UPDATE 2:45 P.M. ET: Twenty-first Century Fox has made it official: Bill O'Reilly is out at Fox News. From a statement released by the company: “After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the Company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel.”

NPR is reporting that Tucker Carlson will assume O'Reilly's 8 p.m. time slot:

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In a move that many thought would never, could never happen, it appears Fox News has decided to cut ties with Bill O'Reilly, the network's biggest star for 21 years and host of the highest-rated show in cable news, The O'Reilly Factor.

The decision comes after a period of repeated news of O'Reilly's alleged misconduct toward women at the network and who appeared as guests on his program. Advertisers have dropped The O'Reilly Factor en masse in response to activist campaigns to get its host fired over what they claim is a years-long pattern of mistreatment and sexual harassment of women.

O'Reilly has been on vacation in Italy during much of this latest media firestorm, and the Murdoch family, who owns Fox News, seems to want to get this situation over and done with before he comes back. The remaining issues to be worked out include whether O'Reilly will get to say goodbye to his viewers on air, a move that apparently many women at Fox strongly disapprove of.

Bill O'Reilly blue suit
Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Image

According to Gabriel Sherman, a longtime investigative nemesis of Fox -- particularly regarding the sexual-misconduct allegations against former CEO Roger Ailes -- "Senior executives at other divisions within the Murdoch empire have complained that if O’Reilly’s allegations had happened to anyone else at their companies, that person would be gone already."

Sherman has broken much of the recent news about O'Reilly's troubles within Fox News, and his sources frequently turn out to be correct.

O'Reilly recently signed a new contract at Fox worth in excess of $20 million a year, so exactly how big a payout he would receive when he leaves also is a major point of concern. (Ailes got $40 million following his departure, for example.)

Who will replace O'Reilly in the 8 p.m. time slot he has dominated for so long? It could be Tucker Carlson, a major supporter of President Donald Trump who recently was installed in the 9 o'clock slot immediately following O'Reilly, though of course that would still leave a big hole in Fox's prime-time schedule. Sean Hannity appears happy at his 10 o'clock hour, so Fox may draw from its remaining stable of on-air personalities -- possibly Eric Bolling or Dana Perino.

Regardless of who takes over, the cable news landscape will never be the same. Whether you like him or not, O'Reilly was a star bigger than and unlike any other in his field, and his departure signals a new era in cable news. But will that departure also signal a change in the "culture of sexual harassment at Fox News"? Millions of Americans will be watching closely.

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