James Murdoch, CEO of 21st Century Fox (FOXA) , may have clashed with former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, but he's not budging on the network's moniker: Fox News, he insists, is fair and balanced.
Speaking on Tuesday at Business Insider's Ignition conference, Murdoch said it's important when judging Fox News to differentiate between its news gathering and its opinion shows.
"It's certainly provocative, the opinion shows, but they are opinion shows and they're labeled that way," Murdoch said. "The news reporting, and I think every study has shown this, is as balanced if not more so than anything out there."
For proof, Murdoch referenced Fox News' moderation of the third presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, a political and personal clash refereed by Chris Wallace, as well as the Republican debates hosted in part by Megyn Kelly and Brett Baier.
"I think those were absolutely fair and balanced," Murdoch said. "It was tough on both sides, but that news reporting was very, very strong."
Pressed by skeptical Business Insider editor Henry Blodget about Fox News' editorial balance as well as the breadth of its opinion shows, Murdoch countered that there's a "high contrast" between Fox News anchors Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Megyn Kelly and Bill O'Reilly.
While skirting the question as to whether Fox News would hire MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, Murdoch said he doesn't get into the question of whom the network hires, adding nonetheless that "I don't necessarily think it is of one view."
Over the summer, of course, James Murdoch and his brother, Lachlan, Fox's chairman, were said to have pushed for Ailes' departure after former anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit in a New Jersey court accusing the Fox News chairman and co-founder of a history of sexual harassment.
Though Alies was backed, and Carlson's allegations were dismissed, by many of Fox News' anchors including Hannity, Neil Cavuto and Greta Van Susteren, Kelly reportedly voiced similar complaints about the longtime head of Fox News.
James Murdoch, as reported by New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman, argued that Ailes should be removed to demonstrate to the company's employees that such behavior wouldn't be tolerated. In July, on the same day that Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, Ailes left the company.
Carlson's case was settled out of court in September, with the former anchor receiving a cash payment of $20 million.
In the wake of leadership change at Fox News, Murdoch said the network continues to focus on "breaking news" and that anchors, both current and future, will be chosen based on their ability to "connect with the audience."
"It's not a question of saying you're going to pivot from a perceived political bias one way or another," he said. "It's a question of developing the product and attracting the best talent that you can."
Fox News, Murdoch sought to emphasize, was created on the premise that the existing media landscape tilted liberal and that a network was needed to create balance. In November, the network posted its best ratings month in four years, averaging 3.3 million viewers in prime time, a 68% increase over the same month in 2015. Reaching more than 90 million pay-TV subscribers, Fox News generates more than $1 billion a year in profit.
Similarly fueled by the presidential race, Time Warner's (TWX) CNN averaged 1.5 million viewers in November, a 128% increase from a year earlier, and expects to break its own record by also posting more than $1 billion in profit for 2016.
"It's important, generally, to have the diversity of views out there," Murdoch said. "It's a lively product, on screen, that's been very engaging for viewers on news and opinion, and that's been a really successful formula."
Fox shares on Tuesday ticked down 0.2% to $27.50.