Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 7, 2011

FOX NEWS CONSIDERS A POST-BECK ERA.... About a month ago, Joe Klein noted that he'd heard rumors "from more than a couple of conservative sources" that Fox News executives had been told that Glenn Beck had become too big an embarrassment to the right and the Republican network. "The speculation," Klein noted, "is that Beck is on thin ice."

It seemed hard to believe at the time, but the New York Times' David Carr reports today that the notion of Beck and Fox News parting ways no longer seems implausible.

He still has numbers that just about any cable news host would envy and, with about two million viewers a night, outdraws all his competition combined. But the erosion [in Beck's ratings] is significant enough that Fox News officials are willing to say -- anonymously, of course; they don't want to be identified as criticizing the talent -- that they are looking at the end of his contract in December and contemplating life without Mr. Beck. [...]

How could a breakup between Mr. Beck and Fox News -- a bond that seemed made in pre-Apocalyptic heaven -- come to pass? They were never great friends to start with: Mr. Beck came to Fox with a huge radio show and had been on CNN Headline News, so he did not owe his entire career to Fox and frequently went off-message. The sniping between Fox News executives and Mr. Beck's team began soon after he went on the air in 2009.

Many on the news side of Fox have wondered whether his chronic outrageousness -- he suggested that the president has "a deep-seated hatred for white people" -- have made it difficult for Fox to hang onto its credibility as a news network.

Putting aside the fact that Fox News has no credibility regardless of the nut in the 5 p.m. timeslot, it's at least somewhat encouraging that Beck is facing a little pressure.

It's possible, if not likely, that the network's talk isn't entirely genuine. If Fox News is poised to enter contract negotiations with Beck, it's in the network's interests to leak word that it's prepared to live without him. These rumors may well be an extension of a larger negotiating strategy, intended to keep Beck from demanding too much money.

But if so, that's only part of it. As we talked about over the weekend, Beck really has faltered over the last year -- he's lost more than a third of television viewers in just a year; his radio show has been dropped in several major media markets after its ratings faltered; advertisers have abandoned him in droves; sales of his most recent book fell far short of his other titles from recent years; and high-profile conservative leaders have no qualms about calling him out for spewing nonsense.

Indeed, the point about advertisers is likely of particular interest to the Republican network. Beck still draws a couple of million viewers daily, but as Eric Boehlert noted, the host can't get and keep any nationally recognized advertisers.

If Beck were to part ways with Fox News, he'd likely remain a ridiculous media personality, relying on his other media ventures -- he'd still have a radio show, a website, and a new book every other month -- to pump poison into the discourse.

But he'd lost his highest-profile perch, and I have a hunch other networks wouldn't want anything to do with him.

Steve Benen 8:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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Beck still draws a couple of million viewers daily, but as Eric Boehlert noted, the host can't get and keep any nationally recognized advertisers.

One number I would like to see dug up is the number of people who stay watching after Beck's off. If the big advertiser put stuff on right before or after his show, he may still be making money for Fox.

Imagine a tv world in which Beck and Charlie Sheen are both looking for a new gig.

Posted by: martin on March 7, 2011 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

The quaint notion that Glenn Beck is bringing any quality aside from decadence and decay , is a quirk shouldered by "Those who will not see" .
Micheal Steele and hizzoner Glenn of Beck ($ thirty million a year recently) demonstrates that when looking for the bottom of a barrel you can find no better barrel divers than a right wing propagandist in search of the upmanship gambit .

Posted by: FRP on March 7, 2011 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

This is not meant to be a defense of Beck, or anything he has to say, but I do think some perspective is in order. The ratings Beck has now? If those had been consistently been his ratings, there would be no talk of Beck losing steam. I know that sounds like a "no duh" statement, but Beck had what I would consider to be an unexpected and sudden rise in popularity. Beck grabbed the Tea Party's zeitgeist football and ran with it, which gave his ratings a boost once he got on Fox News he probably would not have received had he just moved to Fox and delivered the ratings he now delivers, which is around par with what Fox News shows often get. Which is my way of saying, Fox is fine with the ratings Beck gets, their announcing that they can live without Beck is posturing pre-contract-negotiations, and Beck will be renewed unless he makes some crazy demands.

Posted by: slappy magoo on March 7, 2011 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

Glenn Beck had become too big an embarrassment to the right and the Republican network.

Shorter Ailes:

We want our propaganda to fly high, but it must still remain under the radar.

Posted by: SWENXOF on March 7, 2011 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, and 'mods,'
Pre-screeening, huh?

I'm a free speech kind of guy, so I'm kind of sorry to see that, but with the nonsense that's been going on in the comments lately, particarly in regard to the abuse of my "c u n d gulag" 'handle,' I can certainly understand why.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 7, 2011 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Putting aside the fact that Fox News has no credibility regardless of the nut in the 5 p.m. timeslot...

Perception IS reality, therefore the fact that Republicans are almost unanimous in worshiping at the altar of Fox News means that almost half (or more of) the voting population in the United States believe the network is not only credible, but beyond reproach.

Don't believe me? Just try showing proof of their lies to a wingnut, and make sure you're wearing a bullet-proof vest.

Posted by: Kiweagle on March 7, 2011 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe it was because I used the "V" 'quicker-pecker-upper' pharmaceutical brand name in my first comment?

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 7, 2011 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

Totally off topic, but since I don't see an email address for Steve at the top of the page, I thought he should see this:


That first graph should look pretty familiar - it's the one Steve puts together every month showing the change in private-sector employment.

The link is to the blog of the Department of Commerce's chief economist, Mark Doms.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on March 7, 2011 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

and make sure you're wearing a bullet-proof vest.

