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James Hibberd

Ailes the Conqueror

July 24, 2006 11:09 PM

Fox News Channel Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes began his press tour session Monday afternoon celebrating the cabler's tenth anniversary with some quotes. Not just any quotes, mind you, but quotes flashed on a video screen that were written by the trade and consumer press (some currently at press tour) back mostly in 1996. The quotes all dismissed the cable net as a bad idea or a likely failure in a marketplace that was then dominated by CNN.Ailes proved his critics wrong, noting in his opening remarks that the news channel has been No. 1 in the news marketplace for 55 months, and in the ratings outpaces competitors CNN and MSNBC combined.

"I can't wait to see what people think about us in 10 years," Ailes said soon after taking the stage.

Like several of their network news colleagues, Fox News talents Shepard Smith and Jennifer Griffin appeared via satellite from the Middle East to fill critics in on the Israel-Lebanon conflict. Besides world news of the day, Ailes gave a round up on several developments for the channel itself.

Concerning the Fox News business channel spinoff, Ailes said when "distribution is in place we will go ahead with it," and that he has developed a business plan for the network.

"We have not pushed it any further than that," he added.

Asked about younger viewers, Ailes said it is clear they are "not turning to news," but that the cabler had "some issues with Nielsen" about how they assessed younger viewers.

The issue goes far beyond Nielsen, however.

"It's going to be the big question for the next couple years for all of us," he said.

One critic asked why Fox News Channel will not call back certain journalists. The critic specifically referenced the Associated Press reporter David Bauder.

"We don't have any policy like that at all," he said, noting that he will talk to anyone his PR team forwards to him.

"I don't know anybody I wouldn't talk to," Ailes added.

Going with an evening news show at 6:30 p.m. (ET) to compete with the broadcast news programs is a "complex issue," he said. "Would I like to do it? Sure. I'm basically competitive."

But there is "not great demand" for a new product, and on the station side, counter-programming with non-news content seems to be working fine, he said.



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