For decades, Fox News has held the crown for conservative media and opinion, including a well-performing 2020 where they posted the highest average viewership of any cable news networks during primetime at 3.62 million. But over the last year, conservative ideology has shifted further right, even bordering conspiracy at certain points. This shift has caused alternate media sources, such as One America News Network (OAN) and Newsmax, to spring into the spotlight.
What’s the hype?
At the start of election season in mid-late 2019, Fox News made it clear that they wanted to introduce more ideological diversity to their network, bringing in Democratic candidates for President, along with DNC officials. This change in coverage from Fox News enraged then-President Donald Trump, resulting in a series of tweets from his now-suspended Twitter account.
“Just watched @FoxNews heavily promoting the Democrats through their DNC Communications Director, spewing out whatever she wanted with zero pushback by anchor, @SandraSmithFox,” wrote Trump in August of 2019.
Included in this string of tweets, Trump also wrote “I don’t want to Win for myself, I only want to Win for the people. The New @FoxNews is letting millions of GREAT people down! We have to start looking for a new News Outlet. Fox isn’t working for us anymore!”
Fast-forwarding to late Nov. 2020, Trump was encouraging his supporters to switch from watching Fox News to the alternate conservative outlets, tweeting “@FoxNews daytime is virtually unwatchable, especially during the weekends. Watch @OANN, @newsmax, or almost anything else. You won’t have to suffer through endless interviews with Democrats, and even worse!”
The rise of Newsmax and OAN was sparked by Trump and his supporters’ newfound disinterest in Fox News. Both Newsmax and OAN still pose relatively small viewership numbers, especially in comparison to Fox, but their controversial content is garnering new attention from viewers who hold political views further to the right in comparison to the already right-leaning Fox.
What’s the controversy?
Newsmax and OAN showed a large spike in viewers onward of Nov. 2020, mainly due to their coverage of the right-wing election conspiracies following the Presidential election.
OAN falsely reported that millions of votes for Trump were deleted and/or switched to Biden during the counting of the ballots. Newsmax took it a step further, promoting the idea that voting machine companies Smartmatic and Dominion conspired to ensure a Biden victory. Trump shared these claims to his Twitter account, further promoting the conspiracy theories, which resulted in a majority of Trump’s supporters taking the claims as fact.
It’s clear that Newsmax and OAN are feeding off their rising popularity by advancing confirmation biases of far-right views and ideologies. While they recently have strayed from covering election fraud, mainly due to threats of lawsuits, they continue to promote mostly outrageous content that broadens the political divide we have in the U.S. today.
At some point, one or both networks may topple Fox News as the primary conservative outlet, but as Trump’s influence on the Republican Party continues to decline, it’s more likely that Fox will not only remain the primary conservative media outlet, but also the most-watched cable news network in the U.S.