In a year when the American public is rebelling against establishment candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Ted Cruz, cable news viewers may also be rebelling against the networks they identify with the establishment.

For the first time since 2002, CNN beat FOX News for the #1 position in April prime time viewership, although both continued to crush liberal MSNBC.

Cable news came of age in 1991 when Ted Turner’s CNN became not only the “go-to” source for television viewers during the U.S. action in Baghdad, but a weapon of war as U.S. Army Gen. Schwarzkopf revealed he deliberately shaped his interviews with a specific CNN viewer in mind.

“I knew I wasn't talking just to friendly audiences, but that Saddam and his bully boys were watching me on CNN in their headquarters.”

But while Turner might have been first to see the potential of an all-news format on cable, Rupert Murdoch’s FOX News, launched in 1996 drawing a right-leaning audience and becoming the top cable news network in the U.S. for the past 14 years.

This year, however, FOX News is seeing a decline in what calls “a dramatic dip” in its reputation with CNN – not MSNBC, picking up the slack.

“Since the first GOP presidential debate last August, Fox News Channel seems to have lost its perception mojo with its core right-leaning audience. By mid February, FNC’s perception by Republican adults 18 and over has declined by approximately 50% since January of this year.”

The 24 million viewers watching the debate, the largest audience for any cable news event in history, saw moderator Megyn Kelly and Donald Trump engage in a fiery exchange after she posed a blunt question to him about women.

The drama carried over to social media the next day with Kelly herself becoming a news item on other networks, as Marshall McLuhan’s axiom, “The media is the message,” played out across the cable and broadcast spectrum, possibly “turning off” viewers.

Media observers also attribute the losses to FOX News coverage of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign as viewers split between traditional candidates like Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz and the firebrand billionaire businessman Trump.

If so, that split may heal itself – and FOX News’ numbers, as conservative viewers coalesce behind the Republican nominee against the Democrat one, most likely Hillary Clinton.

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