SHRM pulls advertising from Fox News over O'Reilly accusations

U.S. HR association tweets decision to abandon network

SHRM pulls advertising from Fox News over O'Reilly accusations
Television commentator Bill O'Reilly checks himself in a mirror prior to interviewing Bono, lead singer of the Irish rock group U2 in this file photo. REUTERS/Lisa Miller

The Society for Human Resources (SHRM) has pulled its advertising from the Fox News Network in the wake of the sexual harassment scandal surrounding host Bill O’Reilly.

In a Tweet on April 4, the association said: “SHRM has determined to cease its current advertising on the Fox News Network.” As of Friday morning, it had been favourited 1,600 times and retweeted 446 times.

SHRM joins a growing list of advertisers who have pulled support for either Fox News or the “The O’Reilly Factor.”  Advertisers including Jenny Craig, GlaxoSmithKline, Mitsubishi Motors, BMW and Ainsworth Pet Nutrition have all moved ads slated to run during "Factor" to other Fox News programs.

The decision was applauded by some on social media. @CoolAuntClaire said she was "disappointed it took this long to make that decision. Ailes' sexual harassment was exposed long ago, and HR is supposed to be against that."

@Kaseydrum tweeted out: "THANK YOU!! This shows HR professionals you practice what you preach!"

There has been a very public backlash to a New York Times report that five women received payments, totalling $13 million US, in exchange for agreeing not to pursue litigation or speak about accusations related to sexual harassment or inappropriate behaviour by O’Reilly, the veteran Fox News broadcaster who is the linchpin of the network’s primetime lineup.

O’Reilly, for his part, said in a statement that fame had made him a target, but that no complaint about him had ever been made through Fox’s HR hotline.

The turmoil certainly isn’t hurting his ratings. More than 3.76 million people tuned in to Tuesday night's show, an increase of 20 per cent from the same day's telecast last week, according to data from Nielsen Media Research.

His "Factor" broadcast captured an average of 628,000 viewers between the ages of 25 and 54, an increase of 11 per cent from last week's Tuesday-night audience. What's more, his show won more viewers overall than either ABC's "Imaginary Mary" or NBC's "Trial and Error."

The robust viewership shows the tough road Fox News is walking along these days. Even as its programs attract a robust and passionate audience, it is making headlines of its own as a series of lawsuits being made public reveal a disturbing internal culture. In recent days, suits have been filed accusing a former Fox comptroller of racist behavior and former Fox News chief Roger Ailes of sexually harassing a current Fox News contributor. Ailes has denied the charges.

The controversy is, no doubt, fueling some portion of the viewership. Some viewers are no doubt tuning in to see if the anchor will address his current situation. He has not so far this week in two broadcasts Monday and Tuesday.

One media buyer suggested marketers will have a hard time abandoning the program because of its strong, steady ratings performance.

- with files from Reuters

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