" #3: Role Reversal!

Rachel Maddow, from source, Variety
I know I hardly blog anymore, but I knew when I saw this headline, I had to post it. In what has seemed inevitable for months, MSNBC has finally overtaken FOX "News" as the number one cable news station. I say "cable news" as a category, because FOX has of course never really been news, having practically invented "fake news" twenty years ago.

Now, I know, there are several factors here that make this possibly a temporary--and maybe even hollow--victory. The channel that used to call itself "The Place for Politics," and said "Lean Forward," has been seemingly morphing slowly into sort of a FOX lite, at least in certain areas. The guy pulling all the wheels and pullies behind the scenes, Andy Lack, seems hell-bent on tipping the focus to a blend of "straight news," and a tip rightward. He's been thwarted by Rachel Maddow's dynamo ratings, and also to the surges by the rest of the prime time lineup. He couldn't very well fire his new ratings champions.

Or could he? The channel's second highest rated host, Lawrence O'Donnell, has a contract renewal looming, and nobody seems to know if it's going to go through. His fans are planning a march, but as often happens in these sorts of things, we don't get to hear the details. Even tonight, as the world is dealing with another terrorist act in Manchester, England (as I write this, responsible parties unknown), Lawrence is not hosting his program, and is being pre-empted by Brian Williams.

It would be foolhardy for Lack to terminate O'Donnell--who has made it clear that he wants to stay--in the midst of a ratings bonanza. It would almost instantly damage the ratings they have just started to really reap, because a huge segment of the their audience would abandon MSNBC. But I've seen this happen before. Radio channels running Randi Rhodes or Stephanie Miller when they're performing well, and replacing them with radio formats that get microscopic ratings. Sometimes ideology trumps money. Strange but true.

Of course the ratings wave also came amidst a crash at FOX, where they've been rocked by scandal, schedule shakeups, and a complete lack of focus after the departure (and now death) of Roger Ailes. I'd like nothing better than to see one of two things happen: a) FOX "News" slides to irrelevancy, with FOX Business Channel-level ratings; or b) FOX itself morphs into a more straight-news channel, free of rightward slant. But what we don't need is MSNBC basically taking their place as the new leader in "fake news."

Meanwhile, congratulations to Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O'Donnell, Chris Hayes and the roster of regulars that has performed a mighty feat, seemingly in the face of their own leadership.


MSNBC Reaches No. 1 for First Time in Weekly Primetime Ratings, Fox News Drops to Third

For the first time in its history, MSNBC ranked number one in both total viewers and the key adults 25-54 demographic during primetime for a full week among the big three cable news networks, according to Nielsen data. . .

Read more at: Variety

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