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Roger Domal, a former senior ad executive at Fox News, is suing the cable news channel and chairman Roger Ailes for age discrimination.
According to his lawsuit filed on Wednesday in New York Superior Court, Domal’s termination was part of an overall youth campaign at Fox News.
“In the last year alone, Fox News lost more than 1/3 of the younger news viewers,” says the lawsuit. “Because Fox News was projecting such an older image to its advertisers — negative Nielsen ratings with younger viewers coupled with a viewership age of 65 years plus for its full day and prime-time news line up — it developed and executed on a business plan to get younger.”
Dormal says that as part of the plan to increase viewership in the 25-54 demographic, Fox News replaced older hosts and anchors as well as older sales executives.
In 1996, Domal joined Fox News from ABC when it was a startup. He says he was the third person hired in the advertising sales department. He worked his way up to vp eastern ad sales. He says he was “responsible for billions of dollars in sales revenues,” and beside those ad responsibilities, he says his “important duties” included media relations, image issues and analyzing ratings and program trends. (Over the years, he’s been quoted in news outlets like The New York Times and Politico about Fox News programming.)
Ailes ran a “tight organization,” says the complaint, and was involved in all operational and financial matters. Although Fox News has been a top network in terms of viewership, the network’s executives were said to have been aware that younger viewers were fleeing the network. To connect with Fox News’ media buyers — most said to be aged 25-49 — Fox News allegedly orchestrated changes to become a younger organization.
Most of the talent shifts are well-known, but in Domal’s lawsuit, the moves are put in the framework of Fox News’ youth drive. For example, replacing Sean Hannity in the 9 p.m. slot with the younger Megyn Kelly.
Maybe a tad less known have been the executive movements. According to the lawsuit, Ailes terminated older executives including Michael Mandelker, Steve Sorich and Brian Lewis. The latter individual, formerly the executive vp corporate communications, drew a lot of press when his lawyer threatened Ailes with spilling dirt. Earlier in the week, Gawker reported that Fox News had come to a $8 million settlement to keep Lewis quiet. Fox News denied that figure.
Domal says that all of the executives were replaced by younger, supposedly less qualified ones. “By letter dated July 26, 2013,” according to the lawsuit, “Plaintiff Domal’s employment with Defendant Fox News was terminated because of his age. In connection with that termination, Plaintiff Dormal was immediately escorted out of the building.”
He’s now seeking uncapped compensatory and economic damages for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, personal physical injury and reputational injury. He’s also seeking punitive damages.
A Fox News spokesperson says the network hasn’t seen the lawsuit yet and therefore can’t comment on it.
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