The overhaul of the Fox News Channel continued Monday when parent company 21st Century Fox severed ties with co-president and longtime programming chief Bill Shine.
Shine — a Head of the Harbor resident and close friend and associate of FNC’s other prominent Long Islander, Sean Hannity — had been named in several sexual harassment lawsuits filed against the network. He had not been accused of harassment, but rather of ignoring complaints when they had been raised about FNC chief Roger Ailes, who was fired last summer and was also close to Shine. He was mentioned — but not named as a defendant — in a racial discrimination suit brought against Fox last month.
Acting FNC chief and 21st Century executive chairman Rupert Murdoch said in a statement, “Bill has played a huge role in building Fox News to its present position as the nation’s biggest and most important cable channel in the history of the industry. His contribution to our channel and our country will resonate for many years.” Murdoch’s sons, James, 44, and Lachlan, 45 — CEO and co-chair, respectively, of 21st Century Fox — have sought to distance the network from the harassment charges.
Indeed, Shine’s departure comes at a critical juncture for both FNC and its parent, which is seeking regulatory approval for full ownership of Sky, the London-based satellite TV company. Media reports say the “fitness” of Fox as a corporate parent has dominated the British hearings.
Bill O’Reilly — easily the network’s most bankable star — was fired two weeks ago in the wake of a New York Times investigation about payouts to women over harassment. At the time, Shine appeared to have avoided trouble.
Ailes, O’Reilly and Shine have each denied the allegations of harassment.
A particularly skilled insider, Shine, 54, eschewed both the spotlight and the media over his 20-year run. Instead, he was considered adept at the fundamentals of programming — the countless details that go into making a show — while paying obsessive attention to the yardstick that determined if they worked.
“I pay a lot of attention to [ratings],” he said in a rare interview with Newsday in 2005. “They’re very important. It’s not a dirty word.” He added, “I’m all about the goal. If the goal is to beat a certain show, let’s sit down and figure out a way to beat that show.”
Shine — who launched his career as a news cameraman at Ch. 55 — was also patient, at least in the early days. When “Hannity & Colmes” (which he also produced) launched with the channel in 1996, TV neophyte Hannity was so concerned about the inept first edition that he asked Shine whether he and Colmes were about to be fired. Shine made some adjustments, and within a few years, “Hannity & Colmes” became an FNC staple.
When reports of Shine’s expected departure surfaced last week, Hannity posted two tweets saying, “Somebody HIGH UP AND INSIDE FNC is trying to get an innocent person fired,” followed by: “I pray this is NOT true because if it is, that’s the total end of the FNC as we know it. Done.”
Neither Shine nor Hannity could be reached for comment. Fox said Shine will be replaced by a pair of other FNC veterans, Suzanne Scott, who becomes president of programming, and Jay Wallace, who becomes president of news.