Matthew Waterman
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Matthew Waterman in Brand Power,

Fox News Shifting Left, Looking To Be Acquired?

I think that Facebook (FB) is the bees knees for getting stock investment ideas. I like to eavesdrop a lot there and try to get a sense of what everyone wants to talk about. Now, I have a lot of liberal friends on my list, and a lot of conservative friends too, and for what seems like ages I have had to wade through link after link from news and opinion sites in a more or less constant mud-slinging contest.

It goes something like this:

Somebody at Fox News (FOX), (FOXA) says "x" statement, and then CNN, owned by Time Warner (TWX), or some other network makes a fierce criticism of "x" statement, issues their own, and then from that point, innumerable other sites repost, retweet, and reform bits of the arguments from both sides to fit whatever agenda they are each pushing that day.

Republicans do it, Democrats do it. Libertarians do it, every party does it. We don't seek common ground, none of us are "fair and balanced". All I ever see is trash talk and mudslinging from every side. "Hillary did this, Trump said that, Obama wrecked our country, no wait it was really Bush that wrecked it and Clinton and the other Bush, and Reagan was good/bad depending on what the subject is".

I hate that.

I avoid watching the news just because of it, with the exception of CNBC, which is a part of Comcast (CMCSA), and even then, I only watch to get ideas to talk about from hearing what is mostlyextraordinarily bad advice.

What I have found on that channel is a sort of less political leaning, and more of a discussion about what people are worried about right now. That said, it's the subjects that conservatives have made that seem to get people to be the most afraid of things: Taxes, commodities like gold (GLD) and silver (SLV), and electronics makers seem to be very hot topics there. Like their comrades on other networks, it is an appeal to fear of loss.

So it sort of broke my mind when I saw this link today:

Fox's Shepard Smith: Benghazi Committee Took 2 Years And Spent $7 Million But Found "No New Evidence"

There is a video there hosted by Mediamatters, in it a clip of Shepard Smith, a Fox News reporter. He is reading a report from the state department that found no truth behind the assertions that Hillary Clinton had anything to do with Benghazi.

Moreover, he goes on to say that even if the Obama administration had sent resources there, the death of four Americans could not have been prevented in the attack. The video does stop short of issuing any apologies, and actually saying that the Hillary/Benghazi rumors were bogus.

However, Shepard is effectively dismissing what has been apolarizing talking point against the Clinton campaign.

This is a major shift in the way Fox handles their business.

They have, at least historically, rationalized their viewpoints, not apologized for them or issued corrections. I didn't believe what I was watching. I thought there had to be some kind of video editing or cherry picking going on here, something along those lines because it's such a common thing to see.

But check this out: I went over to the Fox News official Youtube channel, hosted by Alphabet (GOOG),(GOOGL). and what I found were videos like this one:

As in the past, Fox is using examples of talking points given by other networks, but what is incredible about this one is that they aren't rationalizing anyone's behavior. Instead, Howard Kurtz and Megyn Kelly are asking legitimate, logical questions examining the reasons for the media's opinion.

It is, for lack of better words, an actually fair and balanced discussion, and at the end they are concluding that yes, Trump has contradicted himself. They said that other political figures in the past have as well, but that was called evolving. No appeal to fear, no blaming anyone. Just an actual introspection of journalistic opinions on the matter.

I found it right on their front page, and it isn't the only one like this. Now, it could be that they are trying to watch their step after the settlement between the network and Gretchen Carlson, who claimed wrongful termination and sexual harassment.

Or perhaps one of these possibilities:

  1. Fox is switching up their style in an effort to be more competitive with the "liberal" media, and are addressing their potential viewers criticisms, or
  2. They are actually trying to appeal to the liberal viewers to be their base, and not conservatives, or
  3. They are looking to be bought out by one of their competitors.

I have thought in the past that it was strange that the news part of Fox was so obviously tilted to the right because they ran shows like "Family Guy", and "Glee", both extremely progressive. One makes constant nods to atheism and the other stars homosexuals. Not precisely the kinds of things you hear talked about by Christian conservatives.

In most other businesses, when you see a dramatic shift in the operating style, it usually means that they are trying to appeal to a corporate buyer. Could Fox News be trying to find such a suitor? I have to admit today that I don't have a suggestion about who that might be.

The bottom line.

I'm going to be following this piece up with some possibilities of who could/would buy Fox. In the meantime, I guess I need to watch some TV. While you wait, I think it might make sense to pick up some Fox shares. At the very least, I can say that something is definitely changing there.

If nothing else, a trailing P/E under 18, and a dividend that has doubled over the last three years makes me want to pursue ownership, if not on strictly moral grounds. So yeah, I rate Fox a buy.

Thanks for reading. See you again soon.