While it is unfortunate that Roger Ailes went out of Fox News and now out of life under a cloud of accusations of sexual harassment, that circumstance should not overshadow the enormity of how he changed the face of television news. No one who came of age after October 1996, the month Fox News came on the air, will understand the extent of his accomplishment. In a way, FNC has made more people mad than what Ailes is alleged to have done to female employees.

TV news before Fox News

Back in the 1960s and 1970s TV viewers only had three major network options for national and world news, all of them lasting for a half an hour around dinner time during the week, along with Sunday talk shows and breaking events like assassinations, elections, and Apollo moon missions.

NBC, CBS, and ABC were about the same in their approach to the news, Left Of Center, relying on personalities for competitive advantage. CBS was the home of Walter Cronkite, for example, a popular, reassuring presence in his day.

CNN, in the early 1980s, changed things only in the fact so that someone who had cable could look at news and commentary 24 hours a day. But, with a few exceptions (such as “Crossfire”), the slant was left of center. Anyone who was aggravated at liberal bias in the media just had to put up with it.

FNC changed the world of TV news

Everyone who is a fan of Fox News can remember the first time they watched the network. They saw people, heard opinions, and viewed stories that would never have been allowed to air anywhere else.

It is not that FNC was right wing news. As many out and proud liberals like the late Alan Colmes, Geraldo Rivera, Juan Williams, and Bob Beckel have been on Fox along with Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and more recently Tucker Carlson. But on Fox, conservative views were given equal weight and respect. The discussion was not just between a panel of liberals and perhaps one token conservative.

Indeed, on Fox, it had often been the other way around.

Not much mentioned is which stories appeared on Fox and how they were reported. Bill Clinton’s various transgressions were examined with great seriousness, unlike other networks. Stories about the overreach of government were given full airing with as much enthusiasm as other networks would give to crimes conducted by big business.

In short, FNC casts a light on a world that no other network would pay attention to.

RIP Roger Ailes

If diversity of opinion is a good thing, then Roger Ailes performed a great deal of good. The rest of the TV news universe no longer has a captive audience and now must compete. To the extent that other news networks have to cater to viewers who are turned off by liberal bias, though some (like MSNBC) have not gotten the message, Ailes has forced an improvement in their businesses as well. Fox News, therefore, will be a monument to his life so long as in adheres to his vision.