21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch pressed on whether Fox News is really ‘fair and balanced’

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Business Insider Editor-in-Chief Henry Blodget and 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch at Ignition.
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Business Insider

21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch defended Fox News’ “fair and balanced” slogan on Tuesday, drawing a distinction between the network’s news shows and primetime opinion programming.

During an interview at Business Insider’s annual IGNITION conference, Editor-in-Chief Henry Blodget asked the 21st Century Fox executive if its flagship news network was “fair and balanced,” which elicited some laughter from the audience.

“There’s a real difference between the news reporting and news gathering and the opinion shows – the sort of talk shows that occupy primetime and I think sort of get people excited,” Murdoch said. “They are certainly provocative, the opinion shows. But they are opinion shows, and they’re labeled that way.”

Murdoch touted Fox anchors Bret Baier, Chris Wallace, and Megyn Kelly as “absolutely fair and balanced,” saying the network believes it is “really important to understand that distinction between primetime, personality-driven opinion shows, and the more general news coverage.”

“I don’t think it is necessarily of one view. I think the contrast between a Megyn Kelly and a Bill O’Reilly and a Sean Hannity and a Tucker Carlson … I think there’s a high contrast between those shows,” Murdoch said.

The CEO also addressed whether Fox News adapted its coverage following the high-profile departure of former head Roger Ailes, who left the network following a slew of accusations of sexual harassment, and served as an informal advisor to President-elect Donald Trump during preparation for the 2016 presidential debates.

Murdoch told the audience that Ailes’ departure slightly shifted the networks focus more toward hard news.

“It’s hard to tell right now because we’re in the middle of this political cycle. There’s definitely a desire to break news, to really focus on the news side of it. But also to make sure that the personalities that are in prime time, the people that are there, and new people that are going to come through are engaging and exciting and connecting with the audience,” Murdoch said, adding that “it’s not really a question of whether you’re going to pivot from a perceived political bias one way or another.”

“Is it really perceived?” Blodget replied.

“In the opinion shows, it’s perceived that this person feels this way, and this person feels that way,” Murdoch said.

Murdoch added: “The whole notion of Fox News in the early days before anyone ever thought it could be successful, was there was one bit of group think in television news over there, and how could you provide balance.”

Indeed, the network has made slight changes in news-gathering since Ailes’ resignation.

Though ratings for the networks’ opinion programming like “Hannity” has soared during the election, the network’s first new show since Ailes’ departure was “I’ll Tell You What,” a short-lived Sunday afternoon news program.

Watch part of the exchange below:

Video: 21st Century Fox CEOJames Murdoch pressed on whether Fox News is really “Fair andBalanced” https://t.co/kCEevlIEgB pic.twitter.com/SKpTO5AhSo

https://t.co/kCEevlIEgBpic.twitter.com/SKpTO5AhSoDecember6, 2016