Farewell “Fair & Balanced” — Fox News Channel has formally dropped the slogan that came to represent it for better or worse since the network launched in 1996.
Responding to a story in New York Magazine’s “Daily Intelligencer,” which first reported the slogan’s demise, a Fox News spokeswoman confirmed in a statement that “Fair & Balanced” had indeed been dropped but — as “Intelligencer” also noted — Fox “hasn’t used the slogan in external marketing or on-air promotions since August 2016. The shift has nothing to do with programming or editorial decisions.”
In fact, on-air Fox personalities have continued to use the phrase “fair and balanced” as a rhetorical flourish in reports and commentaries. What’s different is that the actual promotional phrase “Fair & Balanced” — which had long appeared in advertisements and was also copyrighted — has since been replaced by “Most watched, most trusted.”
Former Fox News chief Roger Ailes — who died in May at age 77 — coined the phrase at launch, but unlike other memorable catchphrases of ad history, such as “Tastes great, less filling” or “You deserve a break today,” this one took on a controversial life of its own.
At the time, Ailes wanted to establish a clear divide between Fox News and the “establishment” media, most notably The New York Times. In a memo to the Fox staff in the early days, he wrote “maybe the words ‘fair and balanced’ are more terrifying than we realize” in referring to what he claimed was a refusal by other media outlets to embrace both conservative and liberal points of view.
But as Ailes’ Fox established a conservative editorial tone, the slogan became weaponized by critics such as Jon Stewart, who used it to blast the network. “Fair & Balanced” may have been a welcome handle for Fox News fans, but to those critics, it assumed sinister dimensions, or a cynical inversion of a long-standing journalism credo.
The critics finally prevailed. As the “Intelligencer” report noted, Fox executives decided to drop the phrase because it had “been mocked” and was “too closely ssociated with Roger.” Ailes was sued by former Fox personality Gretchen Carlson for sexual harassment last summer, and he was fired in August, when the slogan was quietly shelved.
Nevertheless, the slogan has refused to die. During a seminar with investors last December, 21st Century Fox chief James Murdoch was asked if Fox News’ programming was indeed “fair and balanced.” According to a report on the website Business Insider, the question “elicited some laughter from the audience.”