The system that helped Bill O’Reilly keep his job at Fox News all these years, despite repeated, expensive allegations of sexual harassment, was the system that toppled him.
Capitalism can be funny that way.
Make enough money for a company, and allowances get made. Threaten the bottom line, and even the most understanding bosses get antsy.
It could be true, as CNN Money reports, that O’Reilly isn’t as popular with his Fox News colleagues as he was with his viewers and that 21st Century Fox executive chairman Rupert Murdoch didn’t have a “close personal relationship” with O’Reilly.
And New York magazine’s report that Murdoch’s sons, James and Lachlan, finally agreed O’Reilly had to go, suggests, as did the earlier ouster of Fox News chief Roger Ailes, that this generation of Murdochs might be more susceptible to embarrassment about the network’s growing reputation as a 21st century workplace stuck in Mad Men mode.
But none of that would likely have made a difference if advertisers hadn’t started fleeing The O’Reilly Factor.
Because it doesn’t matter how many people watch O’Reilly’s show – or even that the show was setting record ratings for cable news -- if Fox News couldn’t make money by selling access to all those eyeballs to their advertisers.
And most advertisers don’t like controversy. They may or may not have made individual moral judgments on the allegations against O’Reilly, but after the New York Times’ report on the payouts to his accusers, groups like Sleeping Giants, which sought to separate O’Reilly from his sponsors, appear to have gotten their attention.
If there’s a post-Fox News TV career for O’Reilly (and given the size of his audience, I’d hardly bet against it), there’s no reason it couldn’t involve an outlet where viewers, not advertisers, underwrote the show.
A subscription to a streaming, ad-free version of The O’Reilly Factor?
That would be capitalism, too.