The cable news universe was rocked last month when Fox News Channel severed ties with top-rated personality Tucker Carlson.
Since then, there has been no confirmation regarding the central factor in pulling him off the air, but reports indicate the network plans to pay him for the remainder of his contract. Depending on the terms of the agreement between both sides, Fox News could prevent Carlson from launching a new program elsewhere that would constitute direct competition with his former employer.
Brian Stelter, a one-time cable news personality who was himself ousted from CNN, touched on the nuances of such a “pay or play” contract in a tweet on Friday.
Carlson is subject to a "pay or play" clause, which means Fox doesn't have to "play" him on air, they just have to pay him for the remainder of his contract. That's what the exit negotiation is about: Will Fox let him out on relatively permissive terms? https://t.co/tx4hi8pjn6
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) May 5, 2023
Former Fox News host Megyn Kelly reacted to Stelter’s commentary with a tweet of her own, urging Carlson to forgo the lucrative payout in order to pursue his own apparent desire to add his voice to the political discussion ahead of next year’s presidential election.
“Tucker should walk away & forfeit the pay,” she wrote. “Let Fox take him to court over the sole issue of silencing him for the rest of the election season (!) — the man they fired & smeared relentlessly while he stayed silent. See how their dwindling audience repays them for that.”
Carlson’s contract is set to expire in January 2025, but insiders say he is pursuing options that might allow him to land a gig somewhere else before then.
Shortly after Fox News confirmed the news that Carlson’s primetime program had been canceled, a number of other outlets have extended offers or expressed interest in reaching a deal with him.
Newsnation, which snagged former CNN host Chris Cuomo after his ouster from that network, is reportedly pursuing Carlson — as well as Don Lemon, who was let go from CNN on the same day.
Without offering any details about his plans for the future, Carlson did address his audience in a social media video days after his departure from Fox News.
Stressing the importance of truth and open discussion of important topics, he said: “Debates like that are not permitted in American media. Both political parties and their donors have reached a consensus on what benefits them, and they actively collude to shut down any conversations about it.”