By: Savannah Smith | 04-20-2017 | News
Photo credit: Fox News Insider | Flickr

Fox News in Full Tilt

The big announcement of the host's firing from the network due to sexual harassment charges has also brought to the fore the brewing conflict in the Murdoch family, owners of the embattled cable news network. The growing divide is reportedly rooted on generational gaps in terms of management and leadership styles and principles between the old man Rupert Murdoch on one hand, and his sons James and Lachlan Murdoch on the other.

The deep disagreements reportedly started in July last year after Gretchen Carlson sued the Murdoch-controlled 21st Century Fox and Roger Ailes, then the head of Fox News Channel, for sexual harassment. The Murdoch siblings were not in good terms with Ailes at that time. The father wanted to fight out the allegation in court, as he told his sons that choosing to settle with Carlson would only invite more lawsuits to come, as always the case with easy money settlements. The sons, however, were eager to get rid of their enemy Ailes and of the problem right away. They wanted to just accept Carlson's claims after a quick investigation and then disperse the big payoff of $20 million and just do away with the dispute and buy peace.

Today, nine months after, it is being proven who between the old man and the new company leaders indeed have more foresight, at least management or even crisis management-wise is concerned. Fox continued to get a number of similar claims against Ailes and their ratings giant and broadcast veteran Bill O' Reilly while creating a firestorm of media attention on what is being referred to as the " O' Reilly revelations". Curiously, there's no revelation of evidence or admission of guilt but details of payment settlements for the complaints against O' Reilly. Some are suggesting that big payment settlements could mean maximum guilt on the part of the accused, or from lawyers' point of view, when there is huge money, more complainants " come out of the woodwork".

The elder Murdoch is said to be saying, "I told you so". Son James, CEO of 21st Century Fox, is blaming the huge mess on the Fox News culture. He has hired Paul Weiss, whose same law firm conducted a two-week probe of Ailes to also investigate O'Reilly. The different responses and preferred tactics to manage the crisis are said to be a reflection of greater family and company interests and conflicts. Rupert Murdoch, 86, considers Fox News as a key part of his legacy, as well as the family company's health. Fox News, after all, is the most profitable news outlet ever with $1.5 billion in profits this year alone. It also remains one of the most influential. The Murdoch brothers James and Lachlan, 44 and 45 years old, hope to reshape the legacy and turn Fox into something more modern and "nicer" from their father's retro era.

The old Murdoch is also not hesitant in putting the blame on his sons for today's mess. The sons, on the other hand, would find it harder to justify their actions and decisions now. They could afford to let Ailes go and still remain the powerful news media outfit that they are. It's a different case for the prime time king and most-watched O', Reilly.

Murdoch sons seem to view Ailes and O' Reilly as part of their father's bygone era, even if it is the very character and dynamics of such an era that drew tremendous audiences to their network. The brothers want to bring their company into a new era. Their plan would have been to make Fox the network of the likes of Megyn Kelly rather than O' Reilly and Ailes. In the word of James, he wants a "re-imagining of Fox" which is said to be making the old man really worried and raring to pay more attention again to the network he helped build and made successful in many terms.

There's the battle on the issues that hounded Ailes and O' Reilly that Fox seemed to have conceded, but apparently the real, tougher war is raging within the Murdoch family. In this fight, who would win between the old values of a bygone era of the father and the modern outlook of the sons?

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