Napolitano’s puzzling dismissal

9 02 2012

If there’s anything cable television needs more of, it’s Lou Dobbs reruns.

At least that’s what the higher-ups at the Fox Business Network seem to think–they  just axed Judge Andrew Napolitano’s Freedom Watch in favor of “encore presentations of the channel’s top post-market programs.”

If you’re not sure what exactly Freedom Watch is/was about, check out this clip:

It’s difficult to say why, exactly, Fox decided Napolitano needed to go. Perhaps his strong support of constitutionally-limited government (not to mention his support for Ron Paul) were too much for the Fox’s conservative audience to handle. Yet Fox Business’ Stossel Show and its host, unabashed libertarian and mustache aficionado John Stossel aren’t going anywhere.

It’s even more difficult to say what impact, if any, the loss of Freedom Watch will have on Fox Business’ ratings.

Fox News and Fox Business may be runaway successes as far as cable news channels go, but Napolitano and Stossel (and to a lesser extent, Greg Gutfeld of the hilarious but inconveniently scheduled Red Eye) are the only personalities that gave Fox’s programming any credibility among an increasingly libertarian youth.

And if social media is any indication, the youth are by and large not pleased with Napolitano’s ouster. A Facebook page entitled “Tell Fox to Bring Back Judge Napolitano” has grown rapidly since the news broke earlier this evening. I clicked “like” a few hours ago; the page had only forty other supporters. That number has already ballooned to over 1,200.

Impressive? Maybe. I can’t speak for Napolitano’s other Facebook supporters, but my main exposure to Freedom Watch has been through online media. Fox might be gambling that Napolitano’s base of support resides largely among the new media-addicted youth–in which case the price to pay for his dismissal (or near-dismissal–he’ll apparently remain a Fox contributor for the time being) will be relatively low.

Yet even if Fox is correct in the short run, they’re losing a great opportunity to cultivate the next generation of viewers. If Fox responds to the nascent pro-Napolitano social media campaign, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

We’ll have to wait and see how this all pans out.

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