Big birthday this week: Fox News Channel is 13 years old. I was there on Oct. 7, 1996, when the channel was launched with about 15 million subscribers. Now we have about 90 million. Back then, if ""The O'Reilly Factor' received 50 e-mails a day we were happy. Now, we average about 2,000 electronic letters daily.
FNC is perhaps the biggest media success since the networks were formed in the 1940s. Fox News is a billion-dollar enterprise that dominates cable news ratings and is consistently in the top five of all cable programs. Simply put, FNC is on fire even after all these years.
There are two compelling questions on our birthday. First, why the big success? Second, why do many media people despise us?
The success part is two-fold. There is no question that FNC leans to the right, because it gives conservative voices a prominent place on the air. No other TV news operation does this. So, logically, conservative Americans tune in for long periods of time.
Also, Fox News is not boring. This, I believe, is the biggest reason for our success. Like us or not, we move things along. We have lively people on the air. We take chances and do things differently. In prime time especially, Americans do not want dull programming. Many news programs simply recite the day's events. That will not cut it anymore. You have to give viewers something unique and entertaining. FNC does.
That makes our competitors and the ideologues running many of the nation's newspapers furious. They don't like the traditionalism of Fox News, and they seethe at our success. Thus, on any given day, you can view scathing personal attacks against FNC anchors. Think about it: Why the rage? Nobody is forced to watch Fox News. If you don't like Beck, Hannity or me, watch the Food Channel.
The hysteria over Glenn Beck is a great example of why Fox News dominates. Here is a guy with an opinion. He has a television show. That's it. Beck freely admits he's not a newsman in any sense. He's just a guy who loves his country and wants to talk about it.
Apparently, that is driving the intelligentsia insane. They can't stand a guy like Beck mouthing off. But why? Last time I looked, Beck held an American passport. So he's entitled to speak his mind. A big corporation is smart enough to pay him to do that, and millions watch. Isn't the USA a great country?
Obviously, I'm happy to be celebrating 13 years on Fox News. When I took the job, I was just looking to make a nice living and have a little fun. But now, ""The O'Reilly Factor' is part of the American fabric, a broadcast that actually influences the debate in this country.
Way back in 1996, who knew?
Veteran TV news anchor and author Bill O'Reilly is a host on Fox News.