Fox News isn’t even pretending to be a news network anymore – it’s time for consumers to force cable providers and advertisers to drop the network

fox news ratings
Fox News headquarters on Sixth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.

  • Fox News has given up all pretense of acting as a news network.
  • It’s time advertisers and cable companies stop funding the deception Fox beams into American homes.
  • The more people let cable providers know that they are done funding Fox News, the less leverage the network has going into renegotiations.
  • Nikki Ramirez is a researcher at Media Matters For America, a nonprofit media watchdog.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After a year spent undermining public health and safety, eroding confidence in our democracy, and mainstreaming white nationalism, it’s become even clearer that Fox News is a threat to the American public. Now, the network wants more money.

Per multiple industry publications, Fox News made a preemptive pitch to advertisers on May 11 in advance of the advertising industry “upfront” presentations scheduled to begin the following week. Major television networks, including Fox News, have traditionally used those presentations to sell the majority of their advertising space “upfront” for the year ahead.

Reports suggest that in that pitch, Fox News touted its daytime programming and streaming service and did not mention its prime-time lineup, presenting it’s day-side and online programming as a subdued and safe investment for buyers.

The move is understandable. Tucker Carlson and his fellow prime-time hosts, including Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity, have made the channel a toxic swamp for advertisers, who’ve fled in droves.

Those of us who watch Fox News daily know that there is very little news reporting left on the network’s “news side.” Watch a single night of the network’s “reporting” and it becomes abundantly clear that Fox has dropped all pretenses of operating as a journalistic operation. The network has used the cover of its “opinion” side to truncate coverage of the mundane trappings of real world news events in favor of culture war narratives like “the war on beef,” the apocalyptic threat of “cancel culture,” obsessive, fear mongering about transgender individuals, or a network-wide fixation on critical race theory.

And while conjuring controversy out of thin air is a staple at the network, executives have steadily transitioned resources away from “news side” operations in favor of buttressing the antics of their opinion hosts – antics that have landed the network in multiple multibillion-dollar defamation lawsuits and forced Fox to argue in court that its most popular anchor, Tucker Carlson, shouldn’t actually be taken seriously by viewers.

Fox is expecting an uphill battle in convincing potential advertisers and cable companies that they won’t face public backlash for being the financial backer the next time a Fox host endorses a white nationalist conspiracy theory, casts doubts on the results of a fair and free election, or contributes to the consistent stream of virulent rhetoric that plagues the network.

In fact, a broad and diverse coalition of more than 40 organizations sent an open letter to media buyers during the television industry’s upfront period, urging them not to buy advertisements on Fox News, warning that any ad spend on the network will fund the promotion of COVID conspiracy theories, bigotry, and lies.

In response to that letter, Fox News told The Wrap that it is “about to close out its fourth consecutive year delivering new records in advertising revenue, so clearly Media Matters’ predictable ongoing partisan attacks have zero impact outside of their irrelevant echo chamber on social media.”

The network was one of the biggest backers of former President Donald Trump’s attempts to subvert the results of the 2020 election. Following the January 6 storming of the US Capitol building, Fox became headquarters for the public relations defense of the rioters who attempted to stop the vote to certify Joe Biden’s election.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed almost 600,000 Americans, Fox News chose to provide its audience not with informative coverage, but with a flood of misinformation and conspiracy theories. The network denounced protective measures like masks and social distancing, broadcast conspiracy theories about vaccines, and consistently undermined trust in public health officials and the scientific community.

During the upfronts, Fox News scrambled to draw a veil over their record and paint a sunny picture for investors and media buyers. But the network that has built itself as a place for laundering and repackaging extremism, and has handsomely rewarded those who do it well. Now it faces a reckoning with advertisers and cable companies, whose cash and contracts Fox needs.

Head of Fox Corp Lachlan Murdoch has made clear that there is no line he won’t let his hosts cross. Tucker Carlson has long been a major hub of white nationalist talking points, but on April 8, Carlson made one of his most explicit endorsements of the worldview to date: an outright embrace of the “great replacement” conspiracy theory. It is abundantly clear that Fox News will not only tolerate Carlson’s full-throated amplification of white nationalist ideology, but will actively enable and support it. Simply put: Public condemnation alone will achieve nothing. The way to force accountability at Fox is to put its finances on the line.

Consumer pressure

While the prospect may seem daunting, the 2021 advertising bookings represent a unique opportunity for an exercise in consumer power. Fox is banking on its viewers’ ignorance of advertising sales practices and cable subscriber fees to keep its head above water. But the reality is that Fox collects a lot of its advertising money upfront and every American household with a basic cable package gives the network roughly $20 a year regardless of whether they actually watch the channel.

Fox has for a long time leveraged the promise of a loyal viewership in order to increase the fee it charges cable companies to carry their channel, negotiating a much higher price than the other major news networks charge. While more than 90 million households pay for Fox News, only about 3 million are regular viewers.

Fox News understands what should be clear to everyone: that advertising dollars and cable subscriber fees are what fund the disordered stew the network attempts to pass off as news. Fox recognized that upfronts are critical and that they are no longer a guaranteed bet for investors – that’s why the network is attempting to hide its most controversial talent in the back room until the contracts are signed. It’s why Fox has made a conspicuous pivot to streaming, where it’s given its most caustic anchor two new shows that are insulated from the scrutiny of accessible public viewing.

Despite these tactics, advertisers and cable companies can no longer feign ignorance regarding the destructive nature of Fox News’ programming. It is no longer simply a matter of financial interest but a clear-cut ethical boundary.

