Fox News is no longer "fair and balanced." At least, not according to the network's latest change in marketing. After a year of significant senior leadership changes for the conservative media company, Fox News has retired its "fair and balanced" slogan, putting an end to the iconic tagline that has been the network's slogan since it first launched in 1996.
After Roger Ailes, the Fox News founder who coined the term, was fired in April, Fox News executives quietly shelved the slogan. But according to New York Magazine, the network stopped using the slogan directly following Ailes' ouster because it was "too closely associated with Roger." Other executives have reportedly said that the phrase was widely "mocked."
Fox News clarified in a statement that the marketing decision “has nothing to do with programming or editorial decisions,” but it's hard to downplay the significance of a rebranding following such monumental changes at the network. In addition to CEO Ailes stepping down last year, the network's highest-rated star, Bill O'Reilly, was also fired amid sexual assault harassment allegations in April. O'Reilly strongly denied any wrongdoing. 21st Century Fox released a statement following the move, saying “After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel.” Since his departure, the network has turned to primetime host Tucker Carlson to fill the time slot The O'Reilly Factor held for decades.
Since dropping the slogan in August — which, apparently, no one noticed until Ailes biographer and New York Magazine writer Gabriel Sherman brought the issue to light on Wednesday — Fox News has instead been relying on another of its taglines, "Most Watched. Most Trusted."
While Fox News has been the most watched cable news network for 14 consecutive years, the network has been facing some tough competition in the ratings game following President Trump's inauguration and O'Reilly's departure. MSNBC has been steadily catching up with Fox News' ratings in the past few months, with liberal host Rachel Maddow becoming an increasingly popular figure in primetime cable news.
Ultimately, the "Fair and Balanced" tagline has been a staple of the network since its inception. Producers say that Ailes had made a point to remind them that the message was a part of the very fabric of the network.
“He would say, ‘The news is like a ship. If you take hands off the wheel, it pulls hard to the left,'" a senior producer once told Sherman. Fox News executives maintain that this ideology, and the very essence of the network, remains unchanged.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Fox News' "Fair and Balanced" slogan in April 2017. It was dropped in August 2016. It also mischaracterized the network as "right-wing" and incorrectly noted that MSNBC was "beating" Fox News in primetime ratings overall. FNC remains No. 1 in total viewers.