Out of Scope Issue 108: Broadcast’s Spring Cleaning
Plus: AI’s generative impact in PR and politics
This week, HL takes a look at the abrupt dismissals of Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon—why they happened, what they mean for cable news, and what communications professionals can learn from them. Also: new PR industry guidelines on artificial intelligence and early trends in political campaign ads. Read on below.
💡ON OUR MINDS: Carlson and Lemon Out
Major movement this week in broadcast news: Don Lemon and Tucker Carlson, star anchors at CNN and Fox News, respectively, were let go. NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell was also shown the door. The LA Times called it “spring cleaning.”
It’s not completely clear what prompted the dismissals, which arrived abruptly on Monday with few details. Lemon’s firing likely resulted from ongoing fallout due to a history of offensive comments about women, including an on-air remark that GOP Presidential candidate Nikki Haley was past her “prime.” In the wake of Fox’s rough year, it’s even harder to deduce what caused Carlson’s exit, the straw that broke the camel’s back. Early reports suggested that the host of Fox News’ highest rated program was fired because of Abby Grossberg’s discrimination lawsuit—but now the New York Times reports that the Murdochs decided to part ways after reading private text messages that emerged in the Dominion lawsuit.
There’s a comparative case study in communications in this episode. Carlson’s dismissal feels like a closing of the loop after Fox settled the Dominion lawsuit last week. To that end, Fox’s handling of the firing was buttoned up: a short statement from corporate, with a video post from Carlson that made no mention of Fox. Lemon and CNN, on the other hand, skirmished on social media. Lemon quickly complained about the handling of his layoff on Twitter, which CNN’s official comms account quickly contradicted.
All this could signal a shift in the media landscape. While Carlson and Lemon had very different styles, they both embodied the adversarial tone of cable news in our politically polarized era. Now two of the most prominent examples of that approach are out of cable news. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything will change—we’ll see who CNN and Fox move into primetime—but it does feel like the end of a chapter.
📡 ON OUR RADAR
A few weeks ago, direct-to-patient healthcare company Ro offered its own story as to why New Yorkers will see an influx of subway ads promoting its comprehensive obesity care Body Program. The campaign is stirring debate as Ro and other telemedicine companies are advertising the use of drugs like Ozempic, which is only formally approved by the FDA for type 2 diabetes, not weight loss. Doctors are warning this isn’t a magic pill and there are side effects involved, especially as the use of such drugs is becoming commonplace among powerful influencers such as the Real Housewives.
We’ve arrived at the age of political AI. This week, the RNC premiered the first entirely AI-generated campaign ad from a major party, prompting a series of ethical concerns—all too familiar to comms professionals. There’s also the question of efficacy: Industry admakers note that a sense of fakery could eventually turn audiences off from political ads entirely, diluting their persuasive power.
As the public relations and communications industry grapples with AI, the PR Council has issued generative AI usage guidelines that include protecting the integrity of client information, not using AI to spread misinformation, and transparency about the use of AI. While the long-term impact of AI in our industry remains to be seen, human personalization, meaningful relationships, and honesty will certainly remain paramount to the success of campaigns.
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