Report: Fox News may not renew Glenn Beck?


Citing eroding ratings for the daily show, a 3/7 NY Times story from media critic David Carr spoke of anonymous Fox News officials mentioning off the record they are looking at the end of his contract in December and contemplating life without Beck. His contract is set to expire at the end of the year: “Since last August, when he summoned more than 100,000 followers to the Washington mall for the “Restoring Honor” rally, Mr. Beck has lost over a third of his audience on Fox — a greater percentage drop than other hosts at Fox. True, he fell from the great heights of the health care debate in January 2010, but there has been worrisome erosion — more than one million viewers — especially in the younger demographic.”

The story went on to do a little “Beck-bashing,” mentioning he was a deeply angry guy on a running tirade about the conspiracies afoot, the enemies around all corners, and how he alone seemed to understand what was under way.

Beck’s big wave ride that started in 2009 when the show launched did get him on the cover of Time magazine and The New York Times Magazine. His rallies all over the country helped him score unheard-of ratings, swamping the competition and at times seemed to threaten the dominion of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity at Fox.

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 yet, Carr seems to think folks are getting jaded with his alarmist candor: “…but much of the time, there is sense that the fatigue from always being on alert, tilting forward in the saddle against the next menace, is starting to wear him down…What had been a fast and loose assault on all things liberal has grown darker and less entertaining, especially with the growing revolution in the Middle East, a phenomenon Mr. Beck sees as something of a beginning to some kind of end.”

Beck has gotten some religion in the past months as well, and has interwoven it into the show. Carr paints it a bit apocalyptic: “Last Wednesday, as he grabbed all the disparate strands from around the globe and tied them into a great, grand bow of doom, he ambled alone between various blackboards, each jammed with portentous bullet points. He often looked away from the camera into a middle distance as he spoke of a calamity that only he can see…The problem with ‘Glenn Beck’ is that it has turned into a serial doomsday machine that’s a bummer to watch.”

The article also cited sniping between Fox News executives and Beck’s team began soon after he went on the air in 2009. When he suggested that the president has “a deep-seated hatred for white people”…it [was] difficult for Fox to hang onto its credibility as a news network. “Some 300 advertisers fled the show, leaving sponsorship to a slew of gold bullion marketers whose message dovetails nicely with Mr. Beck’s end-of-times gospel.”

On balance, the Times did say that the partnership, which has been good for both parties, may yet be repaired. Said Beck on his 3/2 show: “Two years ago, I was on a cable channel that no one was watching at the time, doing a show that no one was watching, and I was about to leave television. And then I had the opportunity to come and work here. If you’re going to do news or commentary, the only place, I think in the world, the only place that really makes an impact is Fox.”

Joel Cheatwood, an SVP/development for Fox News and the executive in charge of the show, told the paper it was silly to suggest that the American viewing public’s romance with Beck is on the wane — he’s trouncing his competition — but says that keeping the show upbeat is something he discusses with him: “We have talked about that, at his instigation. It is really important that no matter how dire he thinks things are or what horrible direction things may be going from his perspective that the show maintains a sense of hope.”

Scott Baker, editor-in-chief of Beck’s The Blaze website, quickly blogged a defense of Beck from the article: “In the last few weeks, however, we have seen two trends in the pound-on-Glenn Beck front. One group is jumping on Glenn for being some sinister doomsayer who is bad for conservatives. On this front, I see lots of name calling but little serious argumentation. The second attack front is trying to whip up a ratings disaster scenario that portends grim fates for Glenn Beck and Fox News. The argumentation here is even less serious. But, you can’t stop them from trying!”

RBR-TVBR observation: We would have to wonder if ratings for Beck and all other politically-oriented shows are likely to jump again in 2012 when we are again in the election cycle. Also, ratings will always be boosted by rallies. Let’s face it, a lot of chaos is afoot of late, and there is always going to be a substantial audience for a host that can attempt to “make sense out of it” for them. Beck is certainly not the only host these days in the media voicing conspiracy theory—in fact, it’s fairly commonplace! Remember, his radio show is still 400 affiliates strong. The audience—shifting or not—is there for him.