Why is a Fox News Style Media Coverage So Popular?
Fox News is available in 90 million American homes with an astounding total viewership of 10 million for the month of November, making it the dominating cable news network in the United States. With hit talk shows like Hannity and Tucker Carlson Tonight beating all other talk shows from other networks in numbers, what does this mean for the UK audience where Rupert Murdoch’s News UK TV and the Andrew Neil led GB News are set to launch?
Andrew Neil is one of the most influential right-leaning personalities in the UK, and since he left the BBC, he wants to help the portion of the British population that feels “unheard and undeserved”. These networks are set to represent the right-leaning UK demographic, but can these emerging news networks succeed in the UK? Will they serve the population they are targeting?
The US demographics and media
Fox News viewership has been increasing and is projected to keep growing in the US, especially in the 25-54 age category. Political and ideological affiliations aside, reports suggest that people of different beliefs simply watch more than one source of news for comparison purposes. According to a 2013 study done by Pew Research Center, more than half of American adults watch more than one form of television news.
According to another study done by Pew Research Center, more than 70% of conservatives in almost all states identify as white – an overwhelming majority. This helps us understand Fox News’ viewer demographics better.
The UK demographics
Taking into account the electoral shift in UK voters supporting the Conservatives, there is an understanding that there is a need for a right-leaning cable news network to fill a market gap that would satisfy conservative, right-wing leaning people. Prominent members of this population have already declared that they felt under-represented by networks such as the BBC, who notably lost a notable number of conservative viewers’ trust according to YouGov.
Why is Fox News appealing to its target audience?
There are many left-leaning cable news networks in the US such as CNN and MSNBC, but there is only one that is representative of conservative voices: Fox News. While left-leaning individuals have many outlets to choose from when it comes to left-leaning ideologies, right-leaning individuals find themselves heard and expressed from just one, and this is a big reason why Fox News broke records and became the most watched network of all time despite the backlash they receive. When looking at the Fox News backlash, we can point out a recent event where Fox News was slammed for its comments on stay-at-home orders as they described them as “summer camps.”
"There is only one that is representative of conservative voices: Fox News."
The channel also broke records because of their influential and controversial hosts. These talk shows have a basic format: they have a specific topic to tackle, the host voices his opinions that also portrays his supporters’ opinions, the host has a guest from the opposing, supporting, or from both sides to discuss relevant issues, then finally leaves the door open for the audience to have discussions about what they saw and heard. Generally, these shows are mostly entertaining. Bringing in guests that have opposite views, initiating talks about controversial topics, and having verbal battles create gripping content that viewers can
When speaking in numbers, Tucker Carlson Tonight had over 4 million views in the second quarter of 2020, with nearly 800 thousand of those being from the 25-54 age group. Hannity gathered even higher numbers. With such popular figures winning the viewership competition, it is no wonder that the network and its hosts have become significantly successful. This talk show transmission format makes them successful simply because the audience feels more engaged with them compared to regular news broadcasts.
Projecting success for News UK TV and GB News
In order to come up with a reasonable projection for a News UK TV and GB News, we can observe current ongoing trends. We know there are many people who identify as conservative feel their voices are unheard, we know these voices are losing trust in existing news channels, and we know there has been a political shift to the right. Taking the BBC as an example, regardless of political views, it is losing old and young generations.
According to The Herald, positive impressions by people aged over 55 have dropped by 2% since 2017. Basically, they are losing old viewers due to declining satisfaction. Reports showed they are losing young viewers due to transparency issues, lack of diversity, and under-representation of minorities. Watchdog’s second annual report (from 2019) suggested people aged 15-24 years old deemed the BBC as “White, middle-class and London-centric point of view.”
Another reason for the BBC’s loss of younger viewers is because of how young generations consume and digest news. A study by Oxford shows 69% of those younger than 35 years old) are more likely to tune into social media for news compared to 30% of those aged 35+ who are more likely to watch news on TV. With this in mind, the emergence of a new, fresh, and different take on news that appeals to a representation-thirsty crowd could certainly prove to be a success story.
The Fox News backlash
Although they’ve had a good run so far, Fox News continues to receive backlash for biased news reporting, often giving a voice to far right websites who make false claims. So, how come they have been successful despite the negative reviews? As mentioned earlier, Fox News is the only mainstream TV media channel for conservatives in the US, in contrast to the many liberal and centrist TV networks. This case has been especially obvious since Fox News’ began catering to Donald Trump, while all the other networks have taken an opposing stance. Fox News also voices conservatives’ opinions, so it doesn’t matter how many attacks they receive, they will still have their loyal viewers who go to them for takes that align with their existing opinions.
"They have a defined target market with knowledge of that market’s needs. They tell them what they want to hear."
Another major reason for their success is because of their appeal to their target audience. They have a defined target market with knowledge of that market’s needs. They tell them what they want to hear. People are naturally biased, so when you’re the only representative of a massive demographic in the country, you can say anything and they will support you no matter how much backlash you receive from other entities.
Coming back to the stay-at-home orders that were criticised by Fox News and its audience, thousands of Americans protested in the name of freedom. This incident was praised by Fox News host Jeanine Pirro who said “God bless them.” So here we can see the implication that Fox News has a certain audience they cater to, and that audience is loyal to the news outlet because of its support for them.
How can a Fox News media style play out in the UK?
News UK’s TV lineup is yet to be announced. Although it is still early to determine, we can say that should Murdoch have the budget raised and the right people hired, then the news network could succeed.
The fact that people feel underrepresented, that there is no existence of a true right-wing TV news outlet, and the loss of popularity of existing media outlets as mentioned earlier, such as the BBC, can pave the path for the existence of News UK TV and GB News. These channels can also have the entertaining element of Fox News-style talk shows, making them light and fun to watch.
A final note
Based on numbers, ongoing trends, and thorough literature review, we can conclude that News UK TV and GB News can definitely succeed in the UK. We asked ourselves: why would they succeed? How could they do it? What are key indicators that could make them achieve their goals?
The answer to all of those questions is simple: there is a market gap, and it needs to be filled.
The people who voiced their opinions about feeling unheard and under-represented are eager for an addition of new media channels that represent them more. They don’t care about the backlash the channels could receive, the negative reviews, or if they are deemed biased because at the end of the day, these individuals will finally feel heard.
For more analysis of mainstream media, head to our dedicated Fake News & Role of the Media section.