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Carlson's ouster from the Fox News Channel resounds in unexpected ways

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

A month later, Tucker Carlson's ouster from the Fox News Channel is still resounding throughout cable news and in unexpected ways. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik reports an industrywide food fight has ensued.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Fox's ratings have plummeted by more than half in Carlson's old slot at 8 p.m. and a good 40% in primetime. A chunk of those viewers have headed to upstart channel Newsmax. Newsmax has pretty small audiences and very conservative stars and is all in all feeling pretty darn good about itself right now.

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ERIC BOLLING: So what? Are they putting Bud Light in the water fountains over at Fox News?

FOLKENFLIK: This is Newsmax host Eric Bolling, a former Fox star who enjoys sticking it to his former network.

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BOLLING: It certainly looks like Fox's transition to wokeism (ph) is complete, and it's clear now that the firing of truth-teller Tucker Carlson was just the tip of the woke iceberg.

FOLKENFLIK: Fox, meanwhile, is targeting Twitter, a place it has lionized as a newly safe place for conservatives. Even so, when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' announcement he would run for president stumbled on Twitter, Fox hosts had a field day.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

TREY GOWDY: I can't promise you that I won't crash, but Fox News will not crash during this interview.

LAURA INGRAM: OK. We're being a little naughty here. Yeah, it was a little glitchy. Come on. You have to laugh at yourself.

SEAN HANNITY: His live Twitter announcement with Elon Musk that did not go well after Twitter had one technical glitch after another.

FOLKENFLIK: Fox has been championing DeSantis as an alternative to former President Donald Trump with overwhelming and sympathetic coverage. We just heard Trey Gowdy, Laura Ingram and Sean Hannity mocking Elon Musk's Twitter and tweaking DeSantis for straying there from Fox. Twitter is, not incidentally, also where Tucker Carlson has announced he's headed.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TUCKER CARLSON: Amazingly, as of tonight, there aren't many platforms left that allow free speech. The last big one remaining in the world - the only one - is Twitter, where we are now.

FOLKENFLIK: Fox officials say their ratings will turn around once the news appeals again to their core audience and once they solidify their schedule. In the meantime, they have to decide whether to let Carlson out of his big-dollar contract to take his act to Twitter - that is, whether to consider the social media platform a diversion or a competitor for the attention of an audience most sought by advertisers. That's people under the age of 55.

JONATHAN KLEIN: Younger viewers have been cord-cutting like crazy.

FOLKENFLIK: Jonathan Klein is the former president of CNN.

KLEIN: Mostly it's that they have other places to go. They've got other choices. You know, most people feel that one way or another, they've got a general sense of what's going on in the world. And if anything truly big happens, they're going to get a notification from some app on their phone. And short of something really big, viewers would rather pursue their other interests.

FOLKENFLIK: Carlson's ouster hasn't just hurt Fox. It's affected the original 24-hour news channel, CNN. CNN is by far the largest newsroom in TV news, and its ratings spike when news breaks. Right now, however, on some nights, it comes in fourth in what's been considered a three-way cable news race, far behind Fox and MSNBC and now also behind Newsmax, flush with those Fox viewers. Jon Klein says CNN remains important but no longer vital.

KLEIN: You can say a provocative thing on "The Situation Room" as a senator or other newsmaker, and suddenly it can be flying across Twitter in an instant or your favorite news app, and suddenly everybody's seen it. Right now they're just creating content that can live anywhere else.

FOLKENFLIK: The Carlson cable wars, Klein says, have obscured how much the public is moving away from scheduled television programming, even in news. David Folkenflik, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.