Sean Hannity will not be giving a forecast (yet). But Fox Weather, which will be funded by advertisers, is aggressively poaching star meteorologists from Houston, Seattle, St. Louis and other markets. It is also taking a run at major talent at the Weather Channel, with several Hollywood agents recounting frenzied bidding wars. A top Weather Channel meteorologist — Shane Brown, whose title was “senior weather product architect” — defected to Fox last month despite efforts to keep him.
Inside Mr. Murdoch’s company, the view is that the sometimes-staid world of weather TV is ripe for disruption. Fox is hiring a throng of meteorologists and weather data analysts for the venture, which includes a flashy multimillion-dollar studio at its Midtown Manhattan headquarters. The service will cover major national weather events and integrate dozens of local forecasters from Fox’s regional affiliate stations.
The Weather Channel is already throwing some shade.
“They couldn’t even get a headline right about Tropical Storm Bill,” said Nora Zimmett, the network’s chief content officer, referring to a FoxNews.com article that some meteorologists criticized because it claimed that a relatively benign storm posed a “massive” risk to the Eastern Seaboard.
“I applaud Fox getting into the weather space, but they should certainly leave the lifesaving information to the experts,” said Ms. Zimmett, who worked at Fox News in the 2000s. She called climate change “a topic that is too important to politicize, and if they do that, they will be doing Americans a disservice.”
A Fox Weather spokeswoman shot back: “While the Weather Channel is focused on trolling FoxNews.com for unrelated stories, Fox Weather is busy preparing the debut of our innovative platform to deliver critical coverage to an incredibly underserved market.”
Climate change is a broad-based concern. A Pew Research survey in April found that 59 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents believed that human activity contributes to climate change. (The figure is 91 percent for Democrats and those with Democratic-leaning views.)
Still, some of Fox News’s conservative commentators, including Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, have a track record of downplaying, if not denying, the threat of climate change. The subject has even generated division within the Murdoch family: James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s younger son, rebuked his father last year after Murdoch-owned media outlets in Australia dismissed climate change as a culprit for deadly wildfires that ravaged the country.