Fox Launches “FOX SOUL” App As An Attempt to Get It’s Black Viewership Back
I have only one thing to say to Black people who seem legitimately excited about FOX SOUL: don’t fall for it.
Someone pretty fucking smart once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. The past is what we refer to as history. Events long gone. And I gotta say, the further I get into this century and even newer decade, the more I’m starting to experience some freaky deja vu.
Case in point, with a huge chunk of 1990s-born millennials about to hit the big 3-0 this year, 90s nostalgia is at an all-time high. This means chokers are re-surging. Denim everything has risen from its cold grave. Low-cut jeans and even tinier crop-tops have returned to antagonize my unrepentant FUPA-having fat ass. And it even seems like these networks want to re-cater to the Black audiences that shot their Nielsen ratings sky-high back in the 90s.
This, of course, is where FOX’s snake-ass enters the conversation.
Recently, the network launched its own streaming service (UGH) called “FOX SOUL”. Its name is.. questionable, at best. But the purpose of this shiny new app, per James DuBose, their head of programming and Fox Soul executive producer, is to “debut this African American focused channel, created by and for the members of the Black community.”
I already hate any version of the “by us, for us” slogan that all reincarnations of “The Talented Tenth” who just discovered they were Black four years ago (that is Blavity Blacks, New Blacks, Uppity Negroes, “I Am Not My Ancestors” Dickheads, and “Woke But Gentrified” Wankers) like to spew as they make lackluster content “for” Black people. And when a FOX rep uses it in the context of launching their fucking app, it reminds me of all the times FOX used Black people as a stepping stool to mainstream and economic success.
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The most recent example of this happened back in May of 2019 when FOX went on an axing spree and canceled a whopping FIVE shows that all—interestingly enough—were Black-led. Star. Lethal Weapon. Rel. Proven Innocent. The Cool Kids. These cancellations were so disturbing that even Lee Daniels (who has his own issues with depicting Black people) had to chime in and question the network’s agenda. But make no mistake, FOX has a history of doing this and we can thank the 90s for laying it out plainly. This era of television underwent an explosive renaissance specifically where Black comedies and sitcoms were concerned—with FOX leading this shift. Shows that immediately come to mind include Martin, Living Single, New York Undercover, In Living Color, and The PJs. In fact, FOX’s lineup at the time was able to easily contend with (and often edge out) the rise of other heavy-hitters like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (NBC), A Different World (NBC), Family Matters (originally ABC), Sister, Sister (originally ABC), Moesha (UPN), and The Wayans Bros (originally WB).
Such notoriety basically made FOX the number one channel in Black households for most of the decade. And gave the network all sorts of high ratings and ad money… that they then resolved they wanted to take over the with. That’s right y’all. As with all things, everything about FOX’s moves then and now scream capitalism and capitalist exploitation of Black people. What do I mean by this? Well, plenty of the shows I mentioned were abruptly canceled or shuffled off the schedule when these networks decided to no longer ride the wave. But some of you might be surprised to learn what kind of logic and underhanded business practices went into making this decision.
As covered in Kristal Brent Zook’s Color by Fox: The Fox Network and the Revolution in Black Television, FOX eventually stopped giving a fuck about Black audiences because it was putting a dent in the expansion of their network empire. You see, real-life supervillain Rupert Murdoch was very interested in the FOX brand being on par with brands like ABC and NBC. And amassing a bunch of money and clout via Black audiences definitely gave him the capital to do so, with him particularly taking advantage of a Nixon-passed tax incentive that was created to up marginalized ownership in broadcast media. This was done by FOX “investing” in “minority” ownership (like Blackstar Communications)—who were allowed to own up to 14 stations and control thirty percent of all broadcast media coverage, in comparison to majority-white owner’s twenty-five person under the FCC.
But in his quest for network domination, Murdoch was left with the horrible realization that he had not been catering to white audiences and thus was missing out on white money.
In response, Murdoch acquired the rights to broadcast Sunday afternoon football for $1.58 billion in 1993, made yet another deal for $500 million to expand FOX from a meager six stations to a whopping twenty-two stations (with a projected goal of 1997), and then canceled a majority of their Black-led shows in 1994 to celebrate the affair and re-declare their love for white dollar bills. Of course, this became awkward when their programming after the NFL season turned out to be donkey shit and Black audiences sort of (since all networks tend to be capitalist bastards really) had the last laugh when networks like WB and UPN ramped up the number of Black-led shows they were broadcasting in order to fill the gap.
What is the point of me saying all this? Well, I don’t know exactly what FOX or Murdoch are nefariously planning in the 2020s. But I do know how they were moving in the 90s and how they used Black people, Black audiences, and Black dollars as chess pieces in the larger game of “Who Wants to Be The Biggest and Shittiest Capitalist?” So with this kind of history operating in the background of FOX’s so-called Soul app, I have only one thing to say to Black people who seem legitimately excited about it:
Don’t fall for it.
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