Fox News reels after O’Reilly allegations

By: Tim Maninger, News Writer

If there is anywhere that a person should feel safe it is their workplace. Employers spend significant amounts of time and money every year keeping their workers safe and happy. Sometimes this process means that certain employees have to go. If someone is contributing to a workplace environment that makes others uncomfortable, or even threatened, it is the prerogative of the company to remove that person from their position. Recently this has become all too relevant for Fox News. The network has had a slew of allegations of sexual assault made against its personnel. Last year these allegations led to the resignation of the CEO and founder of Fox News, Roger Ailes. The network’s most popular host, Bill O’Reilly, was also implicated in these allegations, and after significant deliberation it has been decided that O’Reilly’s twenty-one year run at Fox News is over.

Up until now the O’Reilly Factor has been one of the top rated cable news shows for many years. Even in the midst of this scandal his ratings have remained consistent. This is one reason that it took so long to decide to fire him. Rupert Murdoch and his sons, who own the Fox News Network among other news and advertising companies, had a lot of factors to consider when making the decision. The biggest of these factors were their image and the image of their companies as well as O’Reilly’s profitability. O’Reilly’s show has always been popular, even during this scandal, but viewership is not the only metric that is important to profitability. More recently advertisers have been shying away from the show following the revelation that O’Reilly has paid over $13 million to five women to settle lawsuits against him. These brands don’t want their products associated with an alleged sexual harasser. With his show losing money, and his image reflecting poorly on both Fox News and the Murdochs, there was little choice but to let him go.

The way that image plays into this is slightly more nuanced than it may first appear. For quite some time the Murdochs have been trying to acquire the European broadcasting company Sky. This deal represents a $14.6 billion dollar investment on the Murdochs’ part, and is dependent on the UK’s communications regulator Ofcom deciding that they are “fit and proper” owners. This deal has fallen through before due to a different scandal involving bribery and phone hacking, so the Murdochs are anxious to see it through this time. O’Reilly’s severance package of $20 million is peanuts compared to what they plan to invest if this deal goes through.

In recent years it seems like high profile sexual harassment and assault cases have been coming to light at an alarming rate. Whether this is due to a shift in public opinion of what is acceptable workplace behavior, a change in what the media is giving coverage, or some other factor is subject to debate. Hopefully this trend discourages sexual harassment and assault without swinging too far in the other direction, resulting in waves of false allegations that cheapen the struggle of those who are really affected by these crimes.