FOX News attempts to stop Tucker Carlson from continuing his new Twitter program
As Thomas Lifson reported yesterday, Tucker Carlson uploaded "Ep. 1" of his new video show on Twitter to the social media site on Tuesday evening. According to a "scoop" at AXIOS on Wednesday afternoon, shortly after Tucker's Twitter episode was uploaded, FOX News attorneys "notified Tucker Carlson's lawyers that the former prime-time anchor violated his contract with the network when he launched his own Twitter show on Tuesday, according to a copy of a letter obtained by Axios."
Meanwhile, Sara Fischer and Mike Allen continue in their AXIOS scoop:
Carlson's lawyers told Axios that any legal action by Fox would violate his First Amendment rights.
This turn of events had previously been predicted by the legion of journalists and analysts who have seized on Carlson's April 24 removal from his top-rated M–F program on FOX News as an earth-shaking development in media and conservative politics.
Over six weeks elapsed between the end of Carlson's highly produced cable news show and the first episode of his Twitter program, which he announced in a three-minute Twitter video on May 9 (one month ago now) and which has gotten 135 million views.
Carlson's 10-minute Ep. 1 on Twitter June 6 at last count has received 100 million views — approximately thirty times as many viewers as his program on FOX News at 8 P.M. E.T. However, not everyone was impressed with the production.
Variety, the venerable Hollywood entertainment daily and website, offered this review by Stephen Rodrick: "Without Fox News, Tucker Carlson Takes Man Cave Rants to Twitter Show — to Smaller Results."
Last night, he [Carlson] began the Twitter phase of his lucrative career. Carlson was broadcasting from an undisclosed man cave of a studio — complete with unfinished wood and fishing rods that clashed with his preppy tie and blue blazer attire. It made him look like the country club money man wandering into a meeting of the Secret Society of Maladjusted Lunkheads who all loom right off-camera.
OK. The author is apparently woke. But I did find myself in agreement with this comment at the end of his review:
His act works best when it is accompanied by the graphics and bombast of an actual network news program. Carlson's followers on Twitter praised Tucker's return, but some said it was real bummer to have the family gather around the iPhone in order to watch.
As a fan of Tucker's and his FOX News program Tucker Carlson Tonight (2016–2023), I found the bare-bones production values of his Twitter episode lacking. Absent the state-of-the-art production values of a technically sophisticated prime-time FOX News program, it just didn't have the impact or the oomph of a major network program. This is television, after all, and not simply audio or text.
Carlson's Ep. 1 on Twitter was only the first episode, however, and assuming that his show continues on that platform, time will tell how it pans out.
It will also be interesting to see what evolves with FOX News's complaint to Carlson's attorneys that their former host is breaching his contract with FNC.
Shortly after Carlson posted the first episode of his new show on Twitter Tuesday evening, Fox News general counsel Bernard Gugar sent a letter to Carlson's lawyers saying Carlson "is in breach" of his contract agreement.
- "In connection with such breach and pursuant to the Agreement, Fox expressly reserves all rights and remedies which are available to it at law or equity."
The letter refers to Carlson's contract, which was originally signed on November 8, 2019 and amended on February 16, 2021.
- "This evening we were made aware of Mr. Tucker Carlson's appearance on Twitter in a video that lasted over 10 minutes," the letter read.
- "Pursuant to the terms of the Agreement, Mr. Carlson's 'services shall be completely exclusive to Fox,'" it continues, quoting Carlson's contract.
- It adds that Carlson's contract says he is "prohibited from rendering services of any type whatsoever, whether 'over the internet via streaming or similar distribution, or other digital distribution whether now known or hereafter devised.'"
Between the lines: Carlson's legal team, according to a source familiar with its thinking, objects to the network's effort to block Carlson's Twitter appearances because, they believe, Twitter is not directly competitive with Fox News.
Hats off to AXIOS for breaking this story — which was picked up almost immediately by multiple outlets in the MSM and alternative media.
It's unclear yet if what may be a looming legal battle pitting Carlson against FOX News will make it to court, to arbitration, or to a quiet settlement, hopefully allowing Carlson to proceed to express his "free speech rights" at Twitter, or wherever he chooses to go, without restraint.
A related issue is what the end of Carlson's FOX News program will mean for the future of the channel, and to cable news — and to cable and satellite TV — as a whole. Ratings for FOX News since April 24 have declined, especially in prime time (8–11 P.M. E.T.) — although the channel continues to maintain its overall leadership in the cable news ratings over MSNBC and CNN (the latter's ratings have totally collapsed in recent months). For example, TVNewser/Adweek, citing the ratings of Nielsen Media Research, reported (free registration required) that "Week of May 29 Basic Cable Ranker: Fox News Remains No. 1 on Cable News." Two nights ago, as the same source reported, "Fox News Returns to No. 1 at 9 PM" and won the ratings against MSNBC and CNN in both all day and prime time.
Numerous analysts have pointed out, as the Washington Post reported in a story replete with data on May 23, "the looming existential crisis for cable news" (available to read free with registration). Increasingly, the trend is for consumers to "cut the cord" to conventional cable and satellite TV, preferring online streaming services including à la carte subscriptions to services like Netflix — and relying on YouTube for free video clips of their daily ideological red meat from FNC, MSNBC, or CNN without paying to watch those channels.
Clearly, the fast-evolving march of technology is quickly rendering wired and over-the-air connections to television obsolete. As Marshall McLuhan observed in the 1960s, speaking of the advent of television, "the medium is the message." That legacy medium, introduced nationally in the late 1940s, is increasingly on life support, supplanted by options available for the omnipresent so-called smartphone and what are now called internet-connected "smart TVs."
Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who has covered national politics, including a number of presidential races starting in 1972, and the politics and economics of health care, popular culture, and media for over five decades. His web page with links to his work is http://peter.media. Peter's extensive American Thinker archive: http://tinyurl.com/pcathinker. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pchowka.
Photo credit: Twitter video screen grab.