The Facebook app logo is displayed on an iPad next to a picture of the Facebook logo on an iPhone on August 3, 2016 in London, England. Photo: Getty
Still reeling (at least in reputation, but certainly not in financial success) from the 2016 US presidential election, Facebook is launching its own slate of news shows produced and funded by the social network in partnership with “trustworthy” news organizations. The lineup, which launches next week, features a whole lot of Fox News.
Not all of the programming—which will be available through the recently launched Facebook Watch video platform starting July 16—comes from the news network that carries water for the Trump administration. ABC News, ATTN:, Bloomberg, BuzzFeed, CNN, Mic, Quartz, and Univision (Gizmodo Media Group’s current parent company) all have slots on the initial schedule, as well.
But damn, there’s just an awful lot of Fox News. The network leads off coverage first thing in the morning, snagged the prime mid-day spot with a version of “Fox News Update” hosted by generally likable chief news anchor Shepard Smith, and will get two weekend time slots. It’s the only news network that is a part of the Facebook-funded project to have a show on Facebook Watch every day of the week.
The inclusion and even highlighting of Fox News—a network notorious showcasing hosts and guests who make misleading and sometimes outright false claims, per Politifact—is just the latest result of Facebook’s permanent position between a rock and a hard place when it comes to conservative views. Once word got out from former employees that the company worked to suppress conservative news sources in its now-defunct trending stories section, Facebook has been trying to placate its critics on the right by any means necessary. It started with Zuckerberg meeting with Republican figureheads to sort out the problems and has continued through Facebook’s decision to hire a former Republican senator who spread false information about Planned Parenthood while holding public office.
Now it’s giving Fox News top billing on its programming schedule designed to broadcast news that is “trustworthy, informative, and local.” The network is certainly trustworthy among Republicans—60 percent of right-leaning Americans identified the network as an “objective news source,” according to a poll conducted earlier this year by Gallup and the Knight Foundation. Since Facebook has to operate on the Michael Jordan principle of “Republicans buy sneakers, too,” the social network doesn’t have much of a choice but to include Fox News in the mix.
And so, it will. Alongside voices like Anderson Cooper and Jorge Ramos, per Variety, there will be an anchor from the network that has spent an inordinate amount of time talking about Hilary Clinton even though it’s 2018. Sure, those time slots will at least in part be anchored by Shep Smith, who has gotten a reputation at the company for being “anti-Trump” simply by offering reasonable criticisms of the administration.
Over time the network may fall away as a focal point of the schedule. Facebook is planning on offering an additional slate of programming in the coming months that will include coverage from McClatchy, NowThis, and TEGNA. Facebook also intends to dive into local news—though hopefully the company doesn’t tap Sinclair for that effort.
Who knows how successful Facebook’s news effort will be. It very well could flop—there’s a lot of ways to get news updates over the course of the day already, and it’s not clear having programming on Facebook makes things staying informed any easier. Just head over to the Watch tab that you probably have never intentionally clicked on prior to this to see how things go.
[Variety, The Verge]