Another major programming change at Fox News
It was a week of big news at Fox News as the channel shuffled its nighttime program schedule, moving Hannity to 9 P.M. and adding a new show with Laura Ingraham starting October 30 at 10. On Thursday, there was another major announcement: also on October 30, following Ingraham's new program, a new live late-evening hour devoted to hard news will debut at 11 P.M. Fox News @ Night will be anchored by veteran Fox News correspondent, host, and anchor Shannon Bream.
Bream, an attorney, transitioned to television reporting and anchoring in 2000, and she has worked for Fox News since 2007. For more than half of that time, based in Washington, D.C., Bream was the channel's Supreme Court reporter, frequently reporting on legal issues, and she occasionally guest-hosted FNC programs. Most recently, Bream co-anchored a live, daily two-hour morning program, America's Newsroom, with Bill Hemmer from Fox News studios in New York.
Jay Wallace, the channel's president of news, made the announcement:
Fox News @ Night will be a live hour of hard news and analysis of the most compelling stories from Washington and across the country. With news breaking at all hours – and often late into the evening – the show will provide viewers with the very latest must-see information from FNC's deep bench of correspondents and experts. It will function as a capstone on today's most consequential news, with an eye toward setting the table for tomorrow's ever-changing developments.
In addition to practicing law and working in television news for almost two decades, Shannon Bream's experience includes competing in the 1991 Miss America pageant as a top-ten finalist (Miss Virginia) and in the 1995 Miss USA pageant as Miss Florida, where she came in fourth. She told Glamour magazine for an article in 2012 that her winnings from the pageants paid for two years of college and three years of law school.
In a 2012 article about her in the Charlotte Observer, Bream credited the pageants with helping her shape her presentation skills:
I had horrible stage fright before Miss America. I'm a classical pianist by training. It's one thing to play in your teacher's house, but another to play in front of 80 million people on TV. But I got over my jitters. It was a great learning experience for a 19-year-old, something I would never have had otherwise.
Shannon Bream is very open about her deep Christian faith. In 2013, she was the first female graduate of Liberty University to deliver the school's commencement address. Her new, more prominent profile at Fox News now will likely continue to rile enemies of Fox like Media Matters, which has attacked Bream many times for her Christian beliefs.
Shannon Bream's address at Liberty University's 40th commencement, May 2013.
Shannon Bream is the third openly Christian host on Fox News's evening schedule. Both Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham (the hosts at 9 and 10 P.M.) express pride in their Christian beliefs. Ingraham wears a gold cross during every TV appearance.
The addition of a live hour of news to Fox News's evening schedule is significant for a number of reasons. Previously, the 11 P.M. E.T. hour featured a repeat of the 8 P.M. show – recently, Tucker Carlson Tonight and before that, The O'Reilly Factor. Since it's only 8 P.M. in the Pacific time zone, it has been frustrating for some viewers in the West to have a canned show on at that hour, especially on nights when news is breaking. Now they will have the benefit of an hour of live news five nights a week.
At MSNBC, currently FNC's major competition, a live hour of news at 11 P.M. E.T. premiered in September 2016, The 11th Hour with Brian Williams. It was billed as a temporary program to last through the fall 2016 election season, but, enjoying good ratings, it has continued to air with no signs of ending its run. On most nights, Brian Williams beats FNC's Tucker Carlson repeat in the national ratings. By introducing its own live hard news show at the end of the day to go head to head with Williams, the inference to be drawn is that Fox News is serious about challenging MSNBC in the latest incarnation of the ongoing cable news ratings war of attrition.
Meanwhile, another hour of Fox News in the evening is pledging to go live: Hannity when it moves to 9 P.M. on Monday, September 25. During the past three years at 10 P.M., Sean Hannity has usually pre-recorded his nightly program several hours before it aired, except on nights when there was breaking news that required a live broadcast. Hannity tweeted on September 18 that his show at 9 P.M. is designed to air live.
In the key five hours of nightly programming (7 P.M. to 12 midnight M-F), three of the hours at Fox News will be anchored by women (Ingraham and Bream joining Martha MacCallum, who does a live show at 7 P.M.) and two by men (Carlson and Hannity). At the other two cable news channels, only one woman is represented on each of them during those hours (Erin Burnett on CNN at 7 P.M. and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC at 9 P.M.).
It's encouraging to see more live hard news broadcasts making a comeback, or at least gaining a new foothold, on the cable news channels during the evening hours. For the first two decades of cable news, after the launch of CNN in 1980 (joined by MSNBC and Fox News in 1996), news was the star, and much of the schedule, especially at CNN, was live 24/7. To stand out, Fox News pioneered a more personality-driven format and made stars out of program hosts like Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and later on Megyn Kelly. With Fox News rising to the top of the ratings, MSNBC and CNN followed suit. The new top stars of cable news became marquee attractions and were each compensated to the tune of $5 to $25 million annually. With corporate eyes ever on the bottom line, however, there were fewer resources to maintain foreign and domestic news bureaus and behind-the-scenes talent (producers, writers, editors, etc.). It would be nice to see that pendulum begin to move at least incrementally back in the other direction.