The top executives at Fox News Channel told employees Thursday to cut back on studio bookings and to expect possible programming changes as a result of precautions being taken against the spread of coronavirus, the latest media outlet to unveil new procedures as the disease complicates the logistics of newsgathering.
Executives want to “limit personal interaction, reduce the chance of exposure wherever possible and maintain the health and safety of those employees who are unable to telecommute,” Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and Fox News President Jay Wallace told employees in a memo Thursday. And they suggested they may have to tweak the way content is presented. “Programming changes will be enacted in the coming days on some of our platforms — our programming leadership team is working on this now and will communicate that accordingly,” the executives said in the memo.
Other TV-news operations have had to change the way they work in recent days. CBS News has sent employees out of its midtown Manhattan offices after at least two employees who work in the production facility tested positive for the virus. CNN has also had some employees telecommute. The Fox News executives said they have foun no employees who have been infected in New York or in any bureaus at the present moment.
Fox News has taken some criticism in recent days as some of its primetime hosts have railed against the way they feel liberal media outlets have portrayed the spread of the virus. Trish Regan, a Fox Business Network primetime host, sparked outrage on Twitter earlier this week when she presented a segment suggesting left-wing critics were playing up the danger of the virus as part of an impeachment scam aimed at President Trump. And yet, Tucker Carlson, one of Fox News’ most watched opinion hosts, said this week that the spread of coronavirus is “clearly a very serious problem” in a primetime segment that also got a lot of attention from online followers.
The Fox News executives urged employees in the memo to “keep in mind that viewers rely on us to stay informed during a crisis of this magnitude and we are providing an important public service to our audience by functioning as a resource for all Americans.”
Fox News told producers and bookers to rely more on remote interviews or interviews conducted via Skype; to cancel all in-person meetings; and to limit vendors for entering the building. Earlier this week, Fox News canceled the in-studio audience for its “Greg Gutfeld Show” on Saturday nights and said it would stop doing a live-audience show for “Fox & Friends” that had been taking place about once every month.