Fox News Channel executives believe that one of the essential elements in the sustainability of the network’s late-afternoon panel program, “The Five,” is the bond between founding panelists Dana Perino and Greg Gutfeld. When the couple first met, however, they seemed to find little in common.
Gutfeld, who was then hosting the show “Red Eye,” asked Perino, then a collaborator still involved in public relations after her stint at the White House, to participate in the show and approached her in front of the corporate headquarters. Fox Corp. in Manhattan. . “She claimed there was someone behind me that she recognized… ‘Oh, who is that? Oh, hey, Steve, ”Gutfeld recalls. Perino says she doesn’t fully remember the incident, but “in my defense, I never got up at 3 am to watch. I didn’t know what I was being asked to do. Now, she credits Gutfeld with helping him develop a stronger personality on the air.
As “The Five” on July 11 enters its second decade on air, the producers hope to maintain that connection while forging new ones. The following idea may shock viewers of Fox News, which makes no secret of its conservative leanings: The channel continues to actively seek a co-host to give the show a liberal perspective, occupying the seat of the recently deceased Juan Williams, who in late May he announced he would be leaving “The Five” and staying in Washington, DC, rather than returning to the program’s production studio in New York after the pandemic (interestingly, Meghan McCain, the conservative panelist of ABC’s “The View” made an announcement last week).
Some of the show’s liberal replacements recently included analyst Jessica Tarlov and former US Representative Harold Ford Jr. Megan Albano, the Fox News executive who oversees “The Five” as well as the hourly weekend program. Network Prime Minister says she does not plan to immediately appoint a permanent successor. Eventually, she said, she will. “It’s really important to our viewers and to conservatives in America that we always have different opinions and that that includes someone on the left.”
In recent weeks, that hasn’t been the mood emanating from cable media. Donna Brazile, the former Democratic National Committee leader, revealed in May that she had stepped down as a contributor at Fox News for a similar post at Walt Disney’s ABC News. In the wake of the 2020 presidential election, Fox News gave more prominence to right-wing opinion programming, replacing the news hours at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. An original hour of information from Shannon Bream replaced a midnight rehearsal of “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
Even Jesse Watters, the “The Five” panelist who tends to align the most with the mood of the network, says the show needs a liberal in the mix. “You want someone, maybe with a different point of view, to have ideas that are provocative for you, and you can counter those ideas. You can have a debate and a discussion. It makes you a better host, ”says Watters, adding,“ I would say I like having a liberal voice on the show and I expect that to continue. “
Cable news channels have tried for years to create sparks by placing people with different political perspectives on the same screen. CNN has broadcast “Crossfire” – with one host “on the left” and one “on the right” – for over twenty years, and Fox News’ Sean Hannity has been associated with liberal co-host Alan Colmes for over a decade. . In the past, “producers knew it took smart TV to get an opposing point of view, even if their audience weren’t going to agree with it,” says Jason Mollica, professor at American University’s School. of Communication.
Such concepts today are more fragile. The atmosphere in which people watch news programs “is so toxic right now,” adds Mollica. “Trying to find that person who will live above the fray” has become a challenge. Indeed, CNN has faced headwinds in trying to keep several right-wing analysts, ranging from Jeffrey Lord to Rick Santorum, whose public off-air remarks have made their position on the network untenable. And some of the more viral moments of “The Five” over the past few months feature Gutfeld verbally clashing with Williams, who says clips of the show that are placed on social media do it stripped of any context, like the general tone of the conversation before the discussion gets heated. “Once you take it out of that element, it’s nonsense,” he says.
Fox News has reason to stick with the current model. “The Five” accounted for about 5% of all ad spend on Fox News Channel in 20201, according to data from the Standard Media Index. In 2020, “The Five” generated about $ 48.2 million in advertising, according to Kantar, an ad spend tracker, up from nearly $ 33 million in 2019.
Fox News relied on the “The Five” model to store portions of its weekend schedule. Two new weekend prime-time programs, “The Big Saturday Show” and “The Big Sunday Show” use elements of “The Five,” which in its early days was seen as a way to give more performance. airtime to various Fox News personalities who did not have their own programs. The current three main hosts of the show have other on-air assignments. And the show has proven in the past that it can hold its place elsewhere on the program. In 2017, the network moved “The Five” to prime time for several months as it grappled with the ouster of former presenter Bill O’Reilly as well as Megyn Kelly’s stint on NBC News.
There are new concerns in the news industry about the burden of daily gossip on TV panel programs. “The Five” and “The View” aren’t the only signs that are undergoing personnel changes. Sharon Osbourne left CBS’s “The Talk” earlier this year following allegations about how she treated her co-hosts and after a particularly controversial show in March.
A return to pre-pandemic production should breathe new life into hosts, suggests Gutfeld. “The dynamic of the show keeps basketball moving. Being in the remote studios is like a batting cage. Someone gives you the ball and you try to hit it as hard as you can. It is not a conversation.
The hosts were often able to work out differences on air during commercial breaks, says Albano, which is not possible when everyone is apart. “This is why it is so important for us to go back to the studio.”
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