Sexual scandal: Fox News boss Bill Shine, quits

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Bill Shine leaves Fox News
Bill Shine leaves Fox News

Fox News says network co-president Bill Shine has resigned and Suzanne Scott, the network’s top female executive, is among two execs promoted as part of a management overhaul following allegations of sexual and racial harassment involving some of the conservative news network’s most well-known personalities and senior staff.

Shine took over as co-president along with Jack Abernethy in August 2016, a month after Roger Ailes stepped down as CEO in the wake of accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination.

The departure of Shine, who had been at Fox News since its start, comes just less than two weeks after the dismissal of popular host Bill O’Reilly after an internal investigation into charges of sexual harassment against O’Reilly.

Shine had been mentioned in several lawsuits filed against Fox News for allowing a workplace culture in which sexual harassment and racial discrimination developed.

The move may help quiet criticism that Fox was doing too little to clean up its ranks after Ailes’ departure, despite a pledge from Lachlan and James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s sons who run 21st Century Fox, to “maintaining a work environment based on trust and respect.” But it also risks alienating some of its star performers.

Fox News host Sean Hannity took to Twitter last week in support of Shine after reports began to hint of his potential ouster.

“Somebody HIGH UP AND INSIDE FNC is trying to get an innocent person fired,” he tweeted.

Fox is promoting two executives as Fox News presidents. Scott, who joined Fox News in 1996 and had been executive vice president, is now the president of programming for Fox News Channel.

Jay Wallace, who also joined in 1996, and was formerly the executive vice president of news, is now president of news for Fox News Channel. They join Abernethy, who remains co-president of Fox News and CEO of Fox Television Stations.

“Suzanne and Jay are recognised industry leaders,” Rupert Murdoch, Chairman of 21st Century Fox, said in a statement.

“They have both played a large part in assembling the deepest bench of talented broadcasters and journalists. They will lead Fox News to an even more successful future.”

About Shine, Murdoch said in a statement to employees: “Sadly, Bill Shine resigned today. I know Bill was respected and liked by everybody at Fox News.

“We will all miss him. … Fox News continues to break both viewing and revenue records, for which I thank you all. I am sure we can do even better.”

Suzanne Scott in charge of Fox News Programming
Suzanne Scott in charge of Fox News Programming

Last week, Murdoch went to lunch with Shine and Abernathy in Manhattan, an obvious show of support from the chairman. But later in the week, reports emerged that Murdoch was looking for a female executive to help run Fox News.

Fox has been under fire as charges of misconduct with the organisation mounted against Ailes. And the New York Times reported in April that Fox and O’Reilly had paid $13 million over the years to settle sexual harassment accusations from several women.

Subsequently, dozens of advertisers left The O’Reilly Factor, which he hosted for 21 years.

Shine had been listed as a defendant, along with Ailes and other Fox executives, in more than one suit filed against the company.

In one filed by former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros, she alleged the news network “operates like a sex-fuelled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency, and misogyny.”

Other suits have mentioned Shine as allowing a workplace environment that fostered sexual harassment and racial discrimination.

Beyond the legal issues, Fox wants to keep advertisers and viewers on its top-rated network. But it also wants to quell turmoil and improve the prospects for its acquisition of British cable giant Sky.

The company said it would pay $14.6 billion in December 2016 to buy the 61% of Sky, which delivers pay-TV and broadband service to 22 million customers across the U.K. and  Europe, including Austria, Germany and Italy.

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