Fox News CEO Roger Ailes wants more Latino viewers.
It isn’t surprising that Ailes sees the Hispanics as “a tremendous business opportunity,” as he told The New Republic in an interview published Monday. The country’s 50 million U.S. Latinos make up a $1 trillion market, according to Forbes Magazine.
But not unlike the Republican Party, Fox News has dug a hole for itself with Latinos that isn’t likely to disappear overnight.
For years, the channel has featured commentators like Sean Hannity that rail against “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants. The channel’s website routinely refers to the undocumented in headlines as “illegals” -- a term nearly half of Latinos view as offensive and one that, in the noun form, national news media have generally abandoned.
On election night, Bill O’Reilly lamented the decline of the “traditional white establishment” and portrayed Hispanics as dependent on government, saying they want “things” and “stuff” from the president. (The misconception is commonly spouted off by rightwing pundits like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, but in fact Latinos use less than their fair share of government benefits.)
The attitudes of the Fox News viewership reflect those of its reporters and commentators. Fox News viewers were more likely than viewers of other mainstream news networks to view Latinos as welfare recipients, or to think they refuse to learn English, according to a study by Latino Decisions for the National Hispanic Media Coalition published in September. The authors write:
We find a consistent pattern whereby FOX News audiences are indeed more likely to hold negative stereotypes about Latinos compared to less ideologically oriented broadcast news networks. In addition, MSNBC and National Public Radio consumers hold significantly less negative opinions about Latinos in all instances tested.
Fox News has already taken several steps to make itself more palatable to Hispanics. It launched Fox News Latino, a news site aimed at English-dominant Hispanics, in October 2010. Last year it launched a Spanish-language channel, Mundo Fox.
After an election in which President Obama walloped GOP challenger Mitt Romney among Latinos, 71 percent to 27 percent, largely because of Romney’s extreme positions on immigration, Fox News personality Sean Hannity changed his tune and came out in support of a path to citizenship for the undocumented.
Indeed, there’s no reason to think that Fox News’ efforts won’t ultimately be successful. After all, many scoffed at the broadcaster when it launched in 1986, saying there wasn’t enough room in the market for a fourth news station. Fox News has now led broadcast news ratings for 11 consecutive years.
But if the network truly wants to reach Latino viewers, it’s going to run into a few obstacles. Check them out in the slideshow above.