The more pressure placed on the networks’ backers to stop funding Fox News, by contacting them directly or joining initiatives like #UnFoxMyCableBox, the less leverage the network has going into renegotiations. A mutiny by cable consumers, coupled with a drought of advertiser interest, could push Fox toward a financial position vulnerable enough to force a change.

As Fox competes for advertising dollars, it is also in the process of renegotiating between 40% to 50% of its cable contracts. Media Matters President Angelo Carusone explained to On The Media’s Bob Garfield that Fox News “could have zero commercials, and still have a 90% profit margin, because they are the second-most expensive channel on everybody’s cable box.”

Carusone went on to explain that if Fox is “able to successfully complete these renegotiations over the next year, and get more money out of it, there’s nothing they can do or say that will get them any meaningful consequences and force them to change.” If Fox can make it through this year’s upfronts and renegotiations unscathed, it could mean years of financial impunity.

It’s time to defund Fox News. The network has forfeit any right to claim to special treatment by advertisers and cable providers. By continuing to support the network’s outsized cash grab under consumers’ noses, advertising agencies and cable companies are safeguarding the slush fund that enables Fox to dodge any form of accountability, no matter the detrimental effect it has on the American public.

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Marques Brownlee details his business as a tech YouTuber and how he makes money on the platform

Marques Brownlee
Marques Brownlee.

  • Marques Brownlee, known as MKBHD online, has 13 million YouTube subscribers. 
  • Brownlee is a tech YouTube creator, and his videos include reviews on the latest smartphones, tech unboxings, and smartphone-camera tests.
  • Brownlee on a recent podcast discussed his business as a digital creator and how he makes money.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Marques Brownlee was saving up his allowance money in high school when he decided to launch a YouTube channel. 

The money he was saving up would help him buy a new laptop, where he could film and edit videos.

In 2009, he filmed his first tech-review video, which focused on the media-center remote that came with his new laptop. Now 12 years later, his channel has become one of the top tech channels on YouTube and has 13 million subscribers.

Brownlee’s videos on YouTube include reviews on the latest smartphones, tech unboxings, and smartphone-camera tests. He has interviewed top tech CEOs from Elon Musk, Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg.

To help run the day-to-day of his creator business, Brownlee signed with the talent agency WME, and he has a small team of motion graphics artists, cinematographers, and assistants. 

But, how does a digital creator on YouTube earn money? 

“Oh, this is the number one holiday family reunion question,” Brownlee told Nilay Patel in a recent episode of The Verge’s podcast “Decoder.”

Digital creators like Brownlee often have several revenue streams, as they typically don’t rely on just one form of income.

Read more: A 5-step guide to making the most money possible from YouTube video ads, with advice from top creators

For most YouTubers, their main source of revenue comes from the ads placed in their videos by Google.

“So, YouTube ads is the primary, fundamental way that YouTubers make money,” Brownlee said on the Verge podcast. “You upload a video, there’s ads somewhere on it or in it, and the YouTuber gets paid for the placement of those ads because they brought the eyeballs to the video.”

But YouTube ad rates fluctuate month to month, and at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, some YouTube creators saw a decline in their March earnings as advertisers pulled campaigns and lowered budgets. That is why most creators have several different streams of income that all connect back to their larger online business. 

Here is a breakdown of the main ways Brownlee makes money as a creator:


Google’s AdSense program

Creators who are part of YouTube’s Partner Program are able to make money from their YouTube channels by placing ads within a video. These ads are filtered through Google’s AdSense program.

To be accepted into YouTube’s Partner Program, creators must have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours, and once they are in, their videos are monetized with ads filtered by Google. How much money a creator earns (called AdSense) depends on the video’s watch time, length, video type, and viewer demographics, among other factors. YouTube also keeps 45% of the ad revenue, with the creator keeping the rest. 

“Generally, the fundamental building blocks of making money as a YouTuber, and for me, come from AdSense built into YouTube, sponsored integrations built into the videos and on the channel, and merch stuff, too,” Brownlee said on the Verge podcast.

Promoting brands through sponsorships 

Brownlee said on the Verge podcast that he also earns money by promoting brands in his YouTube videos. 

For mega YouTubers like Brownlee, brand deals are often negotiated with an agent or manager. 

“I negotiate the rate,” Brownlee said on the Verge podcast. “The contract is usually built by my agent. I work with WME. And so, their lawyers will look over the contract and negotiate the terms, so I’m not literally reading the contracts. That’s an arm I chopped off. I used to do that, too. They take their cut, obviously, for also bringing some of those contracts and companies to my inbox. But at the end of the day, if you could see the amount of stuff we say no to – it’s just like a constant flow of, ‘We want to be on the channel. We want to be in a video’ – to find the stuff that really makes sense. And then, that’s just me going, ‘Let’s see how we can make this work best.'”

Read more: 9 real media kit examples that influencers on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok use to get brand sponsorships

mkbhd marques brownlee

Selling branded merchandise 

Some influencers own a warehouse from which they ship T-shirts, hoodies, and other branded accessories, and then they will sell those online through an e-commerce platform, like Shopify.

But influencers don’t have to run their own merch operation to take advantage of the business opportunity. Many, like Brownlee, partner with a company (he sells merch through the site Cotton Bureau.)

“For example, we have a merch store. You can buy apparel that has our cool designs on it,” Brownlee said on the Verge podcast.

When a revenue stream dips or advertising budgets dry out, merch sales can make up for a loss in revenue.

Read more: The top 7 merchandise companies helping creators on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok earn money without relying on ads

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