June’s Baker’s Dozen

A monthly roundup of media winners and losers.

Fox News 

It’s not just CNN whose programming has been in limbo. Fox’s primetime ratings have shrunk by one-third since the network ousted Tucker Carlson in April. This week, it announced its first major primetime shakeup in seven years, replacing Carlton with Jesse Watters at 8 pm and moving the wildly popular Greg Gutfield from 11 to 10 pm. Few are expecting a big shift in content or tone, but it’s still a relief that Carlson, and his inexplicably popular brand of toxicity, are relegated to Twitter. 

Hollywood unions 👍

With screenwriters nine weeks into their strike over payment in the streaming era, among other issues, Hollywood saw a rare bit of good news when the Director’s Guild of America voted to avert a walkout. But the WGA strike is starting to wreak major havoc on production and release schedules, and the Screen Actors Guild is also leaning toward a strike. Time will tell what medium- and long-term effects these actions have, but it’s clear that the members of these creative unions are fiercely loyal to each other, and ready to take bold action against the powerful and deep-pocketed studios. 

Proactive news publishers 👍

Media companies including the New York Times and The Guardian have recently been in talks with AI companies including Chat GPT founder Open AI about plans to pay those and other outlets for content used to generate bot knowledge. The breakneck pace of AI capabilities means concerns about it will no doubt continue to balloon. Still, it’s encouraging to see these companies attempt to get (somewhat) ahead of the problem and hopefully avoid the devastation wrought by their slow response to the digital and social media boom of the 2000s. 

Media harassment 👎

Journalists from New Hampshire Public Radio, and their parents, have been the victims of home vandalism since the outlet reported on sexual misconduct allegations against Eric Spofford, who formerly owned the state’s biggest network of substance abuse rehabilitation centers. Charges have been filed in Boston against “associates” of Spofford who he solicited to intimidate the journalists, but even if justice is served, the case is another troubling example of the wealthy and powerful trying to silence journalists critical of them. 

Game Shows 👍

Pat Sajak’s retirement as host of “Wheel of Fortune,” and the news that Ryan Seacrest will replace him, have put a spotlight on TV game shows. And unlike just about every other form of non-sports broadcasting, the news is actually good. “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” both average around 9 million viewers a night. The top scripted series on TV, “NCIS,” last year averaged 9.86 million viewers, and the 2021 Oscars telecast drew 10.4 million. 

Those numbers, and the fact that game shows are famously cheap to produce, offer some consolation to a bruised and battered industry. Naturally, we’ll be seeing a whole lot more of them in coming seasons…and will be interested in the ratings effect of Seacrest’s spin on “Wheel of Fortune.” 

Canadian Publishers 👍

Google 👎

Facebook 👎

The Canadian Parliament earlier this month passed the Online News Act, legislation that would require Big Tech companies to pay news outlets for linking to their content, by means of binding arbitration in some cases. The push to have social media companies compensate publishers for their editorial goods has been a tough slog across the globe, although more progress has been made in Europe and, most notably, Australia than in the US. Meta responded with characteristic insolence, saying it would immediately stop linking to Canadian news content on Instagram and Facebook should the law be enacted. (Google made that move official yesterday). I hope it takes effect, that a resolution is found between the dueling parties, and that it sets an example for American lawmakers. 


Dame Elan Closs Stephens, on her first day as acting chair of the BBC, conceded that there’s been a crisis of confidence at the venerable British broadcaster. Former Chair Richard Sharp departed in April after a scandal concerning a potential conflict of interest between him and Boris Johnson while the latter was prime minister. I hope Stephens makes progress on her vow to restore the “ambition in [the broadcaster’s] output,” but worry that the probability of her tenure being a quite brief one will undercut her ability to correct course. 

Gannett 👍

America’s biggest newspaper chain became the latest publisher to sue Google over its domination of the ad market. It faces an uphill battle, to be sure, but is an important action coming from a large company in defense of local news and the technology that has obliterated it across much of the country. 

Turner Classic Movies 👍

Film buffs were in an uproar when Warner Bros. Discovery announced five layoffs at the very top of the Turner Classic Movies leadership team. Loyalty to the channel, which broadcasts often tough-to-find classics commercial-free, ran so deep that top directors including Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg got on the horn with WBD Chief David Zaslav. It was another setback for Zaslav, but produced a win for TCM, with Programming and Content SVP Charles Tabesh being rehired and a gang of cinema luminaries, including Scorsese and Spielberg, being named to an advisory board for the one-of-a-kind network. 

National Geographic 👎

In sadder news, layoffs at National Geographic by its owner Walt Disney Co., have gotten rid of all of its 19 remaining staff journalists. What’s more, the 135-year-old institution will no longer be sold at newsstands. Despite being one of the country’s most read magazines, it still struggled to make a profit in the digital age, an emblem of just how challenging that transition is.