It’s the end of an era in media and politics due to these major developments: new streaming technology, inexpensive equipment, viral social media for videos and podcasts; the “me too” movement; and the “fall” of Donald Trump.
“Cable TV Is Dying: Cord-Cutting This Year Seen Exceeding 6 Million. Cable costs too much and by 2024 many million more Americans will have cut their cords. … According to Emarketer, 6.6 million households will cut the cord in 2020, bringing the total of cord-cutting households in the United States to 31.2 million.” — National Interest.org, September 2020.
This endangers the business model of news corporations like Fox, CNN, and MSNBC, which have had a strong influence on American politics since the 1990s. Streaming on platforms like Youtube.com, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Spotify are increasingly popular. This shift will change American politics as well as American media.
Whether Fox News survives, at least in the form and the business model it had in 2020, is an open question. It lost its founder, Roger Ailes and one of its most popular opinion leaders, Bill O’Reilly, to sexual harassment scandals. The movie “Bombshell,” revealed how women broadcasters led by Gretchen Carlson deposed Ailes.
Fox News is also contending with its place in the new media universe after the presidency of Donald Trump. In the fall of 2020, CNN’s Brian Stetler published the book Hoax: Fox News, Donald Trump and the Dangerous Distortation of Truth, documenting how Fox violated traditional journalistic ethics of independence in promoting Trump and his movement.
Mainstream media has also had to reckon with the “me, too” movement, firing major male stars such as Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, and Garrison Keillor. Most notoriously, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and once beloved comedian and actor Bill Cosby became convicted sex offenders serving prison sentences. In politics, Al Franken was forced to resign as US Senator from Minnesota at a time when Democrats were excoriating Roy Moore, a Republican candidate for Senate from Alabama as a sex offender, Moore lost his race in a deeply red state, but Republicans regained the seat in 2020.
With the popularity of streaming music services such as Spotify and Youtube, with playlists customized to your personal taste and no advertising for a small monthly subscription fee, the future of radio is also being debated. What is the future of radio?
Public radio and television have survived until now, and thrived with loyal, educated donors, but even that is being questioned as media fragments over multiple platforms:
Can Public Radio Survive the Podcast Era? asked Slate in 2016. “A slow-moving bureaucracy. An antiquated business model. A horde of upstart competitors. Can National Public Radio survive?”
2021 marks the 50th birthday of public broadcasting, and fans are asking what is its future?