Fox News no longer advertises itself as 'fair and balanced'

Fox News Channel quietly dropped its trademark “fair and balanced” slogan last year.

The change was made in August, a month after the departure of Fox News founding chairman Roger Ailes, who was ousted in connection with sexual harassment allegations. Ailes died May 18.

A Fox News spokesperson said the “fair and balanced” line had not been used in any on-air promotion in 10 months but that the move was not a reflection of any change in the outlet’s editorial focus or programming. The change only recently came to light in a story in New York magazine.

Fox News executives told the magazine they believed the motto was too closely associated with Ailes, who had left in disgrace, and that they were looking to make a fresh start.

Ailes came up with the phrase “fair and balanced” as a key piece of the brand positioning of Fox News when it was launched as an upstart competitor to CNN in 1996.

Fox News was designed to be an alternative for viewers who believed CNN and other established news outlets were too liberal. “Fair and balanced” was supposed to be a signal to the conservative audience that their side was getting heard.

But the line was mocked by liberal detractors and competitors who believed it was a fig leaf for the conservative slant in much of the channel’s programming.

“I don’t think anybody who is a serious observer took that seriously for a long time,” CNN President Jeff Zucker said Thursday.

Fox has used various other tag lines through the years including “we report, you decide” and “the most powerful name in news.” Lately, it has gone with “most watched, most trusted.”

The first part of that claim can be verified by Nielsen, which has ranked Fox News as the most-watched cable news channel since 2003, though the departure of star anchor Bill O’Reilly has taken a toll on the network’s once-dominant position.

The second half is backed up by polls taken in recent years by Suffolk University and Qunnipiac University in which most respondents named Fox News as their most trusted news source.

Fox News has held on to its lead in the cable news ratings race, but the competition has heated up as viewers galvanized against President Trump have made progressive MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow the most watched personality in prime time on many nights. In May, for the first time in 17 years, MSNBC’s weekday prime-time lineup topped Fox News’ in the 25-54 age group preferred by advertisers.

Bret Baier, who anchors the Washington-based Fox News program “Special Report” — where commentary is limited to a panel in the latter half of the program — said he would continue to sign off with a line based on the “fair and balanced” slogan.

In a tweet, Baier said, “My show will still end with ‘Fair-Balanced and Unafraid.’ As it has since the day I took over 8½ yrs ago. Not changing my tag line.”

stephen.battaglio@latimes.com

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio


UPDATES:

11:15 a.m.: This article was updated to include ratings information about MSNBC.

This article was originally published at 11:05 a.m.

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