As Fox News moves further into the post–Roger Ailes era, the network is shedding one of its most iconic elements. According to network executives, Fox News has abandoned the marketing slogan “Fair & Balanced.” The decision was made last August after Ailes’s ouster by Fox News co-president Jack Abernethy, because the phrase had “been mocked,” one insider said. Another executive explained that the tagline was “too closely associated with Roger.” Fox executives have been instructed by management to market the network by its other tagline: “Most Watched. Most Trusted.”
It is hard to overstate the significance of what shedding “Fair & Balanced” means for Fox News. (It would be like the New York Times giving up “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”) Ailes invented the slogan when he launched the network in 1996, and over the years it became a quasi-religious doctrine among Fox’s anchors and viewers. The effectiveness of Fox News as a vehicle for conservative ideology depended on it. “If you come out and you try to do right-wing news, you’re gonna die. You can’t get away with it,” Ailes once told a reporter.
Inside Fox, Ailes held “Fair & Balanced” seminars with staff members. “He would call a group of senior producers and make you watch the channel and he’d point out stuff, like a banner that’s slightly liberal,” a senior producer told me. “He would say, ‘The news is like a ship. If you take hands off the wheel, it pulls hard to the left.’” Ailes also used “Fair & Balanced” when making hiring decisions, such as saying a job candidate “wasn’t ‘fair & balanced,’” because the person went to a college he didn’t like.
In the annals of modern advertising, “Fair & Balanced” will be considered a classic. The slogan was Ailes’s cynical genius at its most successful. While liberals mocked the tagline, it allowed Ailes to give viewers the appearance of both sides being heard, when in fact he made sure producers staged segments so that the conservative viewpoint always won.
A Fox News spokesperson confirmed that the network is dropping the slogan but said the branding change won’t affect programming or editorial decisions.