The O'Ratings Factor

Fox News Channel's commentator Bill O'Reilly is now fighting sexual harassment charges from one of his producers - but will he be fighting with network executives before long?

O'Reilly has vowed to contest the charge, and has already filed his own countersuit. He claims the accuser, Andrea Mackris, asked for $60 million in hush money to keep quiet O'Reilly's alleged demands for phone sex.

While O'Reilly pursues his personal legal matters, on MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann"Vanity Fair's media writer Michael Wolfe wondered how long Fox would stay with O'Reilly should the court case drag on and divert attention from his real job - commenting on the news.

If O'Reilly's off-air problems become network financial problems, there is little to no choice for Fox News' chairman/CEO Roger Ailes. O'Reilly might need to step aside. Ailes has a business to run - and when facing declining ratings or advertisers defections, nobody gets a free pass.



This comes at an unfortunate time for Fox News, which made history this past summer as the first cable network ever to top the mighty broadcast networks in covering a Presidential convention.

But now the question is how much of O'Reilly's problems will become Fox news content? Will ongoing court proceedings --which could take months -- have an effect on O'Reilly's on-air performance, his program's ratings, or even his advertisers who might not want to be associated with a visible TV news anchor openly commenting on his own new story.

Like Kobe Bryant, public lawsuits unfortunately can have a bad effect on marketing or media deals - even if the result is an acquittal. Bryant has already lost a few sponsorship deals as a result. O'Reilly could find himself in a similar position.

Of course, considering the modern news reporting of media reporting on itself, stranger things have occurred.

Fox News' reputation as an in-your-face kind of newscast - fronted by "The O'Reilly Factor" - could play into its hands in this regard.

Fox News and O'Reilly could see increased ratings - which would be another story in itself.

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