As American interest in political news decreases, TV networks are battling over new turf: the weather.
Fox News Media has announced that a new channel, Fox Weather, will launch later this year. Meanwhile, the Weather Channel says it’s creating a new streaming service called Weather Channel Plus. The two networks are already feuding.
“I applaud Fox getting into the weather space, but they should certainly leave the lifesaving information to the experts,” Nora Zimmett, the Weather Channel’s chief content officer, told The New York Times.
Fox quickly clapped back.
“While the Weather Channel is focused on trolling FoxNews.com for unrelated stories, Fox Weather is busy preparing the debut of our innovative platform to deliver critical coverage to an incredibly underserved market,” a Fox Weather spokesperson told the Times.
A key part of the conflict is how the two companies cover climate change, which Fox News has a long history of denying. Tucker Carlson recently mocked the crisis as a ridiculous left-wing fabrication, “like systemic racism in the sky.” A study by Yale University has shown that 48 per cent of Fox News viewers believe – incorrectly – that climate change is not caused by humans.
The Weather Channel, meanwhile, has announced plans to “double down” on its coverage of the issue.
“Climate and weather coverage are completely linked,” Ms Zimmett told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s the most important topic of not just our generation, but generations to come.”
On that last point, at least, the two channels probably agree. Since Donald Trump left the White House, the political temperature in the United States has cooled, and news viewership has gone down with it. In the first half of 2021, the Times reported, the average ratings for Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC plunged by 38 per cent. Meanwhile, as extreme weather events like heat waves and wildfires have continued to proliferate, interest in the weather has shot up – and the Weather Channel’s viewership has risen by seven per cent.
It’s no wonder, then, that the Weather Channel is jealously guarding its territory. As it fends off a potential challenge from the Fox media juggernaut, the Weather Channel has taken dead aim at the company’s already-shaky credibility on climate change.
The crisis, Ms Zimmett told the Times, is “a topic that is too important to politicize, and if they do that, they will be doing Americans a disservice.”
Fox Weather, however, has hinted that it will take a different approach from Fox News. The nascent channel told Axios it “will be a full service platform covering all weather conditions, including immediate and long-term patterns.”
Many on Twitter, however, have mocked the idea of a Fox Weather channel.
“Weather reporting depends largely on the presentation of verifiable facts,” one person tweeted. “Uncharted territory for Fox.”
“Tomorrow, expect a 90% chance of ANTIFA storms that will interfere with your Trump reinstallation plans,” another user commented.