On Oct. 5 Fox Business employees were given a reminder to put the focus back on business news. Apparently executives think Fox's business station has been wading too deep into political waters and, as a result, the business angle of news is drowning.
The reminder came in the form of a memo that was clear in its meaning. The memo, sent out by Kevin Magee, executive vice president of News Corp-owned cable news network, told staff that Fox Business is not supposed to exist to be a "light version" of its sister, Fox News Channel.
According to an exclusive with Reuters, Magee wrote a memo titled "Fox News and Fox Business" which said,
"I've been asked to remind you all again that they are separate channels and the more we make FBN look like FNC the more of a disservice we do to ourselves."
Magee added, "I understand the temptation to imitate our sibling network in hopes of imitating its success, but we cannot. If we give the audience a choice between FNC and the almost-FNC, they will choose FNC every time. Earnings, taxes, jobs etc give us PLENTY to chew on."
Launched in 2007, Fox Business seemingly has been missing the mark in recent times as it walks the fine line that often exists between economics and politics.
"There is always going to be overlap between economics and politics, but we need to maintain two separate services," Magee said. "We can cover the political angle, but our focus should be on our charter of gaining and producing wealth."
Despite Fox News Channel's strong ratings, Fox Business fails to capture a significant percentage of viewing audience, playing second fiddle to competitor CNBC.
According to Reuters, "Rupert [Murdoch] wants a competing news network to CNBC, not another Fox News," said a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Right now it's obvious they don't cover enough financial news."
With the presidential elections coming into full swing, Magee feels "it was worth restating" the value of Fox Business finding its own niche in the market. Reportedly Fox Business is at the 'break-even' point, but, after four years, is still not gaining financially.
News on News reports CNBC has experienced "overall audience growth" over the past four weeks; CNBC having risen 12.7 percent, while Fox Business rose 7 percent.
One factor that may be giving CNBC the edge over Fox Business is the fact Wall Street Journal journalists are under exclusive contract to CNBC.
Purportedly included within this partnership comes several other perks that CNBC has access to in terms of provising exclusive news. This information was reported by Media Matters and given by a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Officially, a Wall Street Journal spokesperson said, "We don't publicly discuss the nature of agreements," however did confirm the contract ends in December 2012.
Media Matters reported the WSJ is undecided what they will do when the contract expires at the end of next year.
"We haven't decided anything on it," Journal managing editor Robert Thomson said during a brief interview last week. Asked directly if a deal similar to the CNBC arrangement would be of interest to the Journal, he said, "not necessarily."
"Quite honestly, we just have to examine what the options are at the time. Before then, we have contractual obligations to CNBC which we will honor," Thomson said.
It remains to be seen whether or not Fox Business will be able to boost itself in the ratings and catch up with CNBC, however reporting on actual business is probably a good start. While politics might be big for ratings, with so much other competition in that niche including a sister channel, efforts spent in a niche area have a better chance for growth.