Glenn Beck's Show on the FOX Chopping Block?

In just a few months, the cable news show of conservative, crazy, conspiracy-theory loving Glenn Beck will be up for renewal on FOX. And while Beck and FOX's partnership may have been a sure thing years ago, today it's not. Never the kind of doctrinaire conservative that his fellow FOX blowhards like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity are, Beck has always been a bit of a loose cannon.

And as Beck's rhetoric about the end of days coming, Jihadists hiding out in Wisconsin, George Soros being the world's puppet-master, and UFOs being in league with liberals to brainwash Americans (okay, I made that last one up) has increased to fever-pitch levels of crazy, his ratings have actually tanked.

Reports the New York Times' David Carr:

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.

He still has numbers that just about any cable news host would envy... But the erosion 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.

One of the reasons his ratings may not be stellar is that you can't feed Americans gloom and doom (and dire warnings about the new world order, and spontaneous tears, and crazy chalkboard drawings) without a little bit of sunshine. Apparently, FOX execs have given him a few talking-tos about injecting a little bit of optimism into his diatribes. Further more, as the economy improves and the government is now split between Democrats and conservatives, the whole shtick may not be sticking. James Downie wrote a think-piece about Beck's decline last week in The New Republic:

 

...To keep viewers coming back, he had to keep creating new, more intricate theories. Last November, in a two-part special that indirectly invoked anti-Semitism, he accused liberal Jewish financier George Soros of orchestrating the fall of foreign governments for financial gain. During the Egyptian Revolution, Beck sided with Hosni Mubarak, alleging that his fall was “controlled by the socialist communists and the Muslim Brotherhood.” Beck is now warning viewers not to use Google, accusing the search-engine giant of “being deep in bed with the government.” In recent months, it seems, Beck’s theories became so outlandish that even conservatives—both viewers and media personalities—were having a hard time stomaching them. Now, each new idea appears to be costing Beck both eyeballs and credibility. 

 

Indeed, even if he is bounced from the mainstream Right-Wing party, Beck has enough of a following to survive without FOX, Carr points out. But he'd still be losing his highest-profile perch and any thin veneer of legitimacy he might have had--not that FOX hosts deserve such legitimacy, but there you go.

And it's important not to forget that all of this grandstanding and denunciation from both sides, as the good folks at Queerty remind us, may also be empty noise, ammunition for playing financial hardball when the contract is up:

 But keep in mind that when it comes to media reporters discussing contract issues between talent and networks, the articles themselves are a negotiating tactic. Glenn threatens to leave unless you pay him more! Fox News threatens to let him go if he doesn't accept more reasonable terms!

This will remain an interesting story to watch.

AlterNet / By Sarah Seltzer

Posted at March 7, 2011, 3:46am

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