Jan 12, 2021 - Economy

The right-wing media decoupling

Illustration of an elephant stepping on and breaking  a television with a news anchor on the screen

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Following the Capitol siege, the right-wing media landscape is beginning to split between entities that want to double down on pro-Trump rhetoric and those that want to stick with the establishment.

Why it matters: The future of the Republican Party, in part, hangs on whether fringe conservative media or traditional conservative commentary will dominate with audiences.

Driving the news: Fox News said Monday it will replace its 7 p.m. evening news hour hosted by Martha MacCallum with a right-wing opinion show.

  • The move was made in response to ratings pressure, CNN reports.
  • Fox has faced growing competition from fringe-right cable news networks like Newsmax and OANN — networks that look more like Fox's opinion programming than its news shows.

On the other side, Cumulus Media, home to many right-wing radio personalities, has told hosts to stop suggesting the election was stolen, the Washington Post reports.

  • Brian Philips, EVP of content for Cumulus, wrote in an internal memo obtained by Inside Music Media that the company “will not tolerate any suggestion that the election has not ended. The election has been resolved and there are no alternate acceptable ‘paths.’ ”

Be smart: Fox News' update is notable given that other right-wing entities owned by Rupert Murdoch have decided to publicly disavow the president.

  • The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote a piece urging Trump to resign last week. Late last month, the New York Post said Trump was "cheering for an undemocratic coup" with his efforts to overturn the election he lost.
  • CNN reports that Murdoch was directly involved in the decision-making around the Fox News lineup shakeup.

What they're saying: A Fox News spokesperson pointed to a Los Angeles Times report from last October that the network regular considers programming changes, including to its daytime lineup, and will launch new formats as appropriate after the election.

  • The spokesperson also noted that Fox News finished 2020 with the highest-rated year in cable news history.

What to watch: The increase of political money being poured into media will also impact whether and how this split evolves.

  • Epoch Times, a pro-Trump media outlet backed by a political PAC, saw its revenues double over the past two years despite efforts by Tech platforms to limit its distribution, Axios' Lachlan Markay reports.

Go deeper: Insurrection and misinformation is tearing the country into three Americas

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include context from a Fox News spokesperson.

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