I’m quite skeptical of the theory that Fox’s so-called “investigative unit” was disbanded only as a cost-saving measure after the huge Dominion defamation case settlement.
Rolling Stone reported the news of the layoffs on Friday. Its article is titled, “Fox News Just Axed Its Investigative Unit, Sources Say,” and subtitled, “More layoffs could still be on the way as the network tries to cut costs following its settlement with Dominion, insiders tell Rolling Stone.”
The body of the article begins:
THE FALLOUT FROM Fox News’ $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems continued on Friday, with the network dissolving its investigative unit.
“The rank and file journalists are getting let go. Meanwhile, upper management are sitting pretty while they are the execs responsible for the Dominion debacle,” one Fox employee tells Rolling Stone, which has confirmed the unit has been axed. “We are the sacrificial lambs.”
“Yes, [layoffs] have happened,” another staffer confirms. “And continue to happen.”
Yes, this could have been a cost-saving measure. But here’s why I don’t think that was the only or the primary reason:
1) The article doesn’t say how big this unit was but I doubt it took up a huge chunk of Fox’s budget. Does anyone recall Fox doing any serious investigations? I can’t.
2) I doubt the people who worked in that unit earned a ton of money, almost certainly nowhere near the $787.5 million Fox paid to Dominion. Besides, between the tax write-off and the network's insurance coverage, Fox probably won’t pay anything near the $787.5 million when all is said and done, as Fortune explained.
3) In its article about why Fox won’t pay anything close to $787.5 million, Fortune also reported that MoffettNathanson analyst Robert Fishman didn’t see “much, if any, impact” from the settlement on Fox News’ business. “Fishman said he doesn’t expect the settlement to hamper Fox’s ability to return money to shareholders, including a $1 billion accelerated share repurchase program announced in February,” the article said.
4) Rolling Stone reported, “A Fox source with knowledge of the situation rejected any connection between the layoffs and the Dominion settlement. The source said some of the people within the investigative unit had been reassigned.”
Here’s my theory, based only on a hunch: By getting rid of its investigative unit, Fox got rid of a route to disprove propaganda claims made on its network. If you recall, one reason, if not the biggest reason, Dominion’s defamation case so strong was because top Fox personnel knew they were promoting false claims. We don’t know if Fox’s “investigative unit” played any role in the reporting that debunked the “stolen election” claims, the reporting that so infuriated Tucker Carlson and other opinion hosts. But it seems plausible that if there is no one at the network to investigate and debunk its right-wing propaganda, it will be harder to prove a defamation case against Fox. It's also worth noting that getting rid of or stopping those most likely to contradict baseless propaganda is exactly what Carlson, et al. wanted.
So, I can believe that laying off the investigative unit is related to the Dominion settlement but I seriously doubt cost saving was the only reason, if it was any part of the reason at all.
If I’m wrong or if more info comes out, I’ll post about it.
(H/T NewsHounds' Brian for reminding me of this article)