And goggles to protect against the spittle.

Posted by: AndThenThere'sThat on March 7, 2011 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

The right will go to any lengths to spread the hate, am I the only person who reads DU regularly who thinks that a few rightwingers blog on that website all the time, the comments clearly are not from democrats.

Posted by: joan on March 7, 2011 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

Beck has crossed a few don't-go-there lines recently, which makes the Fox management uneasy. But Beck and Fox are co-dependent and co-enabling-- in particular, Beck's lunacy makes the mundane craziness in the rest of Fox's lineup look less weird. Maybe they're headed for a breakup, but I somehow doubt it-- I'll believe it when I see it.

Posted by: MattF on March 7, 2011 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

@ c u n d gulag. I say anything they can do to prevent this forum from becoming a Salon lite flame war is fine with me .

Posted by: John R on March 7, 2011 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Even if Fox does not keep crazy Beck, they will find another more nuttier person, because crazy white conservative is the trend for the rich people.

Posted by: Silver Owl on March 7, 2011 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

This whispering campaign against Glenn Beck shows just how desperate liberals are.

Posted by: Al on March 7, 2011 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

I'll bet CNN would take him back. They have shown they have no class, and no clue, in their endless race to the bottom.

Posted by: wvng on March 7, 2011 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, I see 'dr p' is back. Where's your alter-ego 'beau?'

And you're still a gutless coward, I see.
No matter what you call yourself today - a snake can shed some skin, but it's still a snake.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 7, 2011 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Here my take: Beck's show is entertainment which provides the Network with air time to sell commercials for. People watch, see the commercials, buy the product.
But sooner or later the show will get stale - just like Andy of Mayberry or The Nanny did- and the Network won't be selling as much commercial space as they need to make gobs of money.
So the Network will get rid of the show and replace it with a new one. Since Beck has now marginalized himself and is seen more as a clown act even among his "followers", it is likely that FOX will replace him with the opposite..a normal, non-shrill, handsome host of a new non-Beck type show. Of course it will be filled with lies, misdirection, Obama-hate, race-baiting and all the other typical Fox goodies, but will appear to be reasonable. Some years down the road that will become stale, and they'll bring back a Beck clone (probably coinciding with Obama's second term).

Posted by: T2 on March 7, 2011 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

@c u n d gulag

Not that it's really any of my business, but I am really curious about your handle. What does it mean? Where did it come from?

(And I'm sorry to see you had problems with that hacker a couple of weeks ago. Glad it's over.)

[We actually checked your email and IP as soon as we saw this comment because the same person who poses as Gulag then comes back and gives him hell posing as *you* -- Mods]

Posted by: msmolly on March 7, 2011 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

I think Beck has two problems for Fox: (1) In their view, he does damage their credibility as a serious news/opinion outlet with his increasingly crazier conspiracy theories; and (2) He's unpredictable, and not controllable.

Because of the latter problem, Fox has to be concerned that he will increasingly go "off message", and turn his attention to the Republican candidates. Fox doesn't want this, and, therefore, I think it's likely that they will drop him when his contract expires at the end of this year, if not before.

He still has a sizeable audience, but the trend is downward, and a replacement will retain at least some of the audience.

Posted by: DRF on March 7, 2011 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

I came up with it during the first Bush term. That was when all of us Liberals and Progressives were being call treasonous traitors, and also how they seperated protesters at Bush and Cheney appearances into "Free Speech Zones," I felt like the right wingers would gladly put us into detention centers sooner rather than later.

Also, my grandfather on my fathers side died in one of Stalins Gulag's, as did a number of my mothers uncles and cousins, so I kind of used that 'c u n d gulag' as a warning about where we might be going, and also to honor my family members who died in them.

Obviously, I hope never to 'see anyone in the gulag,' whether I'm in there, or just visiting (in case people don't know, there were no visitors in Soviet Gulags. The Tsar's did, however, allow family members to not only visit, but to accompany the person sentenced to Siberia).

So, I hope I don't 'c u n d gulag.'
Not the individuals mocking my handle.
Not even the craziest of the crazy right wingers.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 7, 2011 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

@c u n d gulag: OH! *lightbulb goes on* -- "see you in de gulag."

Thanks, mods. I am not that hacker, but I'm happy you checked on me. Kudos.

Posted by: msmolly on March 7, 2011 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, my handle is kind of like some others I see on the internet. They're like vanity plates on cars. Sometimes you get it right away and think or laugh. And other times, it's like "What the Hell does that mean?"

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 7, 2011 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

All this focus on Beck is in part a distraction from the falsehoods and fear-mongering that Fox peddles on all it's shows, especially it's shows that are supposed to pass as hard news. Just because Beck is a lunatic doesn't mean the rest of Fox is sane.

Posted by: You Don't Say on March 7, 2011 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

I have to admit I do not watch his show regularly, but the man seems to be losing his popularity. No matter whether you agree with his opinions or not the media still loves him. Maybe all these controversial articles will only increase his popularity.

Posted by: Lorne Marr on March 7, 2011 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

"...have made it difficult for Fox to hang onto its credibility as a news network."


A credible news network!


News network!


My sides hurt from laughing and I have tears running down my cheeks. That is THE most funny thing I've heard since "Fair and Balanced".

Posted by: Schtick on March 7, 2011 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

I was chatting with a friend about Beck the other day. He was joking around that "Beck is the Shakespeare of our era." I shot back, "How dare you compare the Immortal Bard to the Amoral 'Tard!"

Posted by: charlie don't surf on March 7, 2011 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK



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