Bill O’reilly ouster last in shakeup

April 20, 2017 GMT

The ouster of cable superstar Bill O’Reilly amid sexual harassment allegations presents the Fox News Channel with its toughest challenge since its 1996 launch, expert say, as the network attempts to replace its marquee talent and attract a younger generation of viewers.

“I think this is probably the last shoe to drop in the re-making of Fox News and it’s obviously a big one, if not the biggest,” said Tom Fiedler, the dean of Boston University’s College of Communication. “I think Fox News is now at that inflection point in its history of moving in a different direction if the (Rupert) Murdoch sons want to. ... I think we’re going to see a shift in perhaps a more moderate direction.”

That may mean more air time for hard news anchors like Shepherd Smith and Chris Wallace, Fiedler said. For now, conservative host Tucker Carlson will move up an hour to fill O’Reilly’s 8 p.m. time slot. “The Five,” a program that features a round-table panel of hosts, will run at 9 p.m. Sean Hannity will stay at 10 p.m.

The seismic shift in the Fox News lineup also included the departure of prime-time host Megyn Kelly to NBC News and the resignation of Roger Ailes, the network’s founder, under fire himself for sexual harassment accusations.

O’Reilly’s audience had been climbing even after a raft of advertisers pulled their spots after The New York Times reported that both 21st Century Fox and O’Reilly had settled with five women for a total of $13 million over allegations of inappropriate behavior.

“I think that Fox was happy to get rid of O’Reilly,” said Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit. “Although his audience remained large, his schtick was growing stale. And even in the age of Trump nobody likes old white men. Fox wanted a generational turnover and couldn’t do that as long as O’Reilly was their biggest star.”

But Fox had no heir apparent lined up for O’Reilly — a reminder of just how fast and unexpectedly the TV giant fell.

“He’s a franchise,” said Al Tompkins of The Poynter Institute. “He’s more than just someone who appears on television. It’s going to be hard.”

O’Reilly, 67, may struggle to find work and even sell his popular books, with no cable platform to promote them every night, said Fiedler.

“I think this is probably the last step for him,” said Fiedler, of BU, where O’Reilly received his master’s degree, wrote a column for the student newspaper and returned to speak.

Fiedler didn’t rule out O’Reilly returning to BU at some point, but said it’s important he “try to make it right and move forward.”

In a statement, O’Reilly said: “It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today